How do we help our kids realize this life is a gift but eternal life is our goal?
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“Oh no, I can’t find the keys!” I yelled from upstairs. My toddler (who enjoys throwing things away in the trash) smiled innocently at me and shrugged his shoulders–-claiming not to know where they might be. I knew I should have left a few more minutes before rushing out the door, but this meant we would definitely be late for lunch.
As my stress skyrocketed, my 5-year-old’s voice came from downstairs, pausing my anxious internal monologue, “Don’t worry Mom! I’ll talk to St. Anthony! Tony, Tony, come around, something’s lost that can’t be found. Please help us find Mom’s keys!”
Sure enough, a few minutes after his prayer, the toddler discovered the keys in the lego bin. “See, Mom! I knew we would find them.” As we got into the car, I thanked God quietly for the gift of childlike faith.
If we believe in God, then we have to realize this world is not the goal. How do we help our children discover this truth? Here are a few intentional and practical ways I’ve gathered to help my kids remember this world is not everything.
Good morning, Jesus!
We have a crucifix on our wall near the breakfast table, and every morning that we pass it on our way to eat I pray a quick, spontaneous “good morning Jesus” prayer out loud. I thank Him for a new day, for last night’s sleep. We do mealtime prayers, but I want my boys to be able to start the day in gratitude and conversation with the one who loves them better than I ever can. Plus, the more comfortable we are talking to Jesus, the more comfortable we will be talking about Him.
During the fall and spring we try to take weekly hikes on Sundays. Our city has many nature trails and parks that we have discovered. In addition to providing good quality time for our family, and the benefits of exercise, we try to use this time to appreciate the beauty of the world around us.
I want to cultivate a spirit of awe and wonder in my boys that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. If you can marvel at a beautiful hawk calling from a tree, or a field of prairie grass gently swaying in the wind, then it easily becomes second nature to live in awe and gratitude towards God the creator of everything.
Listening to saint stories
We love listening to books on tape and CDs in the car. Glory Stories are some of our favorites—they are engaging audio dramas about the lives of people who loved God and followed Him in their specific state in life. I want to expose our kids to good role models, and who better than the saints?
Praying for people we help
Whenever we see a person holding a sign on the side of the road, we try to give them something—be that cash, or a bag of snacks, or a water bottle and a holy card. We also make sure to ask what their name is. Then, we pray for them as we drive away, and include them in our bedtime prayers. This way, we can tangibly follow Jesus’ instructions to give food to the hungry. In addition, we can remember that not only is this person hungry, but he or she is also made in the image of God, and is hungry for Jesus’ love most of all.
Traveling through cemeteries
Visiting cemeteries is a simple way to remember that we will all die one day. And death, while traumatic, is the entrance into eternal life. We take a walk or a drive through the cemeteries near our home, and read the names on the graves. Then, on our way out, we say a prayer for all those people we have passed and read about.
Ask, “Does someone need this more?”
It’s very easy to become distracted by our possessions (hello, phone, laptop, clothes, books, and my favorite blanket … I’m looking at you). And when all we can think about is our stuff, it gets a lot harder to think about what really matters. So we try to regularly go through our books, toys, and clothes, and ask ourselves and our kids, “Do we really need this?” or “Would someone else use this more than I do?”
Holy Family, pray for us!