FYI Wednesday: Why won’t my kids go to Mass?

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It’s FYI Wednesday and I have asked fellow Catholic moms for questions that they might have on such topics as motherhood and spirituality, children’s spiritual development, finding time for yourself, or just to learn more about Spiritual Direction; here is the latest question asked by  Ali:

Q: What have I done wrong that my kids don’t like going to Mass?

A:  You haven’t said how old your children are, so I am just going to explore all ages of spiritual development.  Here is Fowler’s* stage of spiritual development:

Stage 0“Primal or Undifferentiated” faith (birth to 2 years), is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (i.e. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). If consistent nurture is experienced, one will develop a sense of trust and safety about the universe and the divine. Conversely, negative experiences will cause one to develop distrust with the universe and the divine. Transition to the next stage begins with integration of thought and languages which facilitates the use of symbols in speech and play.

  • Stage 1“Intuitive-Projective” faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche’s unprotected exposure to the Unconscious, and marked by a relative fluidity of thought patterns.  Religion is learned mainly through experiences, stories, images, and the people that one comes in contact with.
  • Stage 2“Mythic-Literal” faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic. During this time metaphors and symbolic language are often misunderstood and are taken literally.
  • Stage 3“Synthetic-Conventional” faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood) characterized by conformity to religious authority and the development of a personal identity. Any conflicts with one’s beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.
  • Stage 4“Individuative-Reflective” faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one’s own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one’s belief.
  • Stage 5“Conjunctive” faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent “truth” that cannot be explained by any particular statement.
  • Stage 6“Universalizing” faith, or what some might call “enlightenment.” The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.

*Professor James W. Fowler, a developmental psychologist at Emory University who defines faith as an activity of trusting, committing, and relating to the world based on a set of assumptions of how one is related to others and the world.

Note:  I will never advise anyone to do anything that isn’t always prayerfully considered.  We must balance our desire to have our children in church with any conversation they may be having with God.  The Holy Spirit is always working.

If you have small children, it is often very hard to keep them engaged while at something they do not yet understand and so are very frustrated by.  It is perfectly OK to have little books and quiet toys for the child to play with.  You can try redirecting their attention to important points of the Mass explaining that Jesus is here.  Here is a great article on helping very young children get the most out of Mass.  As for older children, after about the age of 13 – 20.  These young people are at a healthy stage of questioning everything they have learned.  This is healthy because they are using critical thinking skills that will help them later in life.  Our job at this stage is to be ever watchful about his peer group.  Who is he hanging around?  What is he doing with them?  Should I intervene?

Helping teens and young adults become more involved with Church may help them stay more involved with their faith.  It is also a good time to have serious discussions with your teen and young adult to see what her thoughts are about faith.  Now, here is were praying to the Holy Spirit will be critical.  Your son or daughter has free will and they may be having serious discussions with God about how they are going to express their faith.  If you have given them a good foundation they are likely to be making moral and right reasoned decisions about their faith life.  Experimentation is not a bad thing.  Saint Ignatius believed the only way to truly know God is to experience him, as scary as your young people experimenting may be it maybe just the right thing to bring him or her back to the church.

I am including J. D. Smalls’ Help Them Return Project.  From what I can find it is still being developed, but the project hopes to give tools and helps to parents of teen/young adult Catholics to bring them back to the Church.  There are some hoops to jump through to only find out you are on a list to know when it will be ready.  I mention it because I am not sure if Holy Spirit wants you to have it in your tool box or not, so, rather safe than sorry.

Is a spiritual director working helping moms find God in the everyday. She has been a spiritual director since 1998: worked as a Director of Religious Education for Holy Cross Parish(2000-2005), was Director of Project Rachel, a healing ministry for Post Abortive women(1999-2000). Patty worked a social worker for Catholic Social Services (1988 - 1995) Then studied for spiritual direction at the Dominican Center of Religious Studies, DeWitt Michigan

She is married 20 years and has four children

She has a BS/BA in social work from Aquinas College, CSD Certified Spiritual Director

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