52 Simple Ways to Talk with Your Kids about Faith: Opportunities for Catholic Families to Share God's Love

52 Simple Ways to Talk with Your Kids about Faith: Opportunities for Catholic Families to Share God's Love



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780829424744
Publisher: Loyola Press
Publication date: 08/01/2007
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

JAMES P. CAMPBELL, D.MIN., father of two children and grandfather of six, is a religious educator and author. He is the coauthor of the Finding God  religious education program and has three post-graduate degrees, including masters degrees in theology and history and a doctorate in Ministry in Christian Education from the Aquinas Institute of Theology. He lives in Rockford, IL, with his wife Barbara. 

Read an Excerpt

Introduction by Tom McGrath

I’m really good at coming up with what-I-should’ve-saids. Those are the thoughtful, clever comments that occur to me after a conversation is over. Hours later, when I am replaying the scene in my mind, I can be fairly witty, persuasive, and insightful. But on the spot, I often let golden chances pass me by.
That’s why I wish I’d had Jim Campbell’s helpful book when my children were growing up. Like most parents I know, I longed to have meaningful conversations with my children about life’s challenges and the value of faith in rising to meet them. Talking to our kids about things that matter is not always easy. I know that lecturing is futile, and yet not communicating our beliefs is clearly an abdication of our role as responsible, caring parents.
The best conversations I had with my children when they were growing up happened naturally, in the course of daily life—in the car, waiting for a bus, over grilled cheese sandwiches or meat loaf at our beat-up kitchen table. Often they happened when the kids would come home from basketball practice or from being out with friends and I’d notice that one of them was feeling particularly high or low, elated or disturbed. What I came to see was that I needed to become adept at using life’s ordinary opportunities to weave conversations about values into daily life.
Jim Campbell’s book is a great way to prepare and practice for those moments, and even to learn how to recognize them when they arise. What I appreciate about Jim is that he not only has a fine and creative grasp of theology, but he also has proven experience as an involved father, a doting grandfather, and a man of faith. He takes great care to practice what he preaches when it comes to engaging his children and grandchildren in lively conversations about faith.
Jim is never preachy; he models the utmost respect for the faith of everyone he encounters—no matter what age or state in life. He understands that he has a role to play in nurturing the faith of the young people in his care, yet he also honors and trusts each child’s budding relationship with God. In this book, Jim freely gives the benefit of his theological scholarship and, more important, his wisdom as one who has faithfully walked the path before us.
Recent research shows that parents have far more influence than commonly suspected in the formation of their child’s character and behavior—far more influence than peers, popular media, and the dubious role models that can chill a parent’s heart. We have more effect on our child’s moral development than we realize—or at least we can, if we choose to step into that role to the best of our ability. (Note: there’s no such thing as “perfect” when it comes to being a parent.)
And the good news is that we are not alone in that challenge. Once we make the slightest move toward the goal of nurturing our child’s life in faith, we can be sure the Holy Spirit will whoosh in to help and guide us. In fact, I’ve always found that the Holy Spirit is the one who does all the heavy lifting—if I will only accept the help. 
Sometimes that help from the Holy Spirit comes in the form of an increased ability to simply listen to our children. As a parent, I’ve often been so eager to get my point across that I failed to first hear what one or the other of my daughters had to say. If I can actively listen, I will create a safe place for her to explore what she’s feeling and what wisdom is available to her. When I manage to simply listen, I often discover that the message I was hoping to get across has already taken root in my child’s heart and conscience.
Having meaningful conversations with your child also opens up the wonderful possibility of praying together. If your child talks about a difficult situation at school or with friends—or even if your child is troubled but doesn’t feel like talking about it right now—you can gently introduce the idea of saying a quick prayer about the situation. “Can we pray about that together?” is an easy way to move from discussion to prayer. And you can model ways to turn life events over to the care of God: “Loving God, when I feel hurt by friends, I want to either run away or hurt them back. Help us to know your love for us, and feel it deep in our hearts, so that we might overcome our hurt and love others as you love us.”
In the great musical Les Misérables, Jean Valjean takes the young child Cosette into his care. He is deeply moved by this sacred responsibility and promises Fantine, Cosette’s dying mother, that he will care for the child in both body and soul. He sings, “I will raise her to the light.” This is the challenge of everyone who cares for children—to raise them to the light. And while there may be grand moments along the way, most of that raising will be done in seemingly small moments, such as when we think to ask the right question and engage our children’s hearts and minds and souls in conversation about life and faith. This book will help you do that. May God bless you on your way.
To the Parent: How to Use 52 Simple Ways

