Hope is one of the most important gifts that we can share with the next generation. This is the work of all of us. We must share hope with the children in our lives – hope in God, hope in one another, and hope in the future.
Here are 10 ways for families and others to share hope with children.
1. Let children know that God is with us
In difficult times each of us needs to be reassured that God is with us through it all. Remind children that God is with us at all times and places of our lives. God is with us at home when we are sick. God is with us when we hear difficult news. God is with us when we go to bed at night hoping for a brighter day tomorrow. There is a saying: “If you are feeling far from God, ask yourself who moved.” Stress to the children that our God will always be with us.
2. Live in hope with God’s Word
Look up words about hope in Scripture. Share with children that the Bible is the Word of God speaking in our lives. Talk about verses of hope and what they mean to you. Let children use colorful markers to write out and decorate Bible verses about hope. Put the verses where people will see them – in the kitchen or on the bathroom mirror, or even the front door!
Here are some verses you can use:
- You are my hope, Lord. (Psalm 71:5)
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart. (Proverbs 3:5)
- May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace. (Romans 15:13)
These verses remind us that we can have hope in God who created us and loves us without end. Remind children that we can trust in God always.
3. Share hope with other people
One way to have hope in our hearts is to bring hope to the lives of others. Talk with children about ways to do this. Help them write a note, draw a picture, or make a card to mail to a grandparent or someone who is elderly. Positive actions not only bring hope to others but also help hope grow in our own hearts. God created us to be blessings to one another. Talk about other ways you and your family can do this now and in the future.
4. Pray for the needs of others
Sometimes we think there’s nothing we can do about a difficult situation. We may feel helpless, but there is something concrete we can do — we can pray. We are members of a global family. We are called to pray to God for the needs of other people, even if we do not personally know them.
Encourage empathy. Talk about how people who are sick or lonely might feel. Help your children be people of compassion. We can pray together and on our own for people who are suffering from illness, living in poverty, or are victims of injustice.
5. Have an attitude of gratitude
Instead of focusing on the negative, help your children see the many blessings in our world. God has given us an amazing world to enjoy and people to share it with. Ask children to name things for which they are grateful. Here are a few to start:
- love of family
- sunshine that warms us
- stars in the night sky
- people who help us
- amazing animals
- God’s love for us
Encourage children to give thanks to God each night before they go to sleep. Teaching them to be grateful is a skill learned for a lifetime.
6. Read gospel stories together
Help children encounter Jesus in the gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John show us that Jesus Christ brought hope to the world for all people and all nations. Gospel stories about Jesus make good bedtime stories. Here are some gospel stories about Jesus to share with children.
- Jesus teaches about love. (Matthew 22:37-38)
- Jesus welcomes the children. (Mark 10:13-16)
- Jesus brings hope to lepers. (Luke 17:11-19)
- Jesus performs a miracle by multiplying food. (John 6:1-14)
The gospels speak to us of the love Jesus has for each of us and how we are called to live as his followers. Talk about the message of hope that knowing Jesus brings to us.
7. Talk about good things in our lives
After saying grace before dinner, go around the table and have each person share one good thing that happened that day. This helps children—and all of us—focus on the positive in our lives. This can be something simple such as a sibling letting them play a game, someone helping them, or spring flowers blooming. This might take practice for your family but can become something you continue even when life is less challenging.
8. Look for resources
Check online to see if your parish or diocese is offering online materials to use as a family. Publishers, like Catechist, are also providing resources online. Look at activities to help children learn about God. Ask other people for ideas they have to share and let them know about the good ideas that you find. We can learn from one another.
9. Pray with your children in a variety of ways
This helps children connect with God in ways that speak to their hearts. Encourage children to pray in their own words or sing along with a Christian song on your phone. Remind children to ask for God’s help when something doesn’t go right. Prayer helps children be less anxious in challenging times.
10. Talk about the future
For children, their reality is now. Help them think about a better future ahead of them. Encourage them to think of things that they will be able to do when times are better such as: see animals at the zoo, attend vacation bible school, go to the beach, or play basketball at the park. Talk about what they might want to do when they grow up. This helps them know that things will get better.
Emphasize that with God there is always hope!
Patricia Mathson, MRE, has years of experience as a director of religious education. She has authored many books, including her latest Living and Learning with Jesus from Twenty-Third Publications.
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