One of the questions I often get from people is how do you teach your kids the faith?
I love this question because it’s like asking how do you bake a chocolate chip cookie? Everybody does it differently but each one tastes so good!
Now, I am coming from this with a Catholic background but any Christian can take Holy scripture, the parables of Jesus, The Old Testament stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Joseph and the coat of many colors, etc. and bring them into their family library.
From Bible verse memorization to soup kitchens, to Aquinas and the other early doctors of the church to family dinner and prayer — each family welcomes Christ into their home differently. I believe modeling to be the most effective (and primary method) of parenting, and we live that in how we teach the faith to our children. Our family embraces as many of the ancient traditions in the early church as we can, and we incorporate them into the liturgical seasons. Most importantly, we believe that by welcoming Christ into the every day of our family life, we more gently breathe in His love and Mercy to one other.
During Christmas, we read the Jesse tree stories and tell the stories from the Old Testament to New regarding the prophecy of the coming Messiah. We celebrate St. Nicholas and Our Lady of Guadalupe during Advent as well. There are so many beautiful saint stories, and I try to choose just a few to truly keep consistent as family devotions. Traditions aside, we read stories of the lives of the saints all the time around here. I will provide a list of some of the books we read as a family, below.
During Lent, we are reading again, with such books as The Three Trees for the little ones and My Path to Heaven for the older ones. We also pray the Stations of the Cross. I have 8 children and, at one time, all eight were age 11 and under, so physically going to church and attending the stations of the cross was not going to work for us; I had to think of a way to replicate it.
Our neighbor built me a beautiful edged-board where we placed 15 tea lights upon it. We have a great book, The Story of the Cross by Mary Joslin — the binding is worn, the pages are thinned, but it is a family favorite. We all sit at the table every Friday during Lent and we read the story, pass the book at each station, and light the candles. We sing the Stabat Mater after each child reads a description and reflection for each station. They light a candle and we move on. One year I had a vision of one of my sons being a priest and praying the Stations of the Cross with his parish. As he walks, he remembers the simple verse and candle traditions of his youth.
I grew up in the church choir and learned the psalms very well. My children frequently hear me singing them around the house or to them as we tuck them in. There are times when they are up at night and I sit with them and sing, “Shepherd me Oh God, Beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”
We pray our family rosary. In my heart, this is done on our knees ever so reverently, but the truth is there are always little ones asking, “Which bead are we on, what color” or “How do we say that prayer?” and I am always stopping to share the stories of each mystery and ask them questions. We will say a decade. We sing the Lourdes Ave as our Hail Mary for a decade, and when the natives get really restless or as a reward for a job well done, we rap a decade. Thank you, Joe Melendrez! It is always fun to share this tradition with friends on a visit.
Celebrating feast days
Each of our children have a saint as part of their name and we honor their saint by allowing our children to pick the meal on their saint’s feast day. We celebrate with a special dessert and attend mass. It is a simple tradition; sometimes I will remember to pick up something special like a small Lego toy from the dollar bin at Target or a new bar of soap for one of the girls. Feast days are sacred days around here 🙂
Music plays heavily into our home faith traditions. We listen to our local Catholic and Christian radio stations. We talk about the songs. As I sang nursery rhymes as a child, so, too, do my children. “You are beautiful, my sweet, sweet, song.”
For our family, it is about cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus with our children. How can our children turn to Him if they have not learned to call out in times of trouble and times of joy?
Springtime brings our Mary garden and we love to look up different flowers that bring us closer to prayer. We have impatiens to remind us to be patient. Lilys for St. Joseph, Marigolds for Mary, Columbine for our lady’s slipper, Juniper, and roses. Each year we add something new.
We weed out the garden and I point out how it is akin to us weeding the deep roots of our sin and making ourselves fresh and ready for Jesus.
Oh, how we love Summertime as well in our home. We live in the country and love a good bonfire. We invite friends over. People bring their guitars, drums, shakers, and voices. We lift all that we have up to the Lord, with joyful voices and, of course, sticky fingers filled with marshmallows. You see, I want my kids to call it all joy. We weave the youthful joys of roasting marshmallows by a fire with the lifting of our voices to Our King. It’s one of my favorite traditions and I crave the peace it brings.
These are just a smidgen of our family faith traditions. If you are just starting out with a goal of bringing the faith to your family, my advice is to start slowly. Make one or two a favorite. Easter is coming, what a great gift to put into a basket. I’d love to hear how you share the faith with your family in the comments below!
Thanks for reading! Pray for me as I pray for you!
Abbreviated Book List…Help Get Started on a Family Tradition
Jotham’s Journey: An Advent Storybook
The Christmas Journey of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
A Tree for Peter by Kate Seedy
The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan
Jingle the Christmas Clown by Tomie DePaola
Who is Coming To Our House by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff
Saint/Feast Day Books:
Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda
Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie DePaola
St. Jerome and the Lion by Rumor Godden
The Legend of St. Christopher by Margaret Hodges
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
The Good Man of Assisi by Mary Joslin