Being Catholic in today’s world is difficult. Being a parent in today’s world is, arguably, even more difficult. Parenthood is a great gift from God. Children are an absolute joy. The responsibility, though, is overwhelming at times.
There are so many things of which to be mindful. In this short post, I would like to share a few things that my wife and I brainstormed together. This list is not definitive. It is not meant to make you nervous. It is not meant to give all the answers, but I do hope it is helpful.
Mindful of Ideologies
There are so many different ideologies that will vie for the heart, mind, and soul of your children. Many of these modern and post-modern ideologies are either partially or completely incompatible with the Catholic Faith. We need to be mindful of what our children are learning or seeing. This happens through an ongoing dialogue with your children.
If they tell you something problematic that they heard or saw, stay calm. Invite them to talk about it with you. By having an open and honest dialogue, that is age-appropriate, you are building a bridge of trust that will be invaluable in their teen years and beyond.
It is also important to learn the Catholic response to the various ideologies that are abuzz in the world. Learn what they are and learn how to identify them. Secular society is advancing ideologies in almost unnoticeable ways that is gradual but effective.
As you are mindful of these ideologies and learning the objections and responses, make sure to take these difficulties to prayer. All truth is God’s truth. Christ Himself is the Truth. He is not an ideology; He is a Person. Ask Him for direction.
Mindful of Multimedia
Flowing from a mindful eye for ideologies, it is important to be mindful of multimedia. Pay attention to the ratings of video games and movies. Preview games and movies and read ratings on trusted Catholic sites. If your children have an Xbox, Playstation, or Switch, etc. it is important to lock down those devices and control adult content.
The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it is also incredibly dangerous for young minds and young eyes. 1 out of every 10 users on pornography sites is youth. The average age of first exposure to pornography is 11. About 1/3 of teenagers admit to regularly watching pornography. And most importantly, only about 12% of parents know their children are accessing pornography. If your child has a smartphone or tablet, it is statistically a matter of time before they are exposed to pornography.
There are amazing resources for parents to lock down home networks and devices. Covenant Eyes is the best resource on the market to filter web content and has robust accountability software.
There is also a free way to secure a home WiFi network called OpenDNS. If you are a parent and your child has access to any device, securing these is non-negotiable for the safety of your children.
Ideologies are invasive in multimedia. Video games, movies, tv shows, Netflix, Hulu, and all the rest are pushing a narrative. Often this narrative runs contrary to the Gospel and the Catholic Faith. Again: take this to prayer.
Mindful of Parenting Style
The last section probably means that you have some work to do to lock down your home network or your child’s devices. Maybe you have decided to not give your son or daughter a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Maybe you have decided to take away your son or daughter’s phone or tablet. This will not make you popular.
It is important to remember that we are not called to be friends with our children. We are called by God to be parents. We have the responsibility to lead our children and teach them. Our friendship with them will come in their adulthood, but it will be a different relationship from our peers.
There are three main parenting styles: deficient, excessive, and virtuous. That is to say: submissive, authoritarian, and authoritative. A submissive parent lets their child get away with almost anything, lets them talk back, and lets them set the agenda. An authoritarian parent has no bending or giving. They rule with an iron fist and inspire contempt rather than admiration in their children. The sweet spot is right in the middle: authoritative. You are a parent. You let your children have some freedom and privacy, but at the end of the day, you are the one making the agenda and giving the direction.
It is important to be mindful of our parenting style and adapt what needs to be adapted, for the good of our children and for our own good. This takes self-knowledge. And self-knowledge can only be discovered by contemplation in prayer.
Mindful of Outside Influence of Friends
Everything that has previously been said applies also to your child’s friends. Does your child act differently when they spend time with certain friends? Does your child’s friend draw them closer to God or further? Does your child have an unlocked smartphone or unlocked tablet?
Do you let your child go over to other houses for sleepovers? Do you know the host family well? Being mindful of these things does not mean saying yes to everything or no to everything. It is just a reminder that your child is counting on you to protect them. Get as much info as you can to make the best decision that you can.
Mindful of Personal Responsibility
In all things, you are the parent and you are setting the tone for the rest of your child’s life. This is a great responsibility and a joy. Part of good parenting is modeling and teaching personal responsibility. When you are wrong, do you own up to your mistakes with your children? Do you model humble service of your family? Do you have high expectations for your children in the family? Do your children do chores? Do they contribute to family life and take part in family activities?
In all things, begin and end with prayer. Let God guide you so that you can reflect Him to your children and guide them. As the primary teacher of your child, it is important to be mindful of what they are learning outside the home. It is also important to make sure that you are setting the example, to the best of your ability.
We can look to the example of the saints. Even the greatest woman that ever lived, Mary, had great parents as role models. We can look to St. Joachim and St. Anne as inspirations and realize that even a perfect child needs active and mindful parents.
Prayer to St. Joachim and St. Anne
Let’s end with a prayer, asking for the intercession of St. Joachim and St. Anne. The following is adapted from the USCCB and is part of Novena to St. Joachim and St. Anne.
“Good parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grandparents of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
When life seems barren, help us to trust in God’s mercy.
When we are confused, help us to find the way to God.
When we are lost in the desert, lead us to those whom God has called us to love.
When our marriage seems lifeless, show us the eternal youth of the Lord.
When we are selfish, teach us to cling only to that which lasts.
When we are afraid, help us to trust in God.
When we are ashamed, remind us that we are God’s children.
When we sin, lead us to do God’s will.
You who know God’s will for husband and wife, help us to live chastely.
You who know God’s will for the family, keep all families close to you.
You who suffered without children, intercede for all infertile couples.
You who trusted in God’s will, help us to respect God’s gift of fertility.
You who gave birth to the Blessed Mother, inspire couples to be co-creators with God.
You who taught the Mother of God, teach us to nurture children in holy instruction.
You whose hearts trusted in God, hear our prayers for . . . (mention your requests here)
Pray with us for all who give their time, talent and treasure to this good work.
Hail Mary. . . Our Father. . . Glory to the Father. . .
God of our fathers, you gave Saints Anne and Joachim the privilege of being the parents of Mary, the mother of your incarnate Son.
May their prayers help us to attain the salvation you have promised to your people.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.