Are you afraid that your children will leave the Faith? Here are 3 ways to keep your children Catholic

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Recent news about the loss of faith and religious commitment among young adults can leave parents feeling helpless, as if the monster of secularism and apathy will inevitably engulf their children. In fact, when we look at the childhoods of young adults who continue to grow and practice their faith after leaving home, we see role models who should give hope and direction to Catholic parents.

Here are three ways that every Catholic parent can help their children internalize the Faith so that it continues to shape their identity and their choices as adults.

1. Show your affection for the Faith

Christian Smith, Catholic sociologist Remarks of parents, “We get what we are.” In other words, our children absorb our attitudes towards the Faith – or, at least, what they believe to be our attitudes, whether their interpretations are accurate or not. If they believe that the traditions, liturgy and teachings of the Church give direction and meaning to our lives, they are much more likely to look to the Church for direction and meaning in their own lives. adulthood. But if they believe the Church makes no difference in our lives, that won’t mean much to them either.

So what are our children witnessing to in our lives of faith? From their point of view, does being Catholic matter to us? For example, if we have a rich prayer life, but our children never see us pray or hear about how our prayer life makes a difference to us, then they will assume it hasn’t. very important to us. If we attend worship every Friday, but our children never come with us or hear about it, they will assume that it is not important to us and unlikely to matter to them. many.

Parents who are successful in transmitting the faith to their children tend to talk about their faith in daily conversations with their children. Being Catholic shapes their identity. So, do not hesitate to share your affection for the Faith with your children. It will be contagious! Share moments when your prayer leads to insight, or share your favorite devotions, prayers, and saints.

2. Create a beautiful Catholic family culture

Local Catholic communities were once tight-knit and provided much of what a family needed: schools, sports leagues, unions, health care, and even newspapers. At the time, Catholic culture enlivened the lives of Catholic families and created a strong common identity. These cultural ties have been eroded. Today, most Catholic families have only a close connection to their parishes and little sense of a cohesive Catholic identity.

It is easy to overlook the importance of culture. We might hear someone comment that so and so is only “culturally Catholic”, suggesting that this person is not a particularly committed Catholic. However, according to Church historian Robert Louis Wilken, the Christian faith cannot be sustained without the support of a nurturing and vibrant Christian culture. True, culture alone will not lead our children to a mature faith, but if Wilken is right, without culture our children’s faith will not survive.

Parents can provide their children with a distinctively Catholic family culture that reclaims some of the lost roots of their Catholic heritage. Fortunately, Catholic culture (especially our liturgy, art, and music) is irresistibly beautiful; it is a natural source of evangelization. Fill your home with the sights and sounds of our faith. Play sacred music and share sacred art with your children; explore and celebrate feast days and saints with crafts and snacks; huddle together and read books of faith. You can find many free resources online.

3. Be firm and warm with your children

Psychologists and developmental theorists tend to divide parenting approaches into three main categories: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative.

  • Bossy parents are bossy and tough. Their children may obey, but often out of fear and not because they have internalized virtue or self-control.
  • Permissive parents are nice, but they fail to set clear boundaries or enforce rules. Their children tend to have rights and control.
  • Bossy parents seem to strike the right balance between rules and warmth; they set and enforce clear rules and boundaries, but their default behavior is kind and welcoming. Their children feel safe and “at home” with them.

Not only do authoritarian parents raise children who tend to do better socially and academically, but according to sociologists Christian Smith and Vern L. Bengston, their children are also more likely to continue practicing their faith into adulthood. Bengston notes that “Relationships with parents that are experienced as close, warm, and affirming are associated with higher religious transmission than relationships perceived as cold, distant, or authoritarian—regardless of level of parental piety.” Notice that Bengston says the relationships children feel are close and warm; it is not what we intend but what our children experience in their relationship with us that matters.

There are many other ways parents can nurture their children’s faith to stay, but these are three great places to start.

Kim Cameron-Smith is the founder of International Catholic Parenting and the author of “Discipleship: Planting the Seeds of Faith(OSV, $18.95).

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