Children are naturally curious about the world, have no problem believing in things they can’t see and live almost entirely in the moment.
While your child may be a little young for comprehensive theological teaching, you can begin nurturing their spiritual side in other ways.
No matter how small the steps you take now, they will be helpful in creating a faithful foundation that can help them later in life.
And as your child grows older, strong ties to family, parish and community as well as a sense of personal contribution and purpose can make them more resilient in the face of adversity.
Tips for raising faithful children
- Introduce spirituality early on
Young children don’t understand who God is, but they don’t really understand who a grandparent is particularly if they don’t live nearby and you don’t see them very often. Still, you want them to know Grandma, so you start talking about her from day one. It’s the same with God. Just as your child takes your word for it that Grandma is an important person in their life … so they will take your word for it that God is, too. And by introducing spiritual practices when they are young – such as attending Mass, lighting candles or singing hymns together – your child will view them as a natural part of life.
- Build on family traditions.
Spirituality can connect us to God, to each other and to the past. Be sure they know that they are carrying on family beliefs that were passed along by their grandparents. Show pictures of you or their grandparents making their First Communion.
- Use daily events to teach spirituality
You can demonstrate that spirituality is a part of everyday life by incorporating it into ordinary actions and words. When you open the curtains in the morning, you can say, “Look at this glorious day God made”; say grace before a meal or sign off at night with a simple, “God bless you, darling”.
- Introduce a simple form of prayer
Let your child know that it isn’t something that’s saved up just for weekly Mass, or for times when they need help with something. It’s a tool for communicating with God anytime.
- Make it fun
Religion should be joyful. Encourage your child to paint a picture of God, make their own story about how the world came to be, or simply imagine what heaven looks li
- Instill an appreciation of nature
Nature is a great place to find inspiration and a sense of spirituality. Plant a garden with your child, and make it part of your daily routine to check on the progress of the plants together. Start a compost so your child can watch mealtime leftovers turn back into soil that you’ll use in your garden. Introduce them to the idea that the Earth is a gift from God and that our survival depends upon the survival of the planet.
- Tell stories
Read stories together from an illustrated Bible, amending and simplifying as you see appropriate. It will give your child the opportunity to ask questions.
- Practice silence
Once a day or once a week, take a minute to sit quietly with your child. Your moment of silence needn’t be introduced as prayer, but simply as a chance to sit still and listen to the sounds around them. It can also help with them understanding behaviours at Mass.
- Stress the spiritual side of Easter and Christmas
Ensure you balance the commercialism of giving gifts with the true meaning of these holy days. Even volunteering at a local charity or making a donation in the lead up with food, clothing or toys to those less fortunate can be a good lesson in the value of giving and helping others.
- Consider joining a parish group or a volunteer organisation
By regularly attending events or special services in your parish aside from Mass, your child will come to see that spirituality plays a central role in the life of the community. They’ll also grow up more comfortable with the liturgy and rituals of faith and come to see the Church as a family and place where they can feel comfortable and secure.
- Follow your child’s lead
Let your child ask the questions and give them plenty of opportunities to ask about issues such as who God is or what heaven looks like. Try not to dictate the answers to big questions. If they ask where God lives, begin your answer by asking them what they think. Ask them to draw a picture and tell you about it. Spirituality is a two-way street: If you listen carefully to your child, you might discover something you never thought of before.