Teaching our children to support, defend life
September 1, 2012
By Colleen Gerke
Fall is just around the corner and you know what that means; colored leaves, pumpkins and Respect Life Month.
Every October, our churches and communities reflect upon the sanctity of a life from conception until natural death. Our Catholic faith teaches us to stand up for life even in circumstances when no one else will. However, passing this on to our young children can be a tall order at times, because the flipside of every defense of life is the reality that it is not being adequately respected. How do we introduce our young children to the sanctity of human life while also protecting them from the vulgarity of its rejection? I very much want my daughter to grow up to be a champion of life, educated and willing to make a difference with the knowledge she possesses. But today she is only four, and I do not want to crush her youthful innocence with the weight of the culture of death.
Though it may be difficult to let our children know that life is not always treated as it should be, there are certain steps we can take at any age to prepare them at any age. Here are some principles that you may find helpful in forming your children to support and defend life. They all hearken to the central theme that life is precious to God.
1. Treat others with heroic charity.
Have you ever been cut off by another driver when your kids are in the car? Have you ever had someone ask you for a big favor in front of your children? When we take the opportunity to act charitably when it is difficult, we can remind our children that we do it because every life is precious to God. Also, the next time you trap a bug in your house, if you have the opportunity to let it back outside, show your children that you did it. Tell them, “Every life is precious to God. If the life of this bug is special to God, how much more the lives of human beings?”
2. Treasure the youngest and most vulnerable.
As one of five siblings, it was my experience that infants and little babies were always treasured for their cuteness and fragility. But this seemed to wear off around the age of two or three, at which point they ceased to be the center of attention. Instead, they were carted to different sporting events and recitals. Vacations and leisure activities did not revolve around them but around the older children. (As the oldest, I can confess to the veracity of this comment without bias.) During this month of October, let us turn our attention back to the youngest members of our extended family. Let us play their child games, make a meal that speaks to their tastes, and watch a movie that they get to pick out. After all, the smallest ones are each precious in the eyes of God.
3. Honor the elderly.
Today, it is not uncommon to ignore the elderly or to dismiss them for possessing foggy minds. Especially because technology has changed so much in one lifetime, the older members of our society can easily be dismissed as out of touch. But this is not the case with the family who treasures a respect for life. During the month of October, invite over an elderly neighbor or visit an assisted living center. Introduce your children to the wise men and women who have already experienced so much of the gift of life. If life is sacred, then those who have had more of it are precious in the eyes of God.
Gerke is the director of the Archdiocesan Family and Respect Life Office.