Even Leprechauns. My 5-year-old believes in all these things. Yet last Sunday on the drive to Mass she announced:
“I don’t think Jesus is real. I think he’s made up.”
Wwwhat?! I thought I had till at least 10 or 12 before that started (or what would be really nice: never.) Though my heart sank, I managed not to panic. It’s natural, even essential, for children to question their faith as they mature, right? We just brace ourselves and do our best to remember a few tips when it comes to building their faith foundation:
When children have questions about the faith, assure them God is “big enough” to handle any questions or doubts, then help them find the answers.
Live by example
Children “catch” faith by our example of attending Mass and parish activities, reading Scripture, going to confession and Eucharistic adoration, and praying at home. Generally being nice to people is a pretty good example too.
Teach the faith
We help children *learn* the faith through religious education classes, youth activities, spiritual reading, retreats, and family and peer discussion.
Kids need “content” as well as “experience”: encourage activity in youth group, youth choir, social events and community outreach. As they get older, experience outside their own little world is helpful.
Parents have a model in St. Monica. History tells us Monica spent 17 years praying and chasing her wayward son, St. Augustine, around the Roman Empire before he was baptized and went on to become one of the Church’s greatest saints.
Relationship is most important. If a child chooses to not live out the faith, be patient, trust in God and believe the Holy Spirit is working in his or her life. I’ve been told the worst thing we can do is nag.
Vaughn and I spent a little time Sunday talking about the Bible: specifically stories about Jesus, written by people who were there. It was news to her that some Bible stories are actually firsthand accounts.
I’m curious to hear her future comments, and comforted to know we’re not the first parents to navigate this territory.
**TUESDAY UPDATE** When Vaughn and I dropped her brother off at school today, she made her regular visit to a statue of Jesus and gave him a hug. I said, “Vaughn, Jesus loves ya.”
“I love him too,” she replied as she skipped down the hall.