Faith and family have always gone together for me. I was raised in a strong Christian family, and one of the first things that attracted me to my husband was his faith. Faith is a big part of our daily lives as we strive to grow as children of God and to raise our kids to know their heavenly Father.
We need to help our children build connections to their faith community—both the community of fellow believers here on earth and also the communion of saints in heaven. The family is a model of God’s love, for God exists as family—Father and Son. As we build strong connections within our families, we also help our children to build strong connections to the God the Father.
Here are a few ways to help children pray and connect with their Heavenly Father.
Daily prayer may seem simple, yet this is our most basic way of connecting with God. We can’t have a relationship with someone to whom we never talk! As we talk to our children and get to know them, we must also model ways in which we talk to Our Father and get to know Him.
We say the traditional Catholic grace before our meals. I actually learned this prayer with my best friend’s family as a child, when I’d stay over at their place for supper. My oldest daughter likes adding “yay God!” at the end of grace, as she learned from friends. And usually Pearl says her version of a Hail Mary too.
One of the reasons I appreciate homeschooling camp is that one of the dads leads morning and evening prayers. Families are invited to add their own prayers. It’s a neat way to help children pray and see how other families pray together. Again, it also connects our children with their wider faith family, as they see other families talking to God.
Praying the rosary as a family is another way to help children pray. This can be hard with busy little ones, who often lose interest after a few Hail Marys. We don’t usually pray more than a decade of the rosary as a family.
This prayer invites us into Jesus’ life and to a deeper connection with His Mother. Mary points us always to her son. As we draw closer to her, we draw closer to Jesus. As mothers, then, we can help our children get to know their spiritual mother, who is always praying for them and wants them to love Her Son as she did.
We try to say a family rosary most nights, and they sometimes lose focus. Preschoolers are allowed to wander a bit, but we want out older kids to learn to participate. So, we give them a warning (or two) to knock off the silliness and say the prayers properly. Then, if they don’t, they get to stand, or kneel, or some other less comfortable position. Also, if we’re going to have dessert that night, we have it after the rosary, and anyone who doesn’t
behave, doesn’t get any. ~ Kendra Tierney, Catholic All Year
The Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross is another traditional prayer that is easy to pray with kids. This prayer is about connecting with Jesus in His passion and death. Because children are so empathetic and visual, I find this prayer often draws them in.
Pray for Each Other
Praying for each other as a family also brings us together. It’s hard to be angry at someone when you’re praying for them. Praying for our children when they’re driving us nuts helps us move past the small, daily annoyances to see the big picture. Encouraging them to pray for each other can help with sibling relationships.
Ask your children what they are worried about or how they need you to pray for them. Sometimes, I’m surprised by what is pressing on their minds. This also lets them know that you’re interested in them and what they’re going through.
You can also share your prayer requests. When my husband lost his job, we asked the girls to pray for Daddy’s job hunt. They don’t need to know a lot of details, but they can still bring your intentions before the Father. It helps them feel involved and significant.
We can also model prayers in little areas. When we see an emergency vehicle go past, we say, “Dear Jesus, please bless the emergency responders and those they are going to help.”
If my daughters have a bad dream, I’ll say a Hail Mary with them and ask their guardian angel to pray for them.
When their legs hurt, I ask St. Gianna and St. Luke (both physicians) to pray for their pain.
As a convert, I grew up in a church where prayer was very spontaneous. The only traditional prayer I learned was the Our Father. While I still practice spontaneous mental prayer, I’ve also come to appreciate the deep traditions of prayer within the church.
Traditional prayers give us words to say when we don’t have our own words to pray. Traditional prayers are like “training wheels” to help children pray using the words of great saints. As they get more comfortable with prayer, and develop their own relationship with the Father, they can start adding their own words to their prayers (as our girls do at grace!).
These prayers also connect us with others who are saying the same prayers. Everywhere around the world, Catholics are praying the rosary. Whether we’re at church camp or mom’s group or another place, praying the rosary with others always makes me feel closer to them and to God. I want my children to know that sense of connection as well.
Our church has family adoration about once a month. One family leads a few songs. There’s usually a brief space of silence for everyone to pray quietly. The children also have a chance to take little tea lights up to the front of the church, as a physical representation of their prayers.
Because there’s several families there, we’re all used to squirming babies and talking toddlers. The priest usually keeps it to about half an hour and then we have a potluck or other fun together as a family.
If your church doesn’t have adoration for families, Dianna has some great tips for surviving adoration with kids.
My attitude toward Adoration speaks volumes to my children. If I treat it as a special event and a privilege, they are more likely to as well. ~ Dianna Kennedy, The Kennedy Adventures
Prayer Resources for Your Children
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- My Superhero Prayer Book: Traditional Catholic Prayers for Awesome Catholic Kids
- My Fairy-Tale Prayer Book: Traditional Catholic Prayers for Awesome Catholic Kids
- My Woodland Prayer Book: Traditional Catholic Prayers for Awesome Catholic Kids
God Is in the Silence by Fiona Basile is a beautiful book that teaches children to listen to God (an important part of having a conversation!).
I Go To Jesus by encourages kids to go to Jesus with anything and everything. This story captures the ups and downs of normal family life—bullying at school, sibling rivalry, failing to do something—and taking it all to Jesus in prayer.
This Little Prayer of Mine by Anthony DeStefano is another rhyming storybook about a child praying through their day. The main character models ways in which kids can take everything that happens to them to Jesus.
Happy Saints ebooks are another resource we like. These ebooks feature cute drawings of the saints with a brief prayer. You can print prayer cards or posters for your child, or even encourage them to share a card with a friend. Find your child’s patron saint, or a saint whom they can connect with over a current interest or struggle.
How do you help your children pray and connect with their heavenly Father?