By Kristen Hamilton
Introducing the concept of faith to your children may seem like a daunting task. Having such profound responsibility and influence on your children’s spiritual journey is often a scary and overwhelming reality for parents. Where do you begin? How do you integrate faith into your children’s lives? It’s never too early or too late to start, and believe it or not, there are simple ways that you can introduce faith to your children – both young and old. The following tips will not only influence your children’s spiritual journey but will also strengthen yours in the process.
- Acceptance is the first step to integrating faith into your family.
As Mark Holmen from Focus on the Family describes, acceptance is the key to faith. As a parent, it is important to not only know your children’s wants and needs but to also be understanding of them. In the beginning, your children may not be completely open to lessons of faith. Your children may even steer away from it. Regardless, accept their spiritual journey. They may not accept the idea of faith as quickly as you would like (if at all), but try to remain understanding. Don’t be overbearing. Encourage and support your children, and practice your own faith by believing that they will find theirs.
- Make time to talk about faith.
It may not seem like there is enough time during the day to do much of anything, but there are several ways in which you can make time to talk about faith with your children.
- For the little ones, bedtime is a great time to read a book about faith or initiate a quick conversation before they say their bedtime prayers.
- Continue to use dinner as a time for family conversation. Have your children bless the food. If they’re not comfortable yet or shy away from it, ask them what they are thankful for instead.
- Take advantage of your many car rides. There might be a certain song that you hear or you might pass by something that sparks conversation.
- Simply set aside one-on-one time. Carefully address the subject during a walk in the park. Ask questions during a trip to the ice cream shop. Do an activity together that allows for a healthy conversation on faith and spirituality.
And I’m not just talking about at dinner or before they go off to sleep. Pray together before you drop them off to school or before they get on the school bus. Pray before they go to take a test; pray before their dance recital or basketball game. Whether a quick prayer or a long one, make prayer a routine part of you and your children’s day. Explain to them the importance of prayer in a way that they understand. Let them know that they can pray about anything and that there are no rules. Holmen suggests keeping a prayer journal. In this prayer journal, he recommends sharing “your prayer requests with the other members of your family and then record[ing] them in a prayer journal.” Each day, one person can pray for the requests, and after praying together, everyone can “look over the requests you listed previously and update any changes and answers.” This will not only make prayer a more routine part of you and your children’s life but will also be a great way to witness the power of prayer.
- Set an example; be a model.
According to the Search Institute, moms are the most influential person in their children’s faith journey, followed by dads and grandparents. As annoying as it is to hear, actions really do speak louder than words. Believe it or not, kids are very observant and pick up habits fairly quickly. Children are impressionable, even as they mature. Before your children start to integrate faith in their own lives, they will look to you and observe the ways in which you do. Realize that you are not perfect and that you will make mistakes. You won’t always have the answers. This is okay. It is how you react to these mistakes and moments of uncertainty that will have a greater influence on your kids. Lead by example and trust that your children will follow.
- Maintain an open channel of communication.
Regardless of what challenges your children face, maintain an open channel of communication. The more open you are, the more open they will be when they are ready to discuss faith and their spiritual journey. As mentioned before, they may not be ready when you want them to be. But by maintaining an open channel of communication, you position yourself as someone they can talk to you about anything. Instead of seeking spiritual advice from their peers, the media, or anyone else, they will come to you.
Integrating faith into your children’s lives is a continuing process and requires persistence. Keep praying; keep sparking discussions. Remain understanding, and be patient. Maintain your faith. Through repetition and determination, faith will become a cornerstone in your children’s lives.
Integrating faith into the lives of your children requires dedication, steadfastness, and persistence. These are just a few ways to introduce faith to your children, but if you continue to make faith a priority in your household and in your own personal life, then your children will undoubtedly follow suit in their own journeys.
Kristen Hamilton lives in Louisville, KY and is a web/copy editor for Hope for Women Magazine.