ďI do it!Ē I hear this phrase nonstop
on a daily basis from my
two-year-old daughter, Riley.
Needless to say, sheís a bit independent.
But then again, so are her
older brother and sister.
I frequently reassure myself that
independence is a wonderful thing.
And I recall the saying about parents
giving their children roots and wings.
The roots part Iíve got down. Itís the
wings thing thatís giving me problems,
especially the older they get.
But I know that at some point I have
to let go a little and let them try to
spread their wings. They are growing,
learning and developing their own
sense of who they are. And that pertains
to all aspects of their lives, including
A Natural Development
Our faith is an ever-changing, ever-growing
process. Numerous studies of
faith development have confirmed
that. In many ways, it is a perfect match
to the journey we take as parents in
providing solid roots to carry our children
through the many stages of faith
development that lie ahead.
How we do that is the tricky part. Of
course, we can take them to Mass and
religious education and discuss our
faith at home. But as parents discover,
each child is distinctly different. They are different in their interests, temperaments,
everything. So itís only logical that a
one-size-fits-all approach to anythingó
including faithówonít work.
That is why parents are such important
teachers of faith. Only they know
the size that fits each child best.
As you accompany your children on
their faith journey, here are some
things to keep in mind:
Encourage growth. Give your children
opportunities to question and try
out new things, both in life and in
their faith. Present opportunities where
they can try things that will stretch
their minds and abilities. In short, work
on helping them develop their wings.
And remember that your faith is not
automatically your kidís faith.
Embrace differences. Everyoneís
faith is different. For instance, some
people find comfort in the more traditional
aspects of our faith, while others
welcome change with open arms. Neither
is wrong, just different. Try to be
open to those aspects of our faith that
arenít necessarily your cup of tea.
Ask for help. There have been a number
of times when one of my children
has asked me a question that left me
stumped. I often take those questions
to a priest friend of mine and he helps
me craft a response that is appropriate
for my childís age and understanding.
Donít be afraid. Change can be scary,
but it can also be exciting. As your children
grow and change, embrace it and
remember that itís all part of a normal
Know when to step back. At some
point your kids are going to have to
take charge of their own faith. Let them
do that. Sure, theyíll make mistakes,
but havenít we all? The best thing you
can do is prepare them for what lies
ahead and then be there for them to
come to or fall back on if need be.
Tag along. As your children grow and
explore, go along for the ride. Youíd
be surprised how much you might
learn or be re-energized in your faith.
Recently, Maddie, my oldest, asked me
to help her begin praying the Memorare
and I had to admit that I couldnít
remember how it began. That simple
request provided me with an opportunity
to get reacquainted with the
prayer. And it reminded me that our
faith journey is a lifelong one.
The key is to realize that itís a process
and that on any given day everyone in
your family may be at a different place
in that process. And hopefully theyíll
be able to spread their wings and push
off from the solid base you have provided.