With summer finally here, my kids are enjoying the freedom that comes from the long warm summer days, road trips and getting to spend more time together. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can continue to make faith an intentional part of our routine, even though our routine is totally different in the summertime. I’ve realized a lot of my best teaching opportunities are on the go, and that some of the best moments I have come when we’re out doing things together, not necessary cozied up inside (since we plan on being inside as little as possible this summer!)
Below are 5 ways that have helped me teach my kids faith while on the go. I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful, and I would love to hear your ideas as well!
1. Listen, really listen.
Listening is powerful! Kids know when they are really being listened to, and when we are really listening they will really ask or talk. I endure countless long, one-sided conversations of Pokemon battles and Bionicle dramatizations because I know that one day those conversations will turn into something more serious. I believe it is through these moments that my children will learn that if I listen and care about what they say (even when I have to try reeaaally hard to listen!) they can come to me and talk to me about anything. I love this thought by David Bednar: “Such discussions–especially when parents are eager to listen intently as they are to talk–can foster a supportive and secure environment and encourage ongoing communication about difficult topics.” This is exactly what I hope happens in our family as my husband and I try to really listen to our kids (and in all honesty Pokemon is growing on us).
2. Turn a child’s simple questions into discussion.
When people (including kids!) are asking questions it shows that they have a genuine interest in something. However rather than simply answering their questions, we can be intentional about turning those questions into a conversation. My son asks a lot of fun questions lately, and when I take the time to respond with questions and ideas of my own, they always turn into good discussions. His latest question of “What is deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep inside my body mama?” is one of my favorite ways to tell him about the wonders of God’s creations. Usually it leaves us all marveling at the wonders of God’s creations big and small.
3. Pray often. Even on the go.
As prayers have slowly become a part of our family routine at mealtimes, morning, bedtime and in between, talking to God adds up to be a huge part of our day. With so much verbal communication with God going on I have found it hard not to turn to him more often in my thoughts and when I am alone as well. I think my kids feel the same way as they often think of prayer as the number one problem solver! Prayer is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to keep faith in our lives, even when our routine is not really there while on vacation. Beginning a trip with prayer, continuing to pray over meals and keeping up bedtime and morning prayers as a routine can bring so much more peace and consistency to vacations and just those simple summer days.
4. Look for spontaneous teaching moments.
Perhaps one of my favorite and perhaps one of the most crucial ways to teach children about God is through unplanned moments. Vacation is the perfect time to teach children about God’s creations and wonders. Most often we are experiencing new places and seeing new sights that allow parents the time to explain and witness of God. Point out the beauty in a campground, the thousands of new and different people we see each day, watch the sunset on the beach. Look for the little things that happen around you and share your beliefs! I heard this quote, again from David Bednar a few years ago and it created a shift in my mindset that has become a huge blessing for me and for my parenting: “Parents should be vigilant and spiritually attentive to spontaneously occurring opportunities to [teach faith] to their children. Such occasions need not be programmed, scheduled, or scripted. In fact, the less regimented such teaching or sharing is, the greater the likelihood for edification and lasting impact.”
5. Ask sincere and honest questions to your children…and listen to the answers (see #1!!)
A long car ride is never the ideal situation for most families (whining and bathroom trips and crumbs oh my!), but it does seem like the perfect time to get some real conversations going. Your kids are forced to sit and so are you! But it’s usually up to parents to make this time productive! Turn off the radio, set aside the personal electronics, forget the movie and talk to each other. (I know, this sounds crazy, but bear with me here!) This is a great time to not just talk at your kids, but to ask them questions. Questions about life, their concerns, faith, friends and God. Let them be a source of knowledge, we have a lot to learn from them! Some great questions to get you started (for any age!) are things like: “When was the last time you felt God’s love for you?”, “Who’s one of your greatest heroes and why?”, “What was your favorite thing you learned last year in school?”, or “What questions do you have that you wish God would answer?” It’s amazing what a sincere question in love will do to begin a gospel conversation, and show that you really love your kids (because you want to know their answers!).
I hope some of these ideas are helpful for you as we all enjoy this summer! What are you doing this summer to be intentional about teaching faith? I would love to hear your ideas below!