Magazine article U.S. Catholic

8 Great Ways to Teach Your Young Kids about God; It Doesn't Take a Theologian to Explain the Foundations of Our Faith to the Next Generation. You-Yes, You!-Have All You Need to Get Started Now

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

8 Great Ways to Teach Your Young Kids about God; It Doesn't Take a Theologian to Explain the Foundations of Our Faith to the Next Generation. You-Yes, You!-Have All You Need to Get Started Now

Article excerpt

Rex Rempel of Kirkland, Washington sat on the couch with his 2 1/2-year-old son, Sam, looking at the photographs in a copy of National Geographic magazine. He and Sam eventually flipped to a page with a large picture of an Iranian man dressed in his country's traditional garb. The man was praying intently. His eyes were closed, and his arms stretched out in front of him, palms up.

According to Rempel, Sam immediately pointed to the picture and asked what the man was doing.

"I tried to explain to him that the man was praying," Rempel says. "And then all of a sudden Sam wanted to pray that way." So he decided to seize the moment to show Sam how to pray with his hands folded. "That was very exciting to him, and we said the words, 'Here's the church, here's the steeple' ... maybe all of this planted a seed toward learning the idea that people pray in different ways, and it's OK."

In Rempel's case, a quiet father-son moment on the sofa with a familiar magazine led to a meaningful conversation about hands and prayer. Who knew that National Geographic could be a source of spiritual wisdom passed from parent to child?

Thankfully it is often the mundane, everyday things--like a picture in a magazine or a hand gesture--that can teach small children important lessons about God. With a little bit of extra attention and intention, something simple takes on a spiritual dimension.

This is good news for busy parents. You don't need to be a biblical scholar or a holy roller to teach your kids how to relate to God. You have all the raw materials you need right now, probably right there in your living room, on your person, and in your mind. The following eight simple, practical ways to teach your kids about God were selected with busy parents in mind. The practices are short and sweet, and all have been 100 percent kid-tested and parent-approved.

1. Make time for silence.

Some public libraries post signs that read: "Silence is golden, but not guaranteed." The same saying holds true for busy house holds. Amid the chaos of careers, meals, school schedules, and other family activities, moments of silence are hard to come by. But every once in a while it is good to take some time with a child to sit still in silence to listen to God.

Linda Kaiel, a catechist at Franciscan Montessori Earth School in Portland, Oregon encourages short moments of silence for young kids. "Let's say you get a phone call saying that Grandma isn't doing very well in the nursing home or something like that. You can say, 'Let's just listen and turn our hearts to God for a moment and think of Grandma," Kaiel says. "We're not asking for a half hour of silence here; children always let you know when it's enough. But the silence can be their prayer."

Taking some time for silence can have a trickle-up benefit for parents, too, according to Rex Rempel. "Of course, quiet is a victory in and of itself," Rempel says with a laugh. "But we as grownups are often not very good at listening to God."

God speaks to us in the silence, to kids and adults alike. As far as prayer is concerned, the lyrics of a recent popular song sometimes hold true: "You say it best when you say nothing at all."

2. Bless your child.

Use your thumb or forefinger and trace a cross on your child's forehead. Say "God bless you" or "God be with you" while you are blessing them. You can bless a child before he or she drifts off to sleep, before he or she leaves for school in the morning, or at any other time during the day.

Melissa Musick Nussbaum of Colorado Springs, a mother of five children, says the gesture of a blessing reminds a child that he or she belongs to God. "In a world that calls them by many other names, or that labels them with brands like Adidas, Nike, and Gap, this is a way of reminding them: 'This is your true name. You are a child of God.' It is a powerful way to remind them over and over that this is who they truly are. …

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