As children prepare for the Sacraments of Communion or Confirmation, their family members may take closer inventories of their own spiritual lives. Learning about these important sacraments can become a family affair and an opportunity to reassess the role of faith within the family dynamic.
Data from Pew Research Center suggests that family traditions that focus on faith can have an impact on whether children continue to subscribe to that faith as adults. In its 2009 "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey," Pew researchers found that former Catholics who are now unaffiliated are much less likely than lifelong Catholics to have attended Mass regularly or to have had very strong faith as teenagers. Former Protestants who are now unaffiliated are less likely to have regularly attended worship services as a child and even less likely to have attended regularly as a teenager, and also are much less likely to report having attended Sunday school or having had very strong religious faith as a child or a teenager.
A strong foundation for religious belief and practice is often formed at home. Families interested in strengthening their spiritual bonds can employ the following tactics.
• Attend religious services together. Children learn by example. They may be more focused on religious education and participation if they have the ability to attend Mass or other services together with their families.
• Pray at home as a family. Encourage children to pray when they need guidance or when the going seems tough, but also encourage them to pray as a means to sharing positive experiences. Parents can teach their children established prayers. Highlight that it's not so much what you are praying, but that you are actually doing the praying.
• Choose to read scripture. Children can use scripture to explore the history of their faith and learn the many exciting tales that helped shape their beliefs. Bookstores and libraries may stock age-appropriate retellings or kids' versions of religious texts. Important life lessons often can be gleaned from scripture, including how to make the right choices in life, maintain one's faith and show support for others.
• Volunteer as a family. Scripture, prayer and attendance at services are important ways to further connect to one's faith, but sharing and showing compassion for others also make great ways to more deeply connect with faith. Families can participate in any number of volunteer activities to practice good stewardship to others. Volunteerism can take place at places of worship, schools and even businesses.
• Focus on spiritual aspects of holidays. Many religious holidays have been secularized, and young children may find it difficult to distinguish between secular and religious traditions. Parents should discuss how holidays like Christmas are about more than just buying and receiving presents and use the opportunities to further strengthen the bonds kids have with their faith.
Special religious events may serve as the catalyst for a deeper connection with faith for the entire family. Explore the many ways parents and children can immerse themselves in faith.