Painting by Richard Sohn (1834 – 1912, German)

Encourage poor students to try hard in school

The Curé d’Ars is a wonderful saint for children who have to struggle with their schoolwork. He had a terrible time in school; by all the standards, he seemed to be quite dumb. But the kind of wisdom that springs from a soul in love with God the Curé never lacked, and there’s no one today who would dare call him a blockhead.

God counts most how you try, not whether you succeed, and for children who try but still bring home poor report cards, there’s strength to be found in praise for honest effort.

A teacher we know was about to give up with a boy who would not study. She had coaxed and appealed and challenged and scolded, and nothing did any good. Then one day she pretended he had tried. “You know, you’re doing much better. I knew you could, if you’d try.”

From that day on, he began to change. Weeks later, she met his parents, and then she said, “Now I know what was wrong. That child had never been praised for anything. He never even wanted to try.”

Herman the Cripple is the friend of all children who are crippled or badly disfigured. “He could not stand, let alone walk; could hardly sit, even in the special chair they made for him; even his fingers were all but too weak and knotted for him to write; even his mouth and palate were deformed, and he could hardly be understood when he spoke.”

During all his life, Herman was never comfortable, but he was a cheerful soul who spoke of himself as “the least of Christ’s poor ones and yes . . . slower than any donkey.”

Out of all this pain and disfigurement came great glory to God, not only from his industry and determination, for he made astrolabes and clocks and even musical instruments, but from his love — for it’s pretty much agreed that Blessed Herman wrote the Hail Holy Queen.

Children do not need to be protected in their afflictions; they need to know how to use them. When they are used to draw people closer to God, they cease to be afflictions, and they become blessings.

Help your child to accept a new sibling

Jealousy is another insecurity, but only when we lose sight of how we are loved by God. Love is not divided with the coming of a new child in the family, only multiplied. One more baby means another brother or sister to be loved by, as well as another to love.

Helping to care for the baby, doing little chores at bath time and feeding time, thinking of him as “my baby,” gradually wear away at the quite normal jealousy of a child who has suddenly lost the spotlight to a new member of the family.

But the best cure is to see that the baby is a gift of God’s love. “This is really wonderful, when you think what it means. God knew all the time what a fine boy you are, and how you’d make a fine brother. So He sent you a baby to be a brother to. Brothers are grand things to have. They teach things to babies and take care of them. Our baby is so lucky to have a brother like you.”

Most of all, a new baby is like Mary’s Baby, and children who still resent his intrusion will often forget immediately if they are helped to see how like the little Jesus he is. “Little hands, and little feet, and a tiny nose, and such a weak little cry. Just think, this is how Baby Jesus was.”

Reminding them that God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit live happily in the soul of the newly baptized baby, just as They do in our own when we are free of serious sin, helps them learn reverence for him, and saying the night prayers beside the new baby helps to sweeten what little resentments are left.

For older children, praise, special and privileged chores, and especially warm and loving appreciation help to quiet jealousy. “We’re so glad God gave us you. Whatever would we do without you? He knew we’d need someone special to help us, someone with your talents, just your kind of person, and the special one He picked for us was you.”

Encourage your child to find courage in God

Danger — real or imagined — can destroy a child’s security and make some children physically ill, and it never helps a child to make him do something he’s afraid to do. Even the things that cannot be avoided, like entering the hospital or going off to school alone for the first time, can be prepared for with prayer, and grace will come to help.

Our own children suffered a terrible fear of dogs at one time, and the twice-daily walk to the bus and back was running the gamut of fear for them. The dogs they passed never bit them, but they barked so ferociously that certain death was suggested at every turn, and it was only through prayer for faith and trust that they conquered this fear.

God knew about the dogs, and He knew about the children. There was nothing to do but pray for the grace to be unafraid. And when you ask God to protect you, you have to try to act unafraid, even if you still are, a little.

So they made tremendous acts of faith and started out. And they made tremendous acts of will (and didn’t run in front of the dogs). And, of course, because they didn’t run, the dogs didn’t chase, and in a week they were no longer afraid of dogs.

There’s a great difference between walking past dogs alone, and walking past dogs with God, and once children have tasted success with such a simple thing as this, they know how to go about battling the fears that will follow.

Life will never be painless for our children, try as we might to spare them. We are foolish to think that we can. And it’s wise not to waste time trying.

We can bend every energy to giving a child the full measure of God, and in the end, with His help, they can learn to accept and bear, and one day find joy, in whatever assaults their sense of security will have to endure.

“The facts are that Church teaching is supported upon a bedrock of logic and that many of the foremost thinkers throughout history have found her doctrines unassailable. Therefore if you yourself cannot cope with your adolescent’s arguments, you can refer him to Catholic books, literature, and other sources of information.
Do not expect your child to accept a religious teaching simply and solely because the Church says it is so. As an individual with a growing intellectual capacity of his own, he has a legitimate right to know why the Church maintains a certain position.
When helped in a friendly way to understand that position, he will become a stronger Catholic as a result.” – Rev. George A. Kelly, The Catholic Family Handbook, 1950’s

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