As parents we want our kids to develop a real relationship with God.
Relationships blossom when there is communication between parties involved so it is always a good idea to teach our children how to talk to God and how to listen to Him.
This is kind of a tall order. Even as an adult it seems easier to be the one talking all the time and harder to just listen. But, I think that if they start to learn how to do it while they are younger, they can bring the habit of praying until they grow older.
So, how do we teach children how to pray?
Be a Model
Children will always follow their parents so we must lead by example. Show your children how you pray and invite them to pray with you.
Some people pray strictly in a certain position while others do not mind, whatever it is you believe in, show your children and let them follow you (without forcing them).
Let them see you meditating or reflecting about the passage you read in the bible. Let them know that silence is a way for you to listen to God or maybe writing about what you read is a way for you to reflect. Whichever way you listen to God, introduce it to your child. Remember too that what works for you may not exactly be the same for your child.
If you recite prayers, pray together and teach the child some of the words. Praise your child when she tries to pray them with you. Do not worry too much if the words are wrong, encourage and gently correct when needed.
Different types of prayer
Prayer can be in a form of praise, thanksgiving, confession and requests for others and for self.
For us, I pray with my child every night and follow a certain pattern so my child will always remember to give praise and say thank you first before going to bed.
Since my child is too young and have a sensitive personality, we do not dwell too much on the confession part before bed time. The moment she does something “bad” we talk about it and I make sure I process things with her. Right there and then, if she is ready, we say sorry to Jesus as well. I found that when we pray about it again at night, it felt like Jesus (or mommy) isn’t over it yet when it happened hours ago. I do not want her to think that Jesus (or mommy) is that type who keeps records of bad things. I want her to feel the indeed Jesus is someone who forgives readily.
We also pray for our family’s intention. She does not forget to pray for our relatives who are sick or are in need of help (such sweet girl). Then, just recently, we included others in prayer. I slowly added prayers for other sick people and then also street children and other homeless people. I am in tune with the things she encounters either on the streets or with the things she watches and make than an opportunity for prayer requests. Also, I get to explain to her what happens around her so hopefully she’ll be more socially aware and also grateful for what she has.
Converse with God freely
I feel proud when my little girl volunteers to pray Angel of God for her ballet class but I do want her to be able to pray freely by herself as well.
During our prayer time, I usually lead the prayer and she just listens and pray along. Lately, she helps me pray during the requests for others part.
I want to teach my child to pray as if she is just talking to God and I want her to also know that she can do it anytime of the day whatever she is doing – just like St. Therese of the Child Jesus did.
The easiest I think is to help your child to murmur a short thank you prayer to God every time something happy happens. Slowly, hopefully, prayer will be part of the system and it will be automatic to say a prayer of praise or to learn and slowdown to listen.
Prayer is a wonderful thing and an integral part of our faith. As much as children need to learn how to pray, we should teach it in such a way that they will not feel like it is a task. Before you lead your child in prayer, take a deep breath and pray for guidance as well.
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