I don’t ever remember having the sex talk. I don’t think there ever was a sex talk. I grew up in a single-parent house where my Mom was very open and comfortable. So we kind of grew into the sex talk. Every time the opportunity presented itself she would drop a few facts and go about her business. It never was an awkward conversation, and if we come to her with questions she gave us the factual answers. Kind of the same way we experienced religion. I cannot remember that we ever had to be “taught” how to love God, or how to seek Him. Religion was part of our daily lives, sprinkled here and there throughout the day. A prayer before meals, before bedtime, before leaving on a trip, and when arriving safely at our destination. A quick thank you prayer for a success, and a long one when life feels unfair or uncertain. It was never an issue, and never made to be one. We read the Bible at night, and then discussed the story. Questions were dealt with, quickly and factually, to not give us time to look for answers elsewhere. Young impressionable minds and all that. It was glorious. Very similar to learning how to talk, it just kind of happened organically. In my opinion, the way it should.
Now I have two daughters of my own, and they are growing up in a much different world to the one I grew up in. Around every corner, there is someone trying to convince you of their way, and the secular way of thinking has taken over. Our lives are busy, and different, making it much more difficult to stick to the routines and ways of my childhood. For one, I sometimes have to work on Sundays so church is sometimes skipped. At night, we run around to get everything done, and we end up reading the Bible maybe 2 out of the 7 nights. Not good enough I know, but my kids also need to learn that knowing God is not dependent on time and place but rather on a grateful searching heart.
I work the teachings into our daily lives. From the almost habitual prayer before meals to showing them the wonders of creation, my kids are starting to learn the character and heart of God. We are also blessed with a school that puts Jesus high on their priority list, so my kids get their daily exposure there as well. And because it is much more preferable for a child to say “I know God exists because He showed it to me” rather than “mommy told me” I try to live my life in such a way that I can be a testimony. How does the saying go – “I cannot hear what you are saying because your actions are too loud”? Leading by example in this case is the best I can do.
It is my heart’s desire that my children will get to know and love God – for their own benefit.
Here are some thoughts on how to encourage your children to cultivate their own spiritual life, from a young age:
1. Pray. And not always behind closed doors.
Kids can make it difficult to have special one-on-one time with God, so it is very tempting to leave the praying and Bible reading until they are sleeping or at school. Although it is necessary for you to spend quality time with God, alone, it is also necessary for your kids to experience you talking to God and learning from Him, first hand. The easiest way to do this is to make prayer a part of your daily lives. Say a quick prayer before going on a journey, and again when you arrive. Thank God for your child’s accomplishments, and sit and pray with them when they are scared. Show them how easy and normal it can be.
2. Let them pray.
A natural follow-through from the first point. If they see prayer as normal, almost like talking to a friend, it will be easy for them to pray themselves. Teach them how to pray when they are scared, happy, or sad. Allow them to say grace, and never laugh at their simplistic, sometimes literal, prayers. They are heartfelt and the most sincere and genuine prayer you will ever get.
3. Explain and teach God’s character.
I have an issue with people teaching kids only about Jesus. Yes, He is the Saviour, and part of the Trinity, but what about God? Surely they must know that God is Father, that He is patient, merciful, and forgiving, but also vengeful, jealous and strict? If you want your kids to have a living relationship with God they will need to know Him in entirety, and that can start from a young age. Teach your kids God’s names and their meanings, and you will start them on their spiritual intelligence and maturation journey.
4. Encourage questions.
Kids are inquisitive, and if you do not provide the answers they will look for them elsewhere. Encourage them to come to you with questions, making it very clear that you don’t always know the answers but that you will find out. If it is a real sticky question, you could even pray about it, together.
5. Teach them about community.
A church is not the walls and roof of a building, but rather the network of people bound together by their love and reverence for God. Teach your kids to always look for a spiritual home, whether that is found in a physical church with a pastor or priest or leader, or in a home cell, or even in a group of friends. We need a place where we can run to when we are in trouble, or ask for help when distressed, or give thanks when life is good. A spiritual community provides this.
6. Have Godly offspring.
I am not talking Immaculate Conception, I am referring to raising kids who already know and love God. Some people believe that you should not introduce your child to your beliefs or way of thinking, that they should find their own way. They are of opinion that teaching them from a young age is a way of manipulating the child. I do not agree. We have the responsibility, God-given, to bring our kids to Him. And I take my responsibility very seriously.
7. Make it normal.
By incorporating God into every aspect of your daily life your kids will come to think of it as the norm. They will not question you praying or talking to God, they will mimic and copy you until it becomes part of who they are themselves. Isn’t that what you want, kids who love God because they have seen His work in their daily lives? Then stop banishing Him only to church on Sundays and start living your relationship with Him, proudly.
8. Include spiritual markers from an early age.
Spiritual markers are habits, concepts or character traits that kids must possess and understand in order to truly know and love God. Without them, they will never be able to have a strong and mature relationship with God. Some of these markers are respect (for themselves as well as others), wisdom, truth and truthfulness, trust, grace, mercy, perspective, discernment, impartiality, judgement and remorse (all also part of God’s character – coincidence? I think not…)
Introducing Christ to your kids is easy. Kids are like sponges, so whatever you do or say they will take up and most likely remember. If you have Christ in your daily life, you have already introduced them and set the stage for a beautiful relationship. Well done!