This book is designed especially for parents who want to pass on a faith in God to their children but are unsure how to do this or are challenged to find a way that feels natural.  The book is designed to show parents how to use ordinary situations and events to teach their children about faith. The fifty-two “simple ways,” or lessons, are based upon the teachings of the Catholic Church. The author, Jim Campbell, is an accomplished theologian and catechist as well as a husband, a father of two, and a grandfather of six. He brings to these lessons a lifetime of study and experience.
The lessons can be used in a variety of ways. You can work through the book, beginning with lesson #1 and ending with #52. Or you can simply page through and find the lesson that best fits the child and the situation.
The four indexes in the back of the book can also help you locate the lesson that is most timely and appropriate. The Topical Index of Natural Teachable Moments lists the many situations that might apply to your child right now. The Guide to Scripture Readings focuses on the Bible stories and excerpts, providing the lesson numbers that correspond with them. The Index of Faith Themes by Category organizes the topics of faith and the lessons that go with them. There is also the Index of Terms and Proper Names. All of these indexes provide corresponding lesson numbers.
These lessons are meant to guide and support you, the parent. They begin by listing the faith themes covered by the lesson and the situations in which the lesson might be applied. A short reflection helps you focus on the themes for yourself. In the sidebar, “To Support You,” a Scripture reference is provided, followed by “What the Church Says about This Topic.”
When you are ready to approach your child, the “Starting the Conversation” segment offers a suggestion for doing so. Following that is helpful infor-
mation for relating to children, such as “To Help You Listen,” or “To Help You Connect.”
Each lesson ends with an optional prayer that you and your child can pray together.
Please use the various components of these lessons in a way that suits your needs. These opportunities should be times of natural and unintimidating conversation. The goal is to create some space and time in which your child feels free to relate to you honestly about his or her faith life. Some conversations will be light and even humorous, while others will come with more difficulty and seriousness. Some of these lessons deal with painful or stressful situations, such as a death in the family, social injustices in the world, or a child’s feeling that she will never fit in or have a friend. Other lessons invite you to involve other family members or people in the larger community.
Whatever your child is going through, God has wisdom, grace, and comfort to offer. And much of the time those gifts are delivered through a parent’s love, attentiveness, and patience. Trust the Holy Spirit to be present as you seek to be present to your child. And don’t be surprised if you learn a lot yourself?! As you watch the spiritual growth in your child, you will see, more and more, how God is working in all the details of your life together.
Serving as your child’s image of God

