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I recently attended the Annual International Stewardship Conference and was excited to attend a session titled, “Strong Catholic Families, Strong Catholic Youth”. I am passionate about families and was excited to hear what they had to say, but I was terribly disappointed in some of the statistics they delivered in this session.  Basically, the Catholic Church’s efforts in faith formation are falling short when it comes to families, and our children are failing to have The Faith successfully passed on to them.

After contemplating this message for a while, I realized that many of us who send our children to Catholic Schools (me included) are guilty of letting the schools do the forming of the faith in our children for us. I think that often times, we feel inadequate in teaching our children about the Catholic beliefs and so we leave it up to the Teachers, Religious and Priests who are far better educated in the faith than we are. But we have to step up to the plate and realize that faith begins at home.

I worked for several years in the Early Childhood field and am a firm believer in the fact, that the first three years of life are the most important for learning.  A child’s brain grows more in those first three years than at any other time in their life, so it seems obvious to me that we should be teaching constantly at that time and helping children form the brains we want them to have as adults. Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it. Proverbs 22:6.  Consequently, we should be teaching the faith at this time and not dismissing toddlers as too young to “get the faith.”  

So let’s get started this Advent season and try some of these practical suggestions to help form our children in God’s image and pass on the faith:

  • Make an Advent wreath with your children and family and then pray around it nightly or at least weekly.
  • Create chores for your child to do to earn money and then have them buy something for a child in need.
  • Bake cookies with your child and then deliver them to an elderly neighbor and stay for a visit.
  • Visit a “living nativity”. Children love the animals and it makes a huge impact.
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus and sing Happy Birthday to him
  • Make sure you have a nativity set that your children can play with.  Act out the story with them.
  • Write a letter to Jesus thanking him for all of the gifts he has given you all year.
  • Read the readings for Sunday Mass with your children before going to church and talk about them.  This will tune them into listening for certain messages.  After Mass talk about the readings again and how you can apply them to your lives this week.
  • Add a piece of straw to Baby Jesus’ manger every time someone does a good deed throughout the season.
  • Take advantage of technology – do an internet search for advent ideas for children. You’ll be amazed at all of the fabulous resources available.
  • Create new family traditions or revive old ones, because children, who have traditions in their lives, are more likely to have a sense of belonging and less likely to be influenced by sources outside of the family.

God bless your family this wonderful season of preparation.

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