May 28, 2010

The blessing of Parenthood: how to foster faith in your children

Robert Colquhoun

A child is a blessing to parents. A new baby girl or boy is a new soul that did not exist before. Parents co-operate with the creative power of God in procreation. This comes with a profound responsibility in bringing up children. As secular society has lost the reverence for the wellsprings of human life, Christians are called to be salt for the earth in having respect for the transmission of life and love.

What do parents want for their children? Most parents want their children to be happy, well educated, well informed and well brought up. The majority of Catholics want their children to have a strong mature faith, the courage and ability to make good life choices, faithfulness to Church teaching and to live in a state of grace. Most parents want their children to be living a Sacramental life, going to Mass, having a good prayer life and doing works of charity in support of the vulnerable. How do parents prepare their children for heaven? We need to be able to teach them how to live on earth to obtain heaven. This is best done through good communication effectively through our example and through our words. This comes through imitation and prayer. Catholic formation provides a moral and spiritual education which governs prayer and religious obligation, providing an intellectual structure that governs.

Faith has a positive impact on character. Those who have a religious faith are less likely to use drugs, play truant, have an abortion, get divorced or become an alcoholic. Those who are religious are on the whole on average more supportative of marriage, good choices, grounded in faith that lead to good outcomes. Our Character is influenced by our beliefs and values, the prevailing culture, celebrities, parents and other family members. But we flourish best when we follow the design given by the author of life. The current trends and values of sex and relationships require us to have strategies in place in order to be prepared and well aware of how to transmit values and faith to the next generation.

It is important to understand the cultural environment in which we live to find a strategy that will build character. In order to build virtue in children one must teach by example and words. Clear and explicit boundaries are important so that one becomes counter cultural. One such example might be to never allow sleepovers. The environment many children are based in, such as the type of friends and content such as sex education have the potential to damage future marriages and relationships. It is also important to be aware of the time spent and programmes watched on television and also be aware of the activity the computer and internet is used for. Some studies have shown that children watch on average two and a half hours of television a day. But not all television is bad. EWTN is a good source and influence.

Children need to be taught by example. Children are not good at listening, but good at imitating. Children easily follow the actions, language and culture of parents. Boys learn to be husbands from their own fathers. Contrary to popular opinion, time is best in quantity and not quality. The Father is the spiritual head of the household. Children are much more likely to attend Mass later if both parents do.

It is important to develop fortitude, prudence and temperance to inculcate virtue to bring courage, good sense and self control. Modesty can be taught in language and dress. Girls need to have an understanding of reverence and self respect for their bodies. This comes with the belief that God brought them into existence for a purpose. Teenagers need an example of a parental backbone to help shape their own one. If parents do not show backbone, why should they? Our children will always challenge and even at times, reject parental authority. But in essence, children do want boundaries because they feel comfortable in them. Children do love rules.

It is worth being ambitious for your children's moral behaviour. It is possible to speak directly, continuously and directly about dating and relationships. It is important to talk about the need to go to confession and to practice faith. Many children will not go to confession unless they see you go too. There is only one sadness in life: not to become a saint.

The dominant religious outlook in Britain is secular atheistic materialism. This shapes our environment and moral thinking in society. Around 75-85% of Catholic children lapse in this country by the age of 18. Britain is a country where 40% will divorce if they marry, 33% will be involved in a drunken one night stand. 15% have an addiction problem, 30% will be involved in incurring an abortion, 80% engage in premarital sexual relations, almost 100% are told about birth control methods. This amounts to the ever more pressing urge to ensure that children coming to learn and live about truth, honesty and beauty.

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