Back to School Spiritual Guide for Families

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After braving the aisles of my local discount store and battling eight year olds and parents alike for sale priced highlighters and wide ruled notebooks, I can personally attest to the stress caused by back-to-school shopping. Stores certainly know how to hook the children and raise the stress levels of parents by placing the more expensive items at child’s eye level and the more “practical” items above their heads. Many parents were particularly annoyed by their children’s demands for the overpriced “Paw Patrol” pencils in comparison to the less fancy ones or complaining that the standard colored notebooks looked too “boring.” I, myself, passed over a $5 gold glitter notebook in favor of the 50¢ sale purple notebook of equal size. In the midst of all of the shopping lists and other back-to-school preparations, how can parents ensure that their families are growing closer to God, not just closer to high school graduation?

In my ministry with families, I frequently recommend that parents implement regular family rituals such as a monthly confession for the family followed by ice cream out or a Saturday night Mass followed by pizza. Around the dinner table, families can share their daily “highs” and “lows” with one another and delve deeper into what is going on in their lives. This provides parents and children an opportunity to share their thoughts while highlighting their daily trials and blessings.

Consistency is the key when it comes to helping your family to connect to God more regularly.

Whatever you choose to do as a family, you have to keep at it! It will eventually become a normal part of your family’s culture. Teachers apply the same concept in their classroom through procedures and rules. In the beginning, it can be a bit bumpy and discouraging, but if you are consistent, it will become second nature for everyone. Establishing a family spiritual practice will be worth the effort, and it will become a normal ritual for you and your children.

Here are some suggestions of family spiritual practices you could adopt this upcoming school year:

  • Read Scripture – Pick a time during the week to read Scripture together as a family. Some families like to read and discuss the upcoming Sunday Gospel.
  • Visit a Church – Make a brief visit to a local church or shrine during the week to encourage your children to have a love for the Eucharist.
  • Family Rosary – Pray the Rosary as a family. Older children can lead a decade or begin with just a decade each night if the children are young.
  • Read about the Saints – Get your family together and read about the great Saints within the Catholic Church. It is a great opportunity to talk about our Catholic heroes before the children’s bedtime.
  • Plan a Family Pilgrimage – Plan a special day with your family and visit a shrine or special Church. Pack a picnic lunch (or stop by your favorite family restaurant), pray for everyone’s special intentions (have the children write them down to bring and leave at the shrine), and teach your children about the Saints whose images you encounter at the holy place. The location doesn’t have to be far, and your children will appreciate it.
  • Daddy–Daughter Dates/ Mother–Son Outings – Parents should spend quality with their children. This will do wonders for their self-esteem and give them a chance to bond. Girls’ relationships with their fathers has a big impact upon their image of God as teenagers. You can do something similar with Mother-son outings. This works for single parents too!
  • Build a Family Shrine – Pick a mantle over the fireplace or a special corner of a room to be the family shrine. Put images and statues of your family Saints and patrons, photos of family members (living and deceased), and a candle (perhaps a battery operated one that the little ones can use). Gather there from time to time to pray together and encourage the children to do so on their own. Make sure you lead through example and show them the beauty of praying at the family shrine.
  • Morning and Bedtime Prayer – Teach your children simple prayers to say upon waking up and going to bed. Pray with them in the evening and teach them how to pray for those in need.

           

These suggestions are not too complicated! In fact, they can help set a tone of spirituality that gradually becomes a natural part of everyday family life. Through these family practices, children learn what it means to be the people of faith. Even if you did not grow up with any faith traditions, you can always start your own. The traditions you create today will be passed down to future generations. Children have a natural sense of spirituality and love for God! Fostering their Catholic spirituality can bring a richness to your family that is unequalled.

 

 

Sister Brittany is a Salesian Sister and the Campus Minister at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, NJ. A frequent guest on Relevant Radio, her aim is to help students, readers, and listeners to connect faith with everyday life. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @SisterB24

 

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