Faith Themes
God is loving Father to us, as taught by Jesus.
We are children of God and can therefore have an intimate father-child relationship with God.
Natural Teachable Moments
On Father’s Day, when family and community talk involves honoring fathers
When watching a TV program or cartoon about families or father figures
During ordinary family time, such as a meal, a weekend outing, or a game
What a wonderful foster father Joseph was to Jesus. From the time Jesus was born, Joseph cared deeply for him—protecting, loving, and teaching him. In return, Jesus had the greatest respect for Joseph.
It can be overwhelming and a little frightening to know that we are our children’s primary teachers in life. The family environment is the first place in which fundamental values form, and it’s where children learn what it means to be a loving parent. What children learn in the home will heavily influence how they respond when they hear that Jesus tells us to refer to God as Father. What does your parenting teach your children about the meaning of “father”?
Starting the Conversation
Share with your child something you have learned from her. Ask her to identify what she has learned from you, your spouse, or other adults in, or especially close to, your family. This is a great opportunity to observe how your child interprets your words and actions.
To Help You Connect
Children love to hear about themselves, to know that they are important to their parents and that they have an effect on the lives of those they love. It’s good to let your child know that you learn things from her. Don’t be afraid to show her that you don’t always have all the answers and that you, too, are learning. Explain that faith is a lifelong journey and that we never stop growing, at any age—and that’s an exciting and wonderful thing.
To Support You
Suggested Bible Reading
Jesus speaks of the relationship between himself and the Father and us:
John 14:23
What the Church Says about This Topic
Jesus reveals to us that God is our loving Father. Abba, the term Jesus uses to address his Father in the New Testament, is a term of intimacy and closeness. It is similar to children calling their father “Dad.” God gave us his Son, Jesus, to teach us that God is our Father. In Jesus we share this special closeness of intimate relationship with God. Therefore, all prayer is primarily addressed to God as Father.
A Prayer Moment with Your Child
Let’s thank God for being our Father and for sending us his Son, Jesus:
Thank you, God, for being my Father,
who always loves me.
And thank you for giving us Jesus
to teach us about you.
Blessing your child

Faith Themes
The love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the source of all love.
We use the sign of the cross as a prayer of blessing.
Natural Teachable Moments:
Whenever you wish to bless your child, such as when he leaves on a school trip or for an overnight with a friend
When your child sees you or someone else, such as a sports figure, make the sign of the cross
When your child sees the pope or other church figure on TV blessing the crowds
A simple way we identify ourselves as Christians is by praying the sign of the cross. We open and close our personal prayer time with the sign of the cross, but we can use it especially as a sign of blessing for our children. A priest is not the only person who can bless someone; you can, too. You can give your children a blessing anytime you wish. This simple gesture speaks of a very deep bond that we have with our children, deeper even than our human relationship with them. In praying the sign of the cross over them or tracing it on their foreheads, we acknowledge that God is the source of all the blessings our children receive through us. We acknowledge the limits of what we can do and open ourselves to the limitless source of God’s love for us. Love is the gift we have received in our children and the gift we return in blessing.
Starting the Conversation
Share with your child a memory of a time when you realized that God had blessed you. Then, if you wish, bless your child and explain what you are doing and why. Allow him to ask questions about the blessing.
To Help You Connect
If sharing your faith and other meaningful experiences with your child is a relatively new undertaking for you, spend a few moments each day to go through the following process: Reflect on your own faith experiences, beliefs, and questions—and how you might share those with your child one day if the opportunity should arise. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s assistance in your efforts. Then, when a natural teachable moment arises, you will find that you’re better prepared to respond to it and that the Holy Spirit will guide you or even speak through you.
To Support You
Suggested Bible Reading
Through love, God lives in us and we live in God: 1 John 4:7–12
What the Church Says about This Topic
God is the source of all love. God demonstrated his love in creation by sending his only son to save us. We love God in return by making his love visible in the world. When we love others and ourselves, we are bringing to life the love God has for all of us. What God asks of us is that we share with one another the same kind of loving-kindness that God shares with us.
One way we make God’s love visible in the world is by blessing ourselves or others by praying the sign of the cross. The sign of the cross is an external expression of our relationship with God. It symbolizes God blessing us and also God’s embracing us with blessings. At the same time, in the sign of the cross we express our belief in God, as the one from whom all our blessings come. The Israelites taught us to approach God always as one who blesses.
Christians follow this tradition of prayer, and in addition we praise God for giving us Jesus Christ. When we bless someone with the sign of the cross, we remember the Trinity of persons who bless us: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We especially recall the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We trace the cross of Jesus upon a person or in the air above him. As we make the sign of the cross, we remember God’s love, found in the past but also with us here and now. When we trace this holy sign above our children—or on their foreheads, hearts, or shoulders—we remember that they are blessed in mind and heart and all their being. As we do this, we pray aloud or silently: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
A Prayer Moment with Your Child
Let’s thank God for sending his only son to save us, and for all his blessings that surround us:
Loving God, thank you for sending Jesus to me
and for showing me how all good things come from you.
Help me bring your love with me everywhere I go.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Relieving your child of too much pressure

