We might think we started too late in laying a foundation of practices and exemplifying Christian virtues. There are two ways we can stay on track. First, some things that you can do to lay a good foundation with your young children. Second, some habits we can make with our older children that will help orient them in the faith.
Young children are full of energy, always discovering things, and through their eyes everything is new. The ages 0-7 are extremely important formative years. In the first seven years of life, a foundation is laid that cannot be changed. This is the age of mimicking. They are cameras recording EVERYTHING. It is through these experiences that they form their ideas about what life is, what a father is, what a mother is, what a family is, what appropriate love is, what discipline is, what boundaries are, and what the word “no” means. Their mental chip is being programed by their environment. Take that idea and imagine the best possible environment for your child to grow in faith or knowledge of God. This environment would involve faithful attendance to worship and Bible class. This environment would involve a home that talks about God and has His precepts at its center. It would involve other faithful people of various age groups. Show your children what it looks like to be faithful in every age of life. It is imperative that we model godly living. When it is appropriate, answer questions with, “What does the Bible say about that?” Also, use inclusive language—“we” and “us”—in reference to acceptable and non-acceptable behavior. For example, “We don’t talk like that,” or “Very good, that’s how we (insert last name) act.” By doing this, we reinforce the family bond and sense of belonging, and it will later translate to a sense of belonging to Christ and the church.
What do we do with our children that are already beyond that seven-year window? Everything mentioned above, plus the following. Use family time, a meal, or long car ride to talk about recent sermons or classes. Then, walk through how you would put it into practice. Ask questions like, “What would it look like?” or “How would people respond to…?” or “How would people feel if…?” Help them process the information they are receiving. Another practice for older children is to be open about age-appropriate faith struggles. It can be dangerous if we try to portray the image that mom and dad are spiritual giants that never struggle, doubt or fear. They need to see that these things are normal, and you need to show them how to overcome these struggles. Incorporate other people. Show them that it is part of the life of a Christian. If they reach young adulthood without the proper tools or resources to work through problem solving, life could be very rocky. It’s never too late to lay a foundation.