Talking To Your Kids About NFP

mom and daughter sunset

This week, I’ve been collaborating with Annie Deddens over at http://www.catholicwifecatholiclife.com/ , where she has posted two of my articles in celebration of Natural Family Planning Awareness week and the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s document on marriage and love, Humanae Vitae. Here is an excerpt from one of my articles–be sure to check out the whole article, plus a wealth of other related posts on Annie’s website!

It’s not easy to talk to our kids about sex and chastity. It takes courage just to start the conversation at all. So what do we do when our children don’t respond to our attempts at conversations about their sexuality? And how do we respond when they start to ask surprising questions?

My husband and I still have more questions than answers about raising godly children in an over sexualized culture. But here are some points that help us feel more equipped to face this part of our parenting journey: read more…

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The Soul Project Week 19: Praying Like Jesus

Jesus praying with Mary

As I watch my 18-month-old fall to the floor on bended knee, hands clasped, eyes eagerly looking up to me for guidance, I think of how Jesus, too, must have done much the same thing with His beloved mother. He was divine, but also fully human–human enough to be trained in the ways of His parents–divine enough to emanate a spiritual understanding that puzzled His mother as she pondered His ways.

This week my children and I talked about this example that Jesus leaves us. We talked about how the Gospels are peppered with stories of Jesus disappearing into solitude to pray,  teaching others how to pray, encouraging forgiveness of our enemies before turning to God, and trusting that God hears and answers all of our prayers–even if it is in ways we do not fully understand.

Learning to pray is a lifelong evolution, a constant transformation of the heart, and a continual maturing of the soul. Looking to Jesus’ example is yet another way to grow in our prayer life. And watching my children pray reminds me of the beauty of innocent trust, eager imitation, and an unblemished zeal for the faith. As we teach our children our Savior’s ways, may we, like Mary, also learn from our children’s ways.

For more ideas on faith-based topics to discuss with your children around the dinner table, see Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality. 

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The Soul Project Week 18: Strange Gods

technology

I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange Gods before me.

This week, we talked about the First Commandment. While we addressed our obligation to love God as the one true God, this was also the perfect opportunity to talk about the many “strange Gods” that can sneak to the top of our priority list.

The battle with technology is something every family can relate to, and explaining the danger of video games and social media becoming a strange God seemed to help my kids understand why we place limits on their screen time. Along with that came conversation about self control and the importance of prayer and the sacraments as we fight the devil’s temptations to make us love other things more than the one true God.

My 14-year-old especially is able to grasp the principles of regulating screen time and always having a purpose for when he does sit down in front of a screen. His self control is certainly not always perfect, but he has had times when he has chosen for himself to turn off his computer so he can play a game at a time when his friends can play with him–and he even voluntarily did the dishes once instead of playing video games!

We also try to emphasize that technology is not our god by always turning it off for family meal times, never having it take priority over family or church events, and occasionally having a completely screen-free day or weekend. On our family vacation this year, no individual devices will be allowed. We’ll focus on face-to-face family time and maybe a couple of movies that we’ll all watch together.

What tends to be the “strange Gods” in your family? How can you better honor the First Commandment?

For more ideas on topics to discuss with your children, see Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book Feeding Your Family’s Soul.

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The Soul Project Week 17: Making Prayer A Habit

child praying hands

“It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop…while buying or selling…or even while cooking.”–St. John Chrysostom

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to keep my children happy. How to keep them from falling into despair, or from getting so entangled into the world’s false enticements that they start to wonder if there is any way out.

It’s a lot of pressure to think that I alone can be their source of strength. I can love them, support them, listen to them, and be there for them…but I’m only human. At some point, I will surely say the wrong thing, or fail to be what they think they need, or fail to see what is really going on in the depths of their hearts.

And so I want them to know that there is someone who can be everything for them. There is someone who can love them, support them, listen to them, and be there for them…perfectly, every time. Someone who is their eternal source of hope and strength. Someone who can pull them out of the deepest, darkest mire and make them new again. Someone who they can always rely on.

How do they get to know this someone? Through prayer. From stumbling Hail Mary’s to bible stories told through pictures, a habit of daily prayer gives my children peace. We’ve started to incorporate some quiet prayer time at the end of our crazy summer days. A blissful 10 minutes of being in our own little corners of silence with prayer books, prayer journals, and bibles in hand. I wasn’t sure how they would take to it–if it would seem boring or forced or tedious. But after our first night of trying it, I saw the hope and happiness in their eyes that I was looking for. And the next night, they ran to it.

We don’t get our prayer time in every night, but hopefully, sometime soon, a few nights a week will grow to every night. And every night will grow to every morning also. And twice a day will create a thirst that can only be quenched by remaining in prayer as much as possible, “while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop…while buying or selling…or even while cooking.”

