Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Everyday Grace: Nurture your child's soul
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the Sept. 11, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)
With the new school year underway, the juggle begins: homework, soccer, music, you-name-it. As you settle into a routine, don’t forget to set aside some time and energy for your children’s spiritual growth and development. Here are three ways to nurture your child’s soul.
Carve out quiet time.
When my daughter was four I began encouraging her to spend quiet time in her room listening to her heart. One day I stepped in and found her looking frustrated. ”The thoughts in my head are so loud, I can’t hear my heart,” she said.
Our kids need down time to process their feelings, to imagine, to create and to know God. Silence and solitude are necessary for the development of a spiritual life.
One family eats dinner each Sunday in silence and candlelight. Sarah, mother of two, says, “It is a nice contrast to our usual dinner hubbub, although it took some training in impulse control for our spirited child to stop mouthing Can we talk yet? She often groans when we announce silent dinner; nevertheless, we’ve been able to extend the lengths of quiet. And within that quiet is a far-reaching contentment for me: I am giving both my family and myself the opportunity for kairos, sacred time.”
Nourish a sense of wonder.
Often it’s our small children who remind us to pay attention to the everyday miracles around us.
I remember my youngest wanting to look at every leaf and ant in the driveway while I tugged him toward the car calling, “Hurry, the older kids will be late for school.” This is the child I called outside earlier this summer to see the first morning glory blossom. I reveled in the glint of interest lighting his eyes as I explained how the delicate flower with it’s bright shades of lavender would bloom only one morning, its glory fading within hours.
Opportunities like this kindle our kids’ natural curiosity and inspire them to think about life’s mysteries. All around us is the wonder of God’s creation. Pause during the day to observe an ant carrying a crumb twice his own size or watch a flock of geese fly overhead. Occasionally plan something more.
Recently we took a late night family walk to look for the planet Mars as it orbited near earth, but any clear night gives an awesome view and testifies to God’s grandeur. Constellations like the Big Dipper can be easily recognized. To involve teenagers, borrow a telescope and a book from the library on stargazing.
Encourage empathy and compassion.
Children learn compassion through works of service, like making sandwiches for the homeless, or visiting the elderly. Therese arranged for her teenage son to play his saxophone for residents at a nursing home. Matt says he’s learned compassion for people who aren’t able to get out and about. “I feel lucky to have this musical skill to be able to give something that seems to mean so much to them,” he says.
In small ways everyday guide your children to think of others’ needs and act with kindness. Welcome a new classmate, neighbor or family in your parish with a hand-drawn card. When choosing a gift, urge your child to think about the other’s preferences and interests rather than their own. Teens can begin to understand the ramifications of how they spend their money. Who makes the products they buy? Do they earn a fair wage? What’s the effect of this product on the environment?
One simple way to help children empathize with others is through prayer. When a neighbor gave birth to a baby boy four months premature, my children developed a strong bond with baby and family because they prayed for Ewan every day during the four months he was in the hospital. My children have also learned to empathize as we’ve prayed for the sick in our parish by name, and their friends’ grandparents.
There seems to be no end to the demands on our time and energy. Often parents must choose between several good activities for their children. As you plan your schedule, make time to nurture your child’s soul.
(Mary Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. She is a contributing author to the new book Daughters of the Desert: Stories of Remarkable Women from Christian, Jewish and Muslim Traditions, from Skylight Paths Publishing.)