Family Faith Journeys are exciting to experience and to observe as everyone grows closer to God and to one another. Parents are extremely important role models in shaping faith, attitudes, values, & character. Children copy what they experience in daily life. Intentionally nurturing and equipping ourselves and loved ones to live Christ centered lives is much easier when we know what to do & where to seek quality resources that match current needs. Here are some general clues to the Christian parenting puzzle. Please explore the treasure chests of resources on the reverse side of this bookmark for more clues.
THINGS TO DO:
+ Pray with your child & for your child.
+ Cherish yourself as a child of God.
+ Remember…What you DO has more impact on children than what you say so practice what you preach.
+Ask for & accept forgiveness…Assess mistakes & deal with them in positive ways.
+Build a network of support…Talk with other parents, people at church, & family members.
+ Celebrate parenting joys & successes
+Learn more about parenting to make your very important job easier & happier!
Spiritual Growth of Children – Helping Your Child Develop a Personal Faith
Parenting with Purpose – Nurturing Faith & Life from Birth to Age 6
Home Grown Faith
50 heart based strategies to strengthen families and help children of all ages to know how to make healthy decisions and be happy in today’s challenging world. This approach works better than rewards, threats, or punishment. Life can be happier for you and your children!
FAITH FOOTPRINTS START EARLY
BIRTH - AGE 2
The birth of a child is an awesome time of wonder & excitement as well as hopes for the future. The first years are critical for making those hopes come true. The sights, sounds, relationships and activities in a child’s world create character, values & faith that will sustain them in their Christ centered daily life as they make healthy decisions later.
THINGS TO DO:
+ Lay the foundation of love & trust with affection in everything you do & say. Be aware that you are the first face, voice and hands of Jesus for your child.
+ Start by singing lullabies & then reading stories of love, joy & faith. Stories, games & songs are powerful tools for teaching Christian beliefs & values throughout childhood.
+ Let the loving heart of your child lead you on your own faith journey as you tell them about Jesus & God by the things you do at home and going to church.
+ Pray with & for your child every day. Start folding their hands to pray at meal time.
+ At this stage children think Mom & Dad are wonderful. You are modeling values & behavior for the foundation of how they will act in the future. The building blocks of personality & behavior will be in place by age 10 when opportunities for fine tuning by parents become more limited.
Book: Right from the Start - A Parent’s Guide to the young child’s Faith Development
CD: Sleep Sound in Jesus
Catalogs/ web sites: These sites have Christian parenting information, books, CDs & other items.
THE EXPANDING WORLD
Ages 3 through 5
When children begin to talk their world expands & becomes a stage. Their imagination & creativity need encouragement as they play. Telling about their feelings & experiences is part of language development as well as faith development. They are exploring & building their relationship with God & feeling His loving presence through the loving actions of adults who will listen & guide them in positive ways as they navigate the negative influences of our culture. Parents, grandparents & other faith nurturing adults (faith parents) have tremendous influence during these years when attitudes toward TV, music, other people, church & other important things are being absorbed. How children feel about themselves & others reflects their experiences.
At this stage children start school & participating in activities away from home where they experience & understand more than we realize.
Serving others becomes very important during this stage. Adults need to guide positive play experiences & model peaceful ways to resolve conflicts. Reading with children for 15-30 minutes a day is extremely important. Some books & games need to be intentionally related to faith development.
THINGS FOR PARENTS TO DO:
+ Praise them for being good & doing good.
+ Guide intellectual, physical & spiritual growth through supervised playtime, reading Bible stories together, praying, singing Sunday school songs & laughter.
+ Make God a part of daily conversations with your children.
+ Ask someone at church or in your neighborhood/community to be their “faith parent”. Their role would include doing these things to nurture the child’s faith & well being.
+ Tell them you love them. Remind them that God & Jesus love them too.
THINGS FOR CHILDREN TO LEARN:
+ God loves you & wants to care for you.
+ Jesus loves you & died for your sins.
+ God created everything including you.
+ God gave us the Bible as a guide for our lives.
+ God wants children to be good, kind & loving like Him & Jesus. He wants you to share.
