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Catching the Volunteer Spirit
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

Everyday Life Situations
Get Talking
For Teens: Discussion Groups
For Kids: Bringing Your Faith Home



The other day I was working at my computer when things in my house got quiet...too quiet. With three kids, the lack of noise usually means trouble. So I quickly set out to discover what was up. I found the older two, Maddie and Alex, watching a movie in the family room. Their three-year-old sister, Riley, was in her room on the floor surrounded by all of her plastic animals. Right in the center of the animals stood a tall figure. I leaned in the doorway to get a better look and realized that it was none other than St. Francis.

Apparently, Riley had managed to retrieve her St. Francis statue from the top of her dresser—I’m not sure I want to know how—and had plunked him down amidst her animal friends. Right where he should be, I thought.

Intrigued, I stood quietly in the doorway watching and listening. I was tickled to hear her role-play St. Francis talking to the animals. It was one of those parental moments when you rejoice that what you’re teaching your children is actually sinking in. We had always talked about St. Francis and his love for creation and all animals, but I wasn’t sure if it ever really hit home. Apparently so.

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Everyday Life Situations

My husband, Mark, and I have tried to make sure that our kids are well educated in their Catholic faith and how it relates to their lives. Often, it’s not until a certain issue, such as divorce, touches their lives that they stop, take notice and start asking questions.

And, unfortunately, sometimes those encounters between faith and life are not as simple as Riley’s. You can open the newspaper, go on the Internet or turn on the TV and realize that. Our lives are constantly inundated with issues that confront and challenge our faith. In the past year alone, Mark and I have had to address the topics of lying, cheating, stealing, racism, divorce, abortion and homosexuality with one, if not all, of our children.

Get Talking

The older our children grow, the harder the issues will become and the more they will look to their parents and grandparents for honest, thoughtful answers. Here are some helpful suggestions to keep the conversations going:

Talk, talk, talk. As most parents know, kids are not likely just to open up about things without being prodded a bit, especially as they grow older. Try to keep the conversations going so that you have opportunities to turn everyday events into potential teaching moments.

Trust your instincts. You know your children best, and what they are ready to handle. Try to gear discussions to their age and maturity level.

Listen. Make sure your conversations are two-way streets. While you can offer your perspective, ultimately your children will form their own opinions. Listen to what your child has to say. You might learn something yourself.

Offer praise. When you see your kids applying their faith to everyday situations in a positive way, let them know you’re proud of them. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in encouraging children to repeat good behaviors.

Lean on others. No parent has all the answers—as much as we’d like our kids to think we do. If you find yourself faced with a topic that you don’t feel comfortable addressing, promise to get back to them and then ask for help. For instance, if you’re not clear on the Church’s position on a certain issue, such as divorce and remarriage, ask your parish priest. Not only are you educating yourself, but then you can also decide the best way to convey that information to your child.

 

When I was a teenager, one of my biggest complaints was that adults didn’t talk to me about issues or take my opinion seriously. One way to counter that is to hold your own discussion about topics that apply to you and your friends.

Gather some friends and make a list of topics that you would like to discuss. You might choose topics of national importance, such as the Iraq war, or some local or parish issues. Set up a meeting time and invite some people who are well-versed on the topic. You might want to have a point-counterpoint presentation, followed by a discussion.

Make sure to set some ground rules for the discussion, though, so that it doesn’t end up in a shouting match where no one gets heard. Situations like that will only feed the stereotype that teens can’t discuss things rationally and seriously, which is not true.

When I was growing up, my house was always filled with items that reflected our faith, such as holy water fonts, statues and religious books. Take a walk around your house and find all the items that you think reflect your family’s faith. Either make a list or draw a picture of the items.

Show the list to your parents and ask if there are other items you may have missed. If there are items of which you aren’t quite sure of their meaning, ask your mom or dad to explain them to you. Asking questions is the best way to learn more about your faith. Talk about ways to incorporate other religious items into your home, such as a statue of St. Francis in your yard.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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