Spiritual Hacks for Life with Kids

Friday, August 25, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes.

We're on the edge of Fall! Some people do New Year's Resolutions, but for me Fall has always been the time for new beginnings. This is when I look back and see what has been working, what needs to be readjusted, and maybe where some priorities are getting forgotten.

Priorities like....having a prayer life?

With tiny people underfoot most of the day, it can be reeeeaaaallllyyy hard to give prayer the pride of place it deserves in my day. But it's a new season and a new chance to try something new and see if it sticks. Here are some of the ways I'm getting in spiritual time while having kids around 24/7.


Take advantage of the kid friendly prayer options

Our parish has a children's holy hour every Wednesday morning in the adoration chapel. Getting a chance to go to adoration and not worry too much about disturbing others is such a blessing!

Growing up, my mom would take all of us kids to her weekly rosary group. It was a group of moms and kids who gathered in one side of the church every Friday to say the rosary together. Not a lot of planning needed, and nobody minded if a baby needed to be soothed or a toddler never stopped organizing the hymnals.

If there is not an offering at your parish, or one nearby, start your own! It doesn't take a lot to invite a family or two over for rosary time. Don't worry about making it perfect or having a spic and span house. Your effort counts!


Make it a routine

When I look at what consistently happens in my prayer life, even in the busy times, it's the things that I do as a matter of routine. We always make it to mass on Sunday's because that's just what we do on Sunday mornings. Blessings before meals are part of the ritual of mealtimes in our house.

One thing we have started with the new school year is having rosary time. About 3pm has worked well. It's post-nap and afternoon snack and the kids have had a little free time. I light a candle on the mantle, hand out rosaries, and roll with it. It's not always easy, but getting started is most of the battle for me.


 Embrace the wiggles

A rosary takes about 20 minutes and you can bet there are wiggles! Lots and lots of wiggles. 
So we have embraced the wiggles.

One technique that works well with my kids is having "walking mysteries". Every other mystery we pace the length of the room with each Hail Mary. Now we have lots of ground rules to keep this from devolving into racing and running into things:

1. If you get to the end of the room early, you still have to wait for the next Hail Mary to start for the other side.
2. No touching anyone
3. Rosaries need to be held nicely (not hitting objects or people.)

Breaking the rules gets a quick warning. If the rules are broken 3 times, we sit down for the rest of that mystery. It did not take the kids long to figure out life is a lot more fun if you follow the ground rules.


Invest in some good children's religious books

I'm talking books with good art, lots of pictures, and are well written. Check out Mater Amabilis or Mother of Divine Grace to see some recommendations for liturgical year or saint books that are age appropriate for your kids.

They are fantastic to bring to mass, adoration, to have on hand for feast days, or just to read aloud and get your kids more familiar with bible stories, saints, and the meaning behind Catholic traditions.


Lower your expectations

I say lower because I seem to fall into the trap of expecting higher level behavior than what is reasonable when it comes to prayer time. 
Define what counts as "good behavior". Is it sitting in one spot? Staying in the pew? Making an effort at whispering in church? Kids cannot meet expectations if they are not clearly defined and communicated.
For rosary time I ask that everyone pick their spot at the beginning of each mystery, and no rosaries in months or on feet.
For mass I ask that everyone stay in the pew, my 3ish and ups follow along with the stand, sit, kneel times, and all questions be whispered. 
In Therese's case, keeping her non-stop commentary and free association whispered is her doing well. For John I have a rule about not putting himself to sleep during mass on purpose. 
Different kids have different struggles.


Explain as you go

It's very hard for kids to behave well if they do not understand what is happening. I do a quick little explanation of each mystery as we say the rosary, point out what part of the mass we are doing right now, and teach them the words for liturgical objects.


Do it anyway

We have had masses in which I completely missed the homily because I was taking the toddler to the potty for what felt like the billionth time. Rosaries that got interrupted so many times I wanted to quit. 
But I make myself do prayer anyway.
Sometimes showing up is the prayer. Even if I'm just showing up to the rosary in my living room. I don't let a bad experience the day before prevent me from trying again today. The kids will not get better at prayer without practice, and everyone needs another chance to get it together. - including me.

What are some of your tips and tricks for praying with kids around?

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