| Tips for Parents and Grandparents |
We always promised ice cream after church to make sure our kids would pile into the car happily on Sunday mornings. It worked—until the sad day it didn’t. I’d foolishly gotten a carton of double fudge mid-week, and our bribe had lost its flavor. It’s just as well. Faith built on a triple scoop cone will topple and melt in the heat of life. Through parenting, study, and teaching religion for decades, I’ve come to believe that the secret of helping our offspring establish a lasting faith lies in raising kids who love God.
We all want our children to understand what we believe, and that’s important. But understanding isn’t enough. True faith is built on relationship, not knowledge. Below are some suggestions for building that relationship.
- Help your child know God loves them personally, individually. When holding your child or expressing love to them, compare your unending devotion to them with God’s eternal love for them. Your love for them is unique and so is God’s. They are irreplaceable in God’s heart and in yours.
- Sometimes listen to and sing Christian/sacred music. Talk about how singing favorite lyrics makes you feel on the inside. Note the connection between feelings of joy or peace in our hearts with God’s presence, his Spirit. Give your child the language to discuss their faith and help them know what it feels like to interact with God.
- If you’re having a heart-to-heart with your child, share a difficult emotion you sometimes feel, sadness, frustration, anger . . . . Invite God to listen in. Explain that God knows our thoughts and feelings and doesn’t want us to put on a holy face before coming to him. He loves us exactly as we are. End with a heartfelt prayer of gratitude for God’s unconditional love.
- While tucking your little one in at night, ask, “When did you most feel love toward someone today?” Connect their love with God’s Spirit within them. Pray spontaneously together, aiming your prayers inward to the Spirit who abides in us.
- Consider ending your prayers with something like, “We love you, God. Help us love you more.”
- When your children make mistakes, big or small, after correcting them, remind them that both you and God still treasure them and are forever faithful to them.
- Share your faith journey with your children. Tell them about times you needed God, and he came through in incredible ways. Explain how you persevered in times of doubt and why you’re glad you did.
- Not all prayers will be answered to your or your child’s liking. Pray anyway. Listen to and discuss the country song, Unanswered Prayers—even if you don’t like country music!
- Look for books at your child’s level to inspire them. Read these books together and share your thoughts, feelings, and faith afterward.
- With teens, welcome their questions. Together you can comb Scripture and trusted sources for insights on questions beyond you. Adolescents respect the honest “I don’t know.” Some aspects of the faith remain a mystery. Infinite truths aren’t comprehendible by our finite minds. Mystery helps us stay humble, curious, and seeking more.
- If our kids feel they can be truthful with us, many will express doubts. Uncertainties show your young one is taking their faith seriously. Doubt is an integral part of the journey.
Childhood is fleeting, but its lessons last a lifetime. Let’s pray for the wisdom, patience, and strength to raise our children well. With God’s grace to empower and guide, we can touch the hearts of our offspring, whatever their age.