For more ideas on faith-filled lessons to teach your children, see Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality.

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The Soul Project Week 16: Forming a Moral Conscience

soul project moral conscience image

“Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment…For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God…His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 1776

This week we talked about making decisions. How do we know what the right thing is to do? Should we always do what our friends tell us to do? Where can we find good advice when we aren’t sure what to do?

We are all constantly forming our consciences. Every time we read the Bible, the Catechism, hear a homily, or read the story of a saint, we glean more about what is right and what is wrong. Personal prayer and our own interpretation of scripture can be revealing, but we must be careful that our conclusions are always in line with Church teaching. Some of the best advice I’ve heard about discernment and personal prayer is that God will never tell you to do something that goes against what the Church teaches.

This week was a good time to remind my children that we are constantly bombarded with messages from the world of what is “good” and “right”–but we must always double check those messages with the Church’s view on a particular topic. Trusted priests, good Catholic resources, and others well versed in the faith are always ready to help us when we face a difficult decision in our lives. It’s up to us to pause, reflect, and turn to someone for help and guidance–which, over time, will lead to greater confidence that the voice echoing in our depths is truly the voice of God.

For more topics like this to discuss with your children around the dinner table, see the book Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.

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The Soul Project Week 15: Being A Good Example

salt of the earth image

“People are to see, in us, Christ on earth today.” -Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

As our family discussed our duty of being a good example, we talked about our unique gifts and how God expects us to use them. In Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book, Feeding Your Family’s Soul, she reminds us of three parables from Jesus–that we are to be the salt of the earth, light of the world, and a light on a lampstand.

While my husband and I encouraged our children to be good examples to their siblings, classmates, and other peers, the lesson I spoke to my children once again became a lesson for myself.

Am I a good example to my children throughout the moments of my day? Do they see Christ in me as I prepare their meals, wash their clothes, and help them with their homework? I know there are many times that I’m not much of a light if I sigh as I pick up the basket of laundry, lose my patience as I cook dinner, or fail to see my children as the individuals they are and instead simply view them as yet more tasks on my daily list.

With our oldest child entering the teen years, I’ve been delving into books about how to best meet his needs and help him grow into adulthood with love and respect. One book addressed the issue of being a positive example of adulthood to our teens. Do we make being an adult look like nothing but drudgery and hard work? Or do we embrace our responsibilities with enthusiasm, or, at least, a sense of peace? And, are we living the examples of chastity, moderation of food and drink, charity, and so many other virtues that we want our children to emulate?

This chapter reminded all of us that so much more is caught by preaching through example rather than words–something I know I can definitely work on during this season of Lent.

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The Soul Project Weeks 13 and 14: Obedience and Redemptive Suffering

crucifix face of christ image

“…the weaknesses of all human sufferings are capable of being infused with the same power of God manifested in Christ’s Cross…In him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering…Christ achieved the Redemption completely and to the very limits but at the same time he did not bring it to a close…every form of suffering, given fresh life by the power of this Cross, should become no longer the weakness of man but the power of God.” -St. John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris

Offer it up. I was trying to remind myself of that the other night. When I realized my one-year-old had disabled our TV remote by chewing and drooling on it. Just as I was about to sit down and relax at the end of a long day. Just after we’d finally  gotten (most of) our kids in bed for the night.

Sometimes it’s those little unexpected “sufferings” of our day that are the most difficult. Those moments when God asks us to give just a little more in ways we hadn’t planned.

But what does it really mean to “offer it up”–and how do we explain this redemptive suffering to our children?

Before Advent, our family discussed the chapter on obedience in Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table SpiritualityAfter the Christmas season, we began Ordinary Time again with the concept of redemptive suffering. How closely these two ideas are tied together. As we become more obedient to God and His will, we can be sure that we will encounter suffering. And this suffering would make absolutely no sense unless we looked at it through the lens of redemption.

My children so often understand and accept these concepts much more readily than I do. Over this past week, we talked about how, while we certainly aren’t expected to actively seek out suffering (although many great saints did), we are expected to use it well when it is thrust upon us.

A sore throat can be patiently endured for a child suffering in the hospital. A pinched finger can be offered with a Hail Mary for a friend who is struggling in school. And I am so grateful that I can offer our daughter with a heart defect a purpose for any future suffering she may have to undergo. I hope that, over her lifetime, she will start to see her health trials as a great gift that God can use to heal others–just as His death on the Cross saved so many souls.

Our sufferings–whether as small as a broken TV remote or as big as open heart surgery–have value. And this is how we find joy through our tears and peace in the midst of heartache. Because within our trials, lies the power of God.

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