Parenting in the Early Years
These are the family years of high activity, rapid growth and emerging personalities. Children between the ages of 4-8 are in love with life and all that it can give them. At the beginning of this stretch, 4 and 5 year olds busy themselves by making daily discoveries about themselves and their world. By the ages of 6-8, children are trying to make sense about what they are have discovered. Four and five year olds are still fairly self centered and bossy. By ages six through eight they become able to see what life is like from someone else’s perspective. Physically, the entire span of these years is filled with growth and refinement of motor skills (four and five year olds still prefer gross motor activities but by age eight many enjoy fine motor hobbies and games).
The growth and development that you can see is actually driven by amazing changes within your child’s body – especially the brain. This organ that weighs just over 3 pounds is collecting, sorting and storing everything that comes to it from the senses. Even though the complete process of brain development is not known, one simple truth has been proven – children in this age group have brains that trap information faster than at any other time in life.
Parenting preschool and school age children is both exciting and exhausting. Sometimes it can seem like the job of parenting doesn't go much beyond survival. There are more questions, more safety issues, more needs (and wants), more dependence. But there are still ways that families with young children can realize their vocation. Let's take a look at some of the ways you can fulfill the tasks of the Christian family laid out by Saint Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio.
Form a Community of Persons
The first task of your family is to become a community of persons. With the birth of your child you have gone from a couple to a family. Even though this is a small community (and hopefully one that will grow) it is a unique and important one.
There are three main objectives that parents can do when starting out to ensure that their community of persons thrives.
The next task of parents is to serve life – both the children who have been born and those that are to follow.* When you are parenting children between the ages of birth and three, the more immediate need will appear to be to those who are already here. You will serve life first by honoring your offspring and providing for their education. With this in mind, here are a few ideas on setting up a home that is open to life.
The third task of parents is to develop society. This task revolves around the virtue of hospitality which is the friendly reception and treatment of guests. As parents, it is your duty to teach your children that everyone in the world is a guest, worthy of friendship and charity.
Participating in the Life and Mission of the Church
Babies and very young children interact with the world physically and emotionally. While children cannot understand the faith at this young age, they can develop habits that will grow into understanding later. The important task for parents of children at this age is to create the atmosphere within which the habits of faith can be formed, and to begin forming those habits as their children grow. Forming the faith environment of your family begins as a married couple before you even have children.
Participating in the life and mission of the Church begins even before you have children. Babies and toddlers will benefit from an atmosphere of faith that makes God the center of family activity and relationships. Because the family is the first place children are introduced to Jesus, it is often referred to in Church documents as the "Domestic Church." Your children will begin their walk with God by observing your walk. They will take their first steps with your guidance. Here are some recommendations for making your family the Domestic Church - before you have children and while your children are very young:
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Catholic Prayers to Teach Your Children Basic Prayers of the Catholic Faith
Foster Faith Prayers to help be a better parent (Includes How to Say the Rosary and the Chaplet of Devine Mercy)
Conflict Resolution and Sharing Concerns Worksheet that describes how conflicts occur and a system to use to resolve conflict.
Develop Healthy Media Habits As a parent, there are many ways you can help your child develop positive media habits. Here is a list of tips to help your family use media more prudently.
What Makes a Family Holy? Homily by Father Robert Barron of Word On Fire given on the Feast of the Holy Family 2012. Fr. Barron discusses what exactly it means for a family to imitate the Holy Family and to become holy.