If you are a Christian, it is essential to teach your child how to have an “interior life” with our Lord. What I mean is teaching your child how to talk with Jesus on a daily or hourly basis in his or her head. You know how important it is to have a real, living relationship with Jesus. As a parent, you are called to teach your child to know Jesus. Fortunately, you are not alone in teaching. Jesus is right there with you to help!
I want my children to think about and discern what Jesus wants for them. I want my children to be comfortable sharing all of the joys and sorrows of their day with Jesus. I want my children to know that God exists because they have encountered Jesus through personal prayer and every day life. It’s not enough for me to say, “Jesus is great!” I want them to experience the love of God the Father in Heaven. I want them to experience being led by the Holy Spirit. I want them to experience the love of Jesus in their hearts. I want them to know that God is love because they can recognize that the Holy Trinity is alive in their lives every single day and night!
How can we teach our children these things?
Here are some ideas:
- Explicitly teach your child to talk to Jesus in his/her head throughout the day. Tell them how you do, too. Give examples.
- Regularly pray aloud with your child. Model how to speak with God.
- When you notice your child struggling to complete a task, ask him/her to pray to Jesus for help.
- When you are having a great time with your child (e.g., at a playground, eating cookies, playing catch), spontaneously say a prayer of praise, such as, “Thank you, Lord, for this fun time with my son/daughter!” Then explicitly tell your child sometimes, “It’s a good thing to thank God.”
- Give your child a prayer journal. It can be a small notebook from the Dollar Store. Ask your child to write prayers in it. You can sit next to your child and help him/her write out prayers for the first few days to help him/her get the hang of it. He/she can decorate the journal. Memorized prayers can be written out as a comfortable way to start. Spontaneous prayers can be written out, too (e.g., Dear God, please help me to not fight with my brother; or Dear God, please help us to get a dog; or Dear God, please help me to find my lost teddy bear.). You may have to suggest to them what to write, but then after a few days, they can learn what to write on their own because they can look back on the model you helped them write on the first few pages.
- Stop into church regularly and have your child pray silently. We try to go to a church every Monday-Friday to pray. We kneel down for a few minutes; even if it’s just one minute, that’s ok, but we often stay for 5-10 minutes. I explicitly explain to the children to thank God for some things, ask God for help with some things, and to just listen if He might speak to them. Since I have a 3-year-old, we don’t stay too long because she has a short attention span and needs to move around, but she is learning. We try to regularly visit Jesus in the tabernacle, rather than during Eucharistic adoration, to prevent distracting others. It allows me to talk to the children more easily about prayer (e.g., I can guide them, “Ask Jesus to help you with whatever you want help with” or “Thank Jesus for some things, and ask Him to help you with some things.”). We are blessed to live in a town where there are more than five Catholic churches or chapels within a few miles of our house; the doors are always open during the day for people to stop in and pray. Every where we go for errands, we pass a church, so it’s easy. If you live somewhere that is far from a church, maybe you could make it a goal to stop by a Catholic church one day per week, outside of Sunday mass, to pray. Even stopping for a quick, one-minute prayer is such a good example to the children. It is beautiful to be at church and pray in the real presence of Jesus Christ. Prayer at home is a treasure, but there is something extraordinary about praying in front of the real presence of Christ. Try it!
I hope some of these ideas might help you foster an interior life in your children.