Is once or twice a year enough?
Parents of First Communicants sometimes ask the question, “How often should my child go to confession?”
This question is certainly a valid one, as odds are likely your children won’t be begging you to take them in for the sacrament.
They might be conscious of sin, but confession is still new to them and certainly isn’t yet a habit. They realize confession is a good thing, but don’t always think of it.
It’s not even that they are scared of confession, necessarily. Some kids may be afraid of the priest, but many children enjoy going to confession. They think it is “fun” and like talking to the priest.
So what should a parent do when their child doesn’t nag about being taken to confession?
Take them to confession!
Look at it this way. Going to confession on a regular basis (every week or every month) is a good habit to have. This instills in your children a habit that they might carry with them for the rest of their lives. It teaches your children that confession is important and a vital part of the Catholic faith.
If children aren’t brought to confession on a regular basis (or only when they go to Religious Education classes), they will think that confession is something strange and unnecessary. This will only compound if they do not see their parents go to confession.
Let’s face it. Children watch our every move. If we place value on something, they will place value on it. If we have a habit of going to confession on a regular basis, they are more likely to retain that habit later on in life.
To add even more emphasis, make going to confession a treat! One father related a story about how he would take his children to confession every Saturday afternoon and then out for ice cream afterwards. His children are now grown-up and continue to make use of the sacrament on a regular basis. Ice cream might not work with every child, but it does offer another incentive for children and creates a positive association with the sacrament.
Every parent has to discern the frequency of confession for their children, but the most important part of the equation is to be deliberate about it and to practice what you preach.
Our children need holy habits and they can’t develop them if we do not help them.