How to help your kids grow in prayer, part two

Allow your child to teach you. Emma and Sam, parents of three children under 8, always sing their grace before dinner. Once, while out at a restaurant, the children requested they sing their grace before eating. “Sam and I were embarrassed and didn’t want to sing grace to the tune of Yankee Doodle at this trendy restaurant,” Emma says. “But what is that lesson? Pray when it’s convenient? The kids knew better, so we sang (maybe a little more quietly) the way we always do.”

A child’s comment about who to pray for or when to pray can move us as parents to reconsider the parameters we place around prayer. “When the planes crashed into the twin towers, I told my son Noah, who was then 4, that we needed to pray for the people in those buildings,” says Carol, mother of four. “And he looked at me and said, ‘I think we need to pray for the people who did this, too.’ ”

Create traditions around prayer. Children learn what we value by noticing traditions—if we do this all the time, it must be important. Parents who build in time for daily prayer at meals and before bed and who take time for prayer themselves elevate the importance of prayer.

As the child grows, he or she is more likely to try to figure out prayer’s place in his or her own life. “As a child, I mostly just asked God for things when I prayed,” says Josh, now a young adult. “But as I got older, I thought of how my parents belonged to prayer groups, and how my mom would go to daily Mass sometimes—I knew there must be more to prayer than asking for things. I joined campus ministry in college and really started exploring types of prayer.”

—by Annemarie Scobey from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2012 Best in Class award from the Associated Church Press, as well as the 2010 and 2011 General Excellence awards from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.

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