Thursday, November 5, 2009

Family Faith Practices – Keeping It Simple!

Today's blog post is written by church member Kelly Meyers.  Kelly is married and has three girls ages 18, 14 and 3.  Kelly also works in the church office as our Media and Communications expert.

Often, when we hear phrases like ‘rituals and traditions’ or ‘faith practices’ we imagine grand events that take a lot of time and effort. In our family, we have found that the simpler we make it, the better. All of us suffer from the ‘busies.’ When someone asks you how you are, how do you respond? “Good, but we’re all so busy.” So how do we add one more thing to our ever-growing ‘to-do’ lists? I have good news for you: we don’t have to!

Have you ever watched your child open a gift at Christmas that you were really excited to give them, and then they spent all of Christmas Day playing with the giant box it came in? When you think back to Christmases as a child, what do you remember? Is it a specific gift or is it time with family and friends? What about other memories of growing up? Do you remember and cherish what you did or who you did it with?
Research tells us that children are profoundly affected by things we do as a family that offer them feelings of consistency, safety, trust and respect. So how do we create that in the midst of our busy schedules? Here are two of the things our family does to create simple rituals, discuss/share our faith, and give our children those feelings of security.

Make family meals a priority.
Because we have a blended family, and now have 1 child in college, this sometimes means only once a week! But we make it a priority to eat together as a family as often as we can. Be sure to turn off the TV and sit at the table. This time together allows us time to cover so many rituals and traditions!

1. Prayer – a simple prayer of thanksgiving prior to a meal reminds us that we are thankful for the food and family we have been blessed with. This doesn’t need to be an elaborate, long soliloquy. We always say the “Come, Lord Jesus” prayer. And we always hold hands. This simple gesture often breaks down walls between those who are angry or frustrated with each other.

2. Highs and Lows – as often as we can, we go around the table to give our ‘highs and lows’ for the day. Even our 3 year old has something to offer. Sometimes these conversations can take up our entire meal time. What a marvelous way to ‘check in’ with each other, celebrate joys & successes, and support each other in difficulties!

3. Clean up together – this isn’t always possible and is a new one for us. But a family that works together knows how to play together. Work done together goes faster, is easier, and gives everyone a feeling of being a part of the family ‘team.’

Windshield time.
Sometimes I think I spend more time in my car than I do sleeping. Can you relate? And how often do you have a child (or children) with you? I challenge you to turn off the radio (and the phones!) and engage in a conversation. Avoid ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions. Not sure what to ask? Try asking specific questions about school, sports, etc. (i.e. “Tell me something good/bad that happened today.” “What class was your favorite today and why?” “What was the best part of practice today?” “What did you talk about in Confirmation today”). I have also kept all sorts of cards in my car throughout the years – even trivia cards (which the kids LOVE to play!). Anything to start conversation and remind your child that what is happening in their life is important to you.

I highly recommend getting a set of the Faith Talk cards from the Youth & Family Institute. Just keep them in the car. Ask your child to pick a question and you’re off and running. We have samples of these cards at St. Luke’s if you would like to preview them.

If some of these activities or ideas sound awkward, that is perfectly OK! Most of us did not grow up in an environment where we talked about our faith openly. We need to give ourselves time to figure out what works best for us and our families. Be patient with yourself and do not feel like you need to have all of the answers (or that the answers even have to be correct). Simply enjoy listening and learning together.

What do you think?  (Don't forget to comment and give Kelly some internet love!)
1. What are some other ways to bring faith discussions into our everyday activities?

2. What are some of the ways we share our faith with our children non-verbally? Do those actions really speak louder than words?

3. Does anyone have some simple prayers (meals, bedtime, etc.) that work for your family?

God bless your family time and traditions!

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