+ God wants you to think good thoughts & love our family & other people.
+ God wants you to go to worship & Sunday School.
+ God wants you to know that obeying parents & rules are blessings to help you avoid harm & consequences.
+ Select a Bible that is age appropriate such as Pray & Play Bible for Young Children.
+ Spiritual Growth for Children -Helping you Child Develop a Personal Faith
+ A Family Garden of Christian Virtues
BUILDING CHARACTER & VALUES
Ages 6 through 10
LIFE & CHRISTIAN PARENTING become more complex at this stage with increasing influences from media & other sources outside the home. PARENTS NEED A PLAN so time doesn't slip away! Your parenting decisions and skills at this character & value formation stage will be significant factors in how your children deal with the pre-teen, teen and young adult years just ahead.
THINGS TO DO:
+ Praise & celebration of decision making based on Christian values is essential at this stage. Your child's personality, interests, unique qualities & special abilities need guidance in positive directions through caring daily conversations. Interactions with other caring adults during family service projects reinforce value & character trait formation as kids are learning skills & gaining a sense of accomplishment. Your child will also be seeing you as a role model when you mentor other children.
+ Friendships and peer influences may develop rapidly along with other influences outside the home during this stage. Tune in on their many questions. Ask key questions to guide them spiritually as their brains learn about cause and effect situations. Their more complex relationships
lead to balancing the needs of others with self-interests and concepts of sharing & fairness.
+ Giving your child the GIFT OF TIME is crucial at each stage. Parents, Grandparents, God parents, mentors & other caring adults can have tremendous influence by sharing the biblical story & their own faith stories. The hearts & minds of 6 — 10 year olds absorb & internalize what they see & bear like sponges. Choices between usual TV programs compared to family time with Veggie Tales or a story about a biblical character make big differences. How about conversations in the family taxi guided by a game like "Faith Talk" with Children. Reading time is very valuable at this stage. A balance of religious books, school books & fun books increases reading skills & teachable moments.
RESOURCES & ACTIVITIES:
+ Family Faith Walks by Kelly Haack Read an age appropriate Bible
+ Faith Talk with Children cards available from www.vibrantfaith.org
+ Conversation Bowl...Select a bowl to sit on the dinner table with questions written on slips of paper by family members. Take turns drawing questions for discussion during meals. Sometimes ask what God or Jesus might say about the topic under discussion or bring what has been learned in Sunday school or worship into the discussion. The Conversation Bowl idea has benefits well beyond building communication skills & faith formation. It provides opportunities to learn what is on the minds of family members & value what others express.
BIG CHANGES Pre-adolescence
Ages 11 through 12
The pre-teen & teen years that follow are filled with leaps out into the world & coming back to the safety, support & comfort of home.
THINGS TO DO:
+ Setting standards & expectations is crucial so children & parents have guidelines for behavior.
+ Consistency & mutual respect are keys to the ups & downs that characterize these years of moodiness & increased independence as they learn to make good choices.
+ Physical development creates interest in the opposite sex. Listen & think before reacting.
+ Relationship building skills with all peers are developing along with verbal skills. This can be an important time for nurturing prayer as preteens become more concerned about other people in their world.
+ They start to reason and question life & faith questions on a more abstract level. Conversations with parents & other caring adults help the child to explore feelings, thoughts, and questions about their lives and faith issues. Teachable moments come during meal conversations, while traveling in the car, saying prayers together & sharing thoughts about TV programs, movies, magazine & newspaper
articles. “Talk” is important, but “Walking your Talk” is essential. These kids are watching & modeling what adults do 24/7 so BE WHAT YOU WANT YOUR CHILD TO BECOME! Faith is caught more than it is taught.
+ SPEND TIME TOGETHER in PARENT/CHILD ACTIVITIES as well as FAMILY ACTIVITIES to build bonds & provide guidance as values, self-image & life skills are developed.
RESOURCES & ACTIVITIES
Independence & guidance are keys to selecting books, music, movies & websites geared to this age level. Casual conversations about song lyrics, movie content, & websites may have more impact now compared to the teen years when peer influence becomes greater. How about a trip to a Christian bookstore to purchase a book or CD together.
