I am always looking for new ways to pray with my children. As they get older, this requires more creativity and inspiration than it used to in the days of sweet toddler bedtime prayers. Now, my 12- and 7-year-olds tell me that setting aside prayer time is “boring!” the same way that they tell me attending Mass is boring. It’s not an easy journey, raising children in the faith in a meaningful way. They need to take it on as their own, but until that point, it’s up to us as their parents to nudge them and show them a positive example. And to be honest, I have been slacking in the bedtime prayer department.
We read stories of the saints, and sometimes I can coax a Rosary out of them. I know, though, that the way to truly make this prayer time significant for them is to make it more personal to the struggles they are going through in their own lives. I have become more and more mindful of this fact as the years go on.
My daughter, Anne, is my 7-year-old. She is an incredibly empathetic person with a heart as big as the eye can see. With a personality like hers, she is constantly taking the sorrow of other people upon herself, and trying to make them feel better. It is a quality that makes my own heart swell with love and pride (despite the fact that I always feel like I have no idea what the heck I am doing as a parent, I do manage to do a few things right!), and on the other hand bleed with grief for the emotional pain she will inevitably experience. For Anne, intercessory prayer gets her attention. She likes to know the details of what the person in question is in need of. This way, she can pray for their specific situation and it speaks to her empathetic spirit. She is very motivated to pray in this way, and I am realizing that I should prompt her on it regularly, so that it becomes a habit.
Henry, my 12-year-old, of course, has completely different needs. He is also a compassionate, sweet-natured child, but given his age right on the brink of puberty, I need a completely different approach. He is at a crucial turning point in which his faith and Catholic world view can shape the rest of his life. I want to instill it in such a way that is impactful to him (aka “Please Lord, don’t let me mess this up!”) Henry loves to learn new and interesting things, and thus the lives of the saints have always fascinated him. I have been trying a different tack with our nighttime saint reading ritual, in which we take turns reading the narrative, and then the listening person supplies 2 or 3 new things that they gleaned from the story. I think that for his birthday, I would like to seek out a Bible for him that is especially geared towards teens. For Henry, seeing how the faith is relevant to, and useful in, his daily middle-school life, is essential.
As with so many things in parenting, the bottom line is: I hope that I am on to something! So often, we are like fish out of water, especially with our oldest child, when we lack any experience to lean on. In the end, we do the best that we can, and we leave the rest to God. He loves them even more than we do.
Do you have any suggestions for how to change up prayer time as children get older? I would love to hear them in the comments!
Copyright 2018 Tiffany Walsh