As parents, there’s a lot of pressure and advice from different parts of society in training our kids to be academically successful, but not a lot about raising our kids to be moral, spiritual and generous. One of the big questions a lot of parents, regardless of which faith or belief they follow, often ask us for advice on is helping their children learn to pray. They often worry that their kids don’t understand prayers well enough, or they struggle to get them to put down the electronics and toys and concentrate for a few minutes. For any of the loving and concerned parents who find themselves in this situation, we are really happy to share with you our top tips for helping children learn to pray.
Explaining prayer to children
As a first step, we want out children to understand what prayer is, and we must use simple terms that they will easily understand. It’s a real shame that many parents just try to make their kids pray without explaining what it really is.
I’ve always found that the most effective way to describe prayer to a child is to teach them that prayer is simply a loving conversation with our Creator. God created the world and humanity because He loves us, and prayer is one of the ways we can give love back to God. When we pray, we can ask God to help us with things, ask him to look after our family and friends, and we can thank God for all the good things in our lives that He has given us.
Tell them why we pray
Along with knowing what prayer is, we need to help our children understand why we need to pray, and why we should do it every day.
I’ve used the following analogy with my kids, and it worked quite well. Kids can understand that, in order to stay alive, their body needs food and water. If they eat and drink, they will grow strong and healthy, but if they don’t they will become weak and sick. Their souls are like their bodies in a way, but they need prayers (and good deeds) in order to stay strong and healthy. This way of explaining the need for prayer is very effective for kids, as they can easily understand that prayers are like food for their soul.
Make praying part of their daily routine
Sometimes we need to walk spiritual paths with practical feet, and by making prayers a part of their daily routine, like brushing their teeth, we’re helping them build positive habits that can last a lifetime. Whether its prayers in the morning, before bed, or saying grace at the dinner table, you can ensure that prayer is a normal and positive part of their everyday lives. You really have to be consistent, but it will pay off.
Start with a ‘cool down’
In order to help my kids get into the right mindset for praying, we always start with a few minutes of quiet time to get them relaxed and ready. Sometimes, we play a nice piece of gentle, acoustic music to help set the mood.
Teach them to sing prayers
Children love singing, as good melodies bring them so much joy. Therefore, you should teach your children to sing prayers, as they will really enjoy it and the words will touch their hearts.
The family that prays together, stays together
Praying with your whole family together is a really wonderful experience, regardless of whether or not you have kids. Praying as a family is also a brilliant way to foster unity and harmony among all the members, but it is especially important when children are in the picture. It is a great way to teach by example how to show reverence when praying, as when they see mom and dad sitting silently and respectfully while other family members pray, and they hear the enthusiasm and feeling you put into your prayers, they will learn respectful and dignified we should be when praying.
Simple Children’s Prayers – Don’t overburden them with long prayers
Depending on how old your children are, their capacity to sit still and concentrate might be quite short. For this reason, we advise that you start with short, simple prayers, and gradually introduce them to longer ones as their capacity grows. Forcing children to sit through or recite long prayers before they are able to sit and concentrate for long periods of time can make prayers seem like chores to little ones, and can turn them away from praying. You want your kids to love praying, not tolerate it. So don’t overburden them before they are ready. Include simple children’s prayers too and help them enjoy reciting prayers, which they can memorize.