One of the good choices for boys is Gotta have God: Ages 10-12. It is a book designed to help boys become strong Christian men.
For girls God & Me: Ages 10-12 has activites & stories dealing with everyday life.
Journaling is also an interesting activity that helps pre-teens & teens grow & focus their thoughts on what is important in life.
Confirmation materials are also an important source for information & activities.
The abundance of devotion books for boys & girls this age reflects growing skills in reasoning & growing ability to reflect on moral and religious topics that continues into young adulthood.
EARLY TEEN YEARS
Ages 13-15 (Jr. High)
This is an exciting & challenging time when teens need to be taking more responsibility for their own spiritual growth with the assistance of the very important faith builders in their lives. Their abstract reasoning, moral/religious reflection & social skills are growing fast as they make very important life changing decisions. Adults now often become coaches rather than instructors with direct answers. If the Bible were condensed to its essentials, it really is about relationship (especailly with God), life, & how to live it. Reflecting on Bible teachings & prayer about real life situations gives teens & their mentors practical opportunities to look at their relationships, cope with the challenges faced at home, school social situations & the rest of LIFE.
THINGS TO DO:
+ Observe & praise positive behavior & character traits is essential for building healthy relationships. Catch teens being responsible, respectful, trustworthy, tolerant, cooperative, showing empathy, humorous, sharing, forgiving, truthful, kind, honorable, assertive, just, courageous, wise, creative, confident, imaginative, showing self-discipline & restraint, loyal, giving, fair, being a good citizenship, conserving resources, & being accountable!
+ Encourage teens to serve others & develop leadership skills. Service projects & leadership roles are ways to explore expanding cognitive, social & spiritual growth, especially in youth groups. Start by serving with them in church & community projects so you can guide, observe & reflect on this part of your faith journey together.
+ Wise decision making is one of the last areas of brain development into the 20s. Faith based decisions need coaching at this crucial training stage!
+ Developing listening skills, open communication & healthy relationships enable teens to share the “facts” with adults who may have wisdom to prevent or help solve problems.
+ A Conversation Bowl can be any bowl with questions written on slips of paper. A list of discussion starters can also be used.
+ Way to Live: Christian practices for teens is written by teens with various points of view & real personal stories
+ The Student Bible Dictionary gives clear concise definitions & descriptions of biblical people, places, events plus maps, charts & other information
+The Beginner’s Guide to the Books of the Bible gives overviews of each of the 66 books of the Bible.
Older Teens and Transition to Adulthood
Ages 15-18+ (Sr. High+)
The parental window of influence is closing by age 15. Until this stage parents & other caring adults have been equipping children to make informed, wise decisions in mature ways. Now our roles change from teachers to coaches. The role of the teens at this stage like athletes is to play the game and learn from the experience...including the mistakes. That means parents at this stage motivate, encourage, challenge & advise. Youth need to articulate what they think & believe. This is a time of opportunity to listen & give them more food for thought, but force feeding is not an effective option. Challenge their thinking in positive ways with reminders of what they learned & practiced in the past linked to current life issues . They need a safe environment to ponder & discuss faith topics with peers & adults. Adults need to be prepared to meet challenging questions of tough faith issues by searching for resources that address questions in honest, authentic and credible ways. Team leadership of adults & teens facilitating small group discussions provides excellent structure and environment for this age group. This approach effectively develops faith, leadership & cross-generational relationships by equipping & empower teens to practice their Christian lifestyle. Parents need to stay connected to teens & their friends. Know them by name & include them in your prayers & concerns. Providing a safe place for gatherings & serving food opens doors to interaction that can change young lives in ways we may never know. During dinner conversations wonder how God’s love and presence shapes everyday happenings on the planet. Hot topics at this stage range from personal to global. School, job, friendships, dating, marriage, family life, politics, ecology, world hunger, etc. are on their minds & in their hearts. They feel empowered to make a difference in the world based on their own priorities & values. There are frequent reality checks as choices are made and attitudes are modified. Idealism & experimentation are the norm for 20+ year olds as they move out on their own & fine tune their lifestyles and careers. Keep listening & be supportive in quiet ways!