By Jackie Kramer
“A chip off the old block” is an expression common among parents who are bursting with pride as they witness an accomplishment their son or daughter has achieved, like a school graduation, successful sporting event or performance of some sort.
We believe that, because of the skills we have taught them, guidance we have given and, of course, the genes they have inherited, we made a contribution to their success — and rightfully so.
The fact is that we, as parents, are the most influential people in our children’s lives. Everything we say and do is emulated by the little humans in our charge. Every word that comes out of our mouths is heard by them and, in due time, we will hear those same words from their mouths. They will become a lot like we are.
Granted, we are not the only influences in their lives, because friends and environment also play a large part in their formation. But we cannot escape it. We are their first and primary educators and examples. We set the tone for who they will become as people.
It is a given that we are always doing what we can to provide our children the best life possible. We give them a comfortable and secure home, subject them to new experiences that will broaden their interests, and provide for all their material needs. All of these things are vital.
But there is one major area in which we as parents have the greatest influence: We are the lifeline to give a living, breathing faith to our kids. It is up to us and, if we do not include this in all we do for our children, they will not have it. Our job is to teach them about Jesus and train them to be connected to Him. Let them know how much God loves them.
How do we do this? By making God central in our lives. Our example of attending Mass each Sunday and our enthusiasm for our faith and love for God will not go unnoticed. The family is the domestic church. Faith-filled kids come from faith-filled parents.
As mothers, our love, compassion, caring and constant presence is an example of how God wants us to live. We also make sure that the children attend religion classes, go to Mass, and fulfill all the obligations required to receive their sacraments. At home, we tell stories of Jesus and the saints and pray morning and night prayers together. We make Jesus real to them, not just on Sundays but every day, just by being Mom.
Meanwhile, dads are so important in the formation of their children’s faith. They are the leaders of the family. If Dad prays morning and evening prayers, so will they. If Dad goes to Mass and is involved in ministry, they will be more willing to do it. If it is okay with Dad, it must be okay.
Grandparents too can be a valuable asset in this process. Just by talking to the kids about church, sharing their traditions, and being present and showing how proud they are at their grandchildren’s first Communion, confirmation, and other sacramental celebrations, grandparents can show how important the faith is.
There is no doubt parents have their work cut out for them in instilling lifelong faith in their children. Facing competition from iPads, computers, smart phones, and other technology, just getting our children’s attention can be a challenge. We need to be smarter than a smart phone. Actions speak louder than words. Just a little hint: If you limit yourself on your iPads, iPhones, laptops, and the like, then your children will do the same.
I will always remember how giving and loving my mom was. Somehow, I tied this to God. Instilling faith in your children by your words and actions is even more important than giving them the best schools, sports opportunities, and exposure to the arts. Through the love that you share and the example you give, your children will be happy and secure people with God in their driver seat. And, on the occasions when we observe our kids on their knees praying, receiving their first Communion or confirmation, working with those in need, or altar serving, we can burst with pride as we exclaim, “He/she is a chip off the old block!”
Jackie Kramer is a member of San Rafael Parish in Rancho Bernardo, where she serves as sacristan.