Kids learn from their siblings, their friends, and especially their parents. It is important that from an early age kids see their parents praying, working, serving others, and reading. They will imitate them and over time grow and mature with these indispensable habits. In other words, parents are the first Catechists. And if they are close to their children and affectionate they can inspire them. When parents do this they are Amazing Catechists.
Parents should teach their children from a young age that God has a loving plan for each one of them. This plan is one for their happiness here on earth and in heaven. It is a plan that gradually unfolds like a trip in the country that begins in one place in the woods and leads to a lake and then to a mountaintop. The trip entails preparation, sacrifice and perseverance. Happiness or success in life does not consist in having many trophies or money to buy things. It lies in doing what God planned for us as his children, using well the gifts that He gave us in this world. This is how we reach the mountaintop which is Heaven.
Blessed Cardinal Newman wrote: “God knows what is my greatest happiness, but I do not. There is no rule about what is happy and good; what suits one would not suit another. And the ways by which perfection is reached vary very much; the medicines necessary for our souls are very different from each other. Thus God leads us by strange ways; we know He wills our happiness, but we neither know what our happiness is, nor the way. We are blind; left to ourselves we should take the wrong way; we must leave it to Him” (Meditations and Devotions).
But how does one know God’s plan for one’s life? Another question is: if God has a plan for me, does He give me any real freedom to choose? The answer to the second question requires more time but, in short, God gives us freedom to choose what is good and true, and the best we can choose is what He knows is good for us. Returning to the first question, we usually discover God’s plan gradually in a number of ways: the use of our reason, circumstances such as people and places that God puts in our path, interests and likes that we have, times of personal prayer and the advice that we receive from persons with experience and good formation.
There is another element to discovering God’s plan: asking Him to show it to us. And this is where parents can help their young children: praying with them every day something akin to the following: Lord, I know that you have a loving plan for me; help me to discover the talents that you have given me and to put these at your service. As children study in middle school they can add to their prayer: Lord, show me where I should study high school and what I should do after high school, how I can serve you with the talents that you have given to me.
Children and youth rarely think in this way. If they did they would receive many graces and listen better to the inspirations of God the Holy Spirit. They would also take more seriously their studies, and develop a vocational sense in life. Rather than go about thinking, how can I have as much fun as I can with as little work as possible, they would think, how can I serve God well, developing the gifts He has granted me. Encourage your children to pray in this way, keeping in mind other words of Cardinal Newman: “God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another” (Meditations and Devotions).
Your children who are age ten now will begin college or a trade school in only eight years. This time goes by very fast. Inspire them to be the best they can be, to use their time well and to develop good study habits. In a book I just published, A University Education for the 21st Century: The Opening of the American Mind, I suggest the importance of a liberal arts education based on the classical Western Tradition, and discuss how students and parents can choose between colleges and universities. But long before this, children need to grow in love and friendship with Our Father God and his Son Jesus Christ. They need to thank Him for the talents He has bestowed on them and to develop them through good habits of study and work. And they need to pray to Him for the light to know his plans. In the end, responding to God’s grace, through hard work and service to others, sacrifice and perseverance, they will reach Heaven.
Fr. Juan R. Vélez, author of Passion for Truth, the Life of John Henry Newman, and most recently A University Education for the 21st Century: The Opening of the American Mind, available through Amazon. Find Father’s writings on Blessed Newman here: www.cardinaljohnhenrynewman.com