Faith Themes
God wants our faith, not sacrifice.
Abraham’s near sacrifice is a great lesson for us.
Natural Teachable Moments
After your child brings home a noticeably good or bad report card
While driving your child to or from an athletic or artistic practice
When your child shows interest in a hobby or discipline
The biblical story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac is a frightening one. How could God ask this of him? But the ultimate lesson of the story is that God did not want a child to be sacrificed. He stopped Abraham’s sacrifice to show that the surrounding culture’s practice of sacrificing children was wrong.
This Scripture story points to issues that we, as parents, can consider today. Although our culture does not condone the physical sacrifice of children, it does require more and more from them in order that they are seen as valuable in the world. What expectations do we have of our children? Do we insist on academic or athletic excellence beyond their capacity or interest? Do we insist that our way of doing things is the only way our children should follow? Are we frightened by the prospect of their wanting to follow vocations that we do not approve of? What help do we need from God to refrain from placing excessive demands on our children?
Starting the Conversation
Ask your child about her hopes and dreams for the future. Create an atmosphere in which you can listen without judging her choices or warning about how much study will be required to accomplish those goals.
To Help You Listen
When talking with your child about her hopes for the future, be sure to listen to her answer to the initial inquiry. Stop and consider it respectfully before responding. What was the emotion behind her response? Inspired hope? Confusion? Fear? Apathy? A desire to please you rather than to please herself? Reflect on this a moment and, in your response, remember how important it is to let your child know that you really heard her.
To Support You
Suggested Bible Reading
Abraham is put to the test: Genesis 22:1–13
What the Church Says about This Topic
God tests Abraham by telling him to offer Isaac in sacrifice. Abraham shows that he is willing to do anything for God. He prepares to perform the sacrifice, but at the last moment an angel stops him. The angel shows Abraham a ram caught in a bush, which Abraham offers as sacrifice.
The story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac needs to be seen in the context of the times. People in the Canaanite cities surrounding the Israelite lands sacrificed their firstborn children to placate their gods. Abraham’s story is an argument against the practice of child sacrifice.
A Prayer Moment with Your Child
We know how hard it can be to be trusting and faithful, so let’s thank God for the examples of trust and faith he has given us:
God, thank you for the story of Abraham.
You keep your promises and do great things for us.
Help me always to trust in you.

Seeing beyond stereotypes

Faith Themes
Simeon in the Bible was able to recognize who Jesus was because he listened to the Holy Spirit.
We can, with the Spirit’s help, learn to see people for who they are.
Natural Teachable Moments:
When watching a movie or TV show that employs negative stereotypes
When your child asks about a stereotype he has encountered
After you, your child, or another family member has just made a judgment—or repeated someone else’s judgment—based on a stereotype
When preparing for a family trip to a place with foreign cultures and customs
We all live with stereotypes. It’s easy to make assumptions and to label people according to their looks, clothes, or ethnic origins. Take, for example, the story of Joseph and Mary’s coming with the baby Jesus to the temple in observance of Jewish custom. Their humble offering of two turtledoves immediately labeled them as poor and unimportant, and this is how most people saw them. Simeon, however, inspired by the Holy Spirit, saw beneath the surface to recognize the promise of the Messiah in Jesus. The Holy Spirit calls us to see everyone though more pure eyes, the eyes of faith, and to discover how God cares for and loves each person. When you look at your child today, whom do you see? How can you nurture your child as the sacred person he is in God’s eyes?
Starting the Conversation
Discuss a movie or TV show you have all seen in which a character starts out looking like a villain but is revealed to be a hero by the end of the story. Explore together what this can tell us about looking beyond first impressions.
To Help You Listen
You can learn a lot about your child’s inner life by listening carefully to what qualities and characteristics made the character you are discussing together seem, in your child’s perception, like a villain at first. Similarly, what qualities, characteristics, or values did the character exhibit by the story’s end to change this perception in your child’s eyes? Listen closely to discern the qualities or values that signify to your child “hero.” Also, at what point in the story did his impression of the character change—and why? Hearing this can reveal a good deal about how your child is exercising his judgment.
To Support You
Suggested Bible Reading
Simeon meets the holy family in the temple of Jerusalem: Luke 2:25–32
What the Church Says about This Topic
In the biblical story of Simeon and the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple, we see an example of how God helps us recognize what is really important in our relationships.
God promised Simeon, a righteous and devout man, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah he was waiting for. Many people at the time would have expected the Messiah—the prophesized savior of the Jewish people—to be born of a royal family or to come from among the important high priests. One day an ordinary-looking couple with a child entered the temple in Jerusalem. They had come to present their son to God, bringing with them an offering of two turtledoves. Simeon, by now an old man with tired eyes, probably did not see Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus too clearly. He did, however, recognize that this seemingly unnoteworthy child was the Messiah. Through the Holy Spirit and with the eyes of faith, he saw beneath the surface and recognized in the infant God’s promise fulfilled.
The teaching of the church stresses the importance of listening to and recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in all our relationships. The same Spirit who came to Mary, Joseph, and Simeon is with us today and is helping us recognize God’s presence in our own lives. By listening to the Holy Spirit we learn how to see more truly and to care for others and for ourselves.
A Prayer Moment with Your Child
The Holy Spirit has a special place in our lives, as our guide and helper. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to show us the way today and everyday:
Holy Spirit, thank you for being my guide.
Help me to always listen carefully to you
and to do what you guide me to do.

