Nurturing faith in under fives
Parenting in the early years can be challenging. Babies and toddlers entering our lives can cause so much change to our normal routine and leave us with far less time than we had before their arrival.
We might wonder how we can invest in our own faith journey and how we can introduce our little ones to Jesus. Many of the parents we speak to are pondering those sorts of questions and so we thought it would be helpful to explore some of them here.
How can I find time to invest in my relationship with God?
When our littles ones come along, we may feel we ought to continue to spend time with Jesus in the same way as we did before we had children. If we’re not able to maintain that, we can feel guilty – as if we are failing God in some way. But it doesn’t need to stay the same. Explore new habits. Find new ways of connecting with God that work for you.
In her book Raising Faith, UK Director of Care for the Family Katharine Hill encourages us to be kind to ourselves and find a rhythm that works for us. She says, ‘Spiritual disciplines are important, but they need to be patterns not padlocks, in line with our personality as well as our season of life … Rather than struggle to do something that is just impossible in our situation, we can try to find a practice and a rhythm that works for us: one that is life-giving’.
One dad we know set up an armchair in the corner of his living room and decided he was going to try to sit in that chair and pray for five minutes a day. Sometimes he managed to grab a few quiet moments when the children were not around, but more often than not they’d be climbing onto his lap, asking what he was doing. This not only allowed him the opportunity to regularly have moments with God but also make this visible to his kids.
Maybe we’re someone who used to find reading our Bible the best way of connecting with God, but now we might benefit from listening to an audio Bible when we’re in the car, cooking dinner or in the shower. Or maybe we connected with God through prayer as we took long hikes on a Sunday afternoon, but now we can take a moment to pray while pegging the washing on the line, or waiting for the laptop to connect. We can also learn so much from exploring God with our children – resources such as the Lectio for families App or the Storybook Bible are full of great content for adults to think about too.
I’m finding church services challenging with a little one – is there any point in attending?
This is a big question among parents. Maybe you find that most of the corporate church service is spent engaging with, consoling, or trying to keep your little one quiet. You end up missing most of the worship time and/or the sermon, and it can feel as if it would just be easier to stay at home. The reality is there are weeks where it probably is, but engaging our children with our church community will have benefits long into the future. Our goal is for our children to be surrounded by an intergenerational community who love and support them, and even from a young age our children will be taking in so much of what they experience around them. One mum helpfully describes her story and change in perspective here.
How can I pray with my child?
Maybe you regularly pray for your child, but have more questions around when and how to start praying with your child, especially if they can’t say very much yet. One parent describes their experience here.
Our friends at Parenting for Faith often talk about the amazing concept of ‘Chat and Catch’, where we encourage our children to ‘chat’ to God as they would a friend and then ‘catch’ what he is saying to them. Here are some ideas to help our little ones to learn how to chat with God.
What can I do to build my child’s faith when they are so young?
Many parents wonder if their children even understand what they are telling them about God at such a young age. Our encouragement is they are taking in so much more than we realise. Establishing those rhythms of faith at a really young age can help them to become a natural way of life as they get older. We might tell Bible stories through play or at bath time, talk about God as we explore nature or establish simple rhythms of prayer and worship. Even though those rhythms may change over time, forming some of the following habits from an early age can be so helpful:
The habit of prayer. Whether before bed or before lunch or on the way to parent and toddlers. Create an understanding that prayer is what we do as a family.
The habit of talking about God. So it’s not a shock when we introduce it later on. Look for moments to drop him into conversation. Perhaps Sunday after church, or as we bake cookies together midweek.
The habit of worship. That may be a praise party in the living room but could also involve art and creativity.
The habit of reading the Bible. Explore the stories through play, story version Bibles and age-appropriate Bible notes. Help our children to know that this book is special to us.
Here at the Kitchen Table Project, we often talk about significant elements that help our children to grow in their faith. Our Ages and Stages resource highlights ideas to use during our child’s particular stage of development – with the first three PDFs sharing ideas for under fives.
We have an amazing opportunity as parents to share our faith with our children. We hope that the simple ideas and resources listed here will help us to explore faith together as a family now and in the future.
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