Raising Kids Who Keep the Faith

Parents have many responsibilities when raising a child, and with those responsibilities come the fears that something will go wrong. And for devoutly Catholic parents, there are few things scarier than watching their children lose their Faith and depart from the morals they were taught. And according to a Pew Research Study, 52% of adults raised Catholic leave the Church at some point in their lives, and of those who left, only 21% returned to Catholicism.

John Morales welcomed Professor Harry Kraemer of Northwestern University onto Morning Air to talk about how parents can do a better job of making sure their kids remain Catholic into adulthood.

“Do you think there’s any magic, parenting formula to ensuring that our children actually practice their Catholic faith once they become grown-ups?” John asked. Harry responded by saying that while there’s no magic involved, there certainly seems to be a recipe that parents can use to guide their kids to be faithful, and their relationship with their kids will have a huge impact on that.

More than anything, said Harry, a parent’s personal example will be the biggest factor. As an authority figure, a child will observe and bank away any and everything they see from a parent. Harry gave the example of a parent making an exception to Sunday Mass because of their son’s sports games. If they see in that situation that sports are more important than Mass, then they can convince themselves that anything is more important than Mass. And soon, they’re not going at all. But if a parent shows that Mass is the number one priority on Sunday and nothing surpasses it, the child will better understand how important this is.

“This is something we do as a family. This is something that, no matter what happens, we will figure out a way to do it. I think that sets the example.” Harry continued, referencing the adage that says, “Don’t listen to what people say. Watch what they do.” You can explain to your kids as much Catechism as you want, but if they don’t see you practice what you preach, it just won’t stick.

Harry, who is a clinical professor of leadership at the Kellogg School of Management, says he often tries to get people away from the idea of work-life balance because that implies that you’re either working or living. He focuses on “life balance”, where everything is connected and centered around your priorities: God, to be specific. Those who separate their work from their life often find themselves mediating the battle for primacy between the two. And when you don’t have a strong hold on your priorities, work (leisure, social engagements) will win every time.

When you take Harry’s approach to life balance, you can get a firmer grasp on what he calls “Your 168”, the 168 hours that everybody has in a week. People will exaggeratedly say they work 24/7, but how much time do they focus on their spiritual life? How much real, quality time do they get with their family? How much effort do they put into their health and maintaining a good lifestyle?

Harry told the story of a son who told his father that he doesn’t have time to go to Mass this week. The father responded by saying, “Hold on. There are 168 hours in a week. If you can’t spend 1 hour – way less than 1% – of your time with God, how can you say your faith is important to you?” Harry and his wife have five kids of their own and he’s said that one lesson he’s tried to impart to his kids is that your life is not split into two parts: your faith and everything else. Rather, your faith should be integrated into everything you do.

Harry and his family never begin a meal without thanking the Lord for their food. They refrain from eating meat on Friday to remember the day that Jesus was crucified. They say the Rosary every single night. There are spiritual images and crucifixes in almost every room of the house. It’s not just a family in their home living their lives together. It’s a Catholic family in their Catholic home living their Catholic lives together.

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.