Table of Contents


Introduction by Tom McGrath .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . ix
To the Parent: How to Use 52 Simple Ways .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  xiii

1 Serving as your child’s image of God .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  1
2 Blessing your child .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  4
3 Relieving your child of too much pressure .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  7
4 Seeing beyond stereotypes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
5 Facing new and uncertain situations .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 13
6 Setting priorities .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 16
7 Knowing the true self as a good creation .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 20
8 Facing moral choices .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 23
9 Embracing change .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 26
10 Developing childhood heroes .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 29
11 Seeing God’s love and care for all people .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 32
12 Describing family and faith identity .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 35
13 Going through life transitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
14 Making friends and being a friend .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 41
15 Taking advantage of ordinary family time .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 44
16 Responding to a child who was lost or left waiting .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 47 
17 Sharing another person’s company .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 50
18 Showing concern for the poor and weak .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 53
19 Dealing with doubt and distrust .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 57
20 Communicating “You’re okay!” .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 60
21 Coping with sibling rivalry .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 63
22 Recognizing the sacred in everyday life .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 66
23 Seeking forgiveness and healing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
24 Beginning the week with “family Sunday” .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 72
25 Learning or choosing names .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 75
26 Praying for someone’s needs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
27 Embracing the goodness of the world . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
28 Working with the concept of unconditional love .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 84
29 Healing injured relationships .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 87
30 Keeping promises and commitments .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 91
31 Feeling left out or just “not in” .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 94
32 Making memories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
33 Developing the skill to listen .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 100
34 Practicing small acts of kindness .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 103
35 Handling bullies and other enemies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
36 Celebrating Sunday Mass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
37 Suffering when it can’t be avoided . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
38 Seeing prejudice for what it is . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
39 Nurturing your child’s gifts and talents . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
40 Watching small things grow .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 124
41 Caring for the environment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
42 Answering the call to serve others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
43 Recognizing virtue in your child .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 133
44 Celebrating Christmas well .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 136
45 Welcoming others into our lives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
46 Honoring parents and elders .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 142
47 Turning to God in times of tragedy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
48 Receiving spiritual nourishment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
49 Appreciating diversity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
50 Respecting the power of words .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  155
51 Observing baptismal anniversaries .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 158
52 Living with a sense of awe and mystery .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 161

Topical Index of Natural Teachable Moments . . . . . . . . . 165
Guide to Scripture Readings .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 173
Index of Faith Themes by Category . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176
Index of Proper Names and Important Terms . . . . . . . . . 181
Additional Resources .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 183

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