By Laura Kizior
You’re a strong pro-life family. Together, you attend the March for Life, participate in Respect Life Sunday, and pray for an end to abortion. You might not talk about pro-life topics very much around the house, but you’re sure that your kids “get it.” Your kids might seem to be very pro-life now, but how can you help them stick to their pro-life beliefs when they are challenged on their college campus, away from home, and in an anti-life environment?
Just as you cannot be sure that your children will remain Christian simply because they willingly go or have to be dragged to church every Sunday, you cannot be certain that your children will remain pro-life just because they “get it” now. We have had countless conversations with parents whose children, all of a sudden it seemed, no longer “got it” about the sacredness of every human being’s life. Even though these parents went through all the right motions (praying, reflecting on pro-life values at home, taking opportunities to marvel at the beauty of life, being open to life, etc.), they neglected to give their children the foundational knowledge necessary to maintain their pro-life convictions. This foundational knowledge includes facts about preborn life and real answers to the arguments surrounding euthanasia, abortion, and other crucial pro-life topics.
Unless children develop a personal conviction that society has the duty to protect every human being and have the knowledge to back up those convictions, they are at risk for buying into the lies pushed by the culture of death. Here are some practical ways that you can help your kids live a pro-life life when they go out into the world by themselves.
Form your children
We say this again and again: Pro-life education must be intentional. Although your children will learn many things about how to live out the gospel of life through your example, you cannot assume that they will be able to defend their pro-life beliefs when challenged by their peers or even other adults. You can’t send your kids out into the world to battle the culture of death if you don’t first arm them with the truth.
When your children are young, focus on building virtues and learning about the beauty of every human being. When your kids become teenagers, hone in on practicing arguments to defend the dignity and respect of every human being.
Abortion activists like to argue that abortion is not a black and white issue or that there are some grey areas. In real life, morality can seem less absolute because of certain circumstances. That’s why it is important for your family to regularly talk about things like abortion and euthanasia. Don’t just tell your children that abortion is wrong because it’s murder. Use news stories or scenarios to stimulate discussion and then explain how one person’s life is not more valuable than another’s.
Host a discussion night for other families with teenagers using these free discussion guides or this lesson on euthanasia, or organize a showing and discussion of Who Was the Real Margaret Sanger? Use current events and arguments to test your child’s knowledge of pro-life topics and to help him practice what he would say if he were called upon to argue in defense of a human being. Pull current stories from pro-life news sites such as LifeSiteNews.com, LifeNews.com, or LiveActionNews.org to talk about a wide variety of pro-life topics. Dissect the stories of post-abortive women. Teach that emotional pain and fear are at the heart of almost every abortion story. Help your children learn ways to combat this pain and fear with love, compassion, mercy, and other real options.
Life choices are hard, but we must focus on our final destination. One day, your kids will have to face challenges from the outside world, but it is up to us to help prepare them for that moment so they don’t lose their faith or beliefs in the face of adversity.
Note: We do not recommend talking about abortion with very young children. If your younger children have questions, we recommend this approach.
Pray together as a family
As Father Patrick Peyton, the Rosary Priest of the 1950s, was fond of saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Praying together as a family builds unity. With busy schedules, sometimes family prayer time is the one chance you all have to be together as a family that day.
Keep a family prayer journal where you can enter prayer intentions and answered prayers. Your family prayer journal is where your children can see a record of God working in their lives and in the lives of the people around them. Every few weeks or months, take some time to review prayers and note which intentions have been answered. When your children are having a hard time, you can say to them, “Remember when we prayed for Aunt Jean when she was in the hospital and she had a quick recovery? God answered our prayers. He always does. It’s up to us to listen to Him.”
With family prayer time, you have the opportunity to show your children how to engage with the culture in a very unique way. We cannot end abortion and the horrors of the culture of death without prayer. The most important pro-life lesson your children need to learn from family prayer time is that prayer has the power to transform hearts and souls for Christ—starting with our own hearts and souls.
Train leaders, not followers
It is easy to be pro-life when everyone around you is also pro-life. But what happens when your child goes away to college? You must teach your children how to be leaders, not followers. They must be people who stand up for the truth, not people who are willing to sacrifice the truth for the sake of saving face in front of their peers or professors.
Does this mean that your children have to be outspoken pro-life activists? No. But they must be taught how to hold onto their beliefs in the face of adversity and outside challenges. And they must understand that standing up for their faith is an integral part of living that faith every day.
You can inspire your children to be leaders in your own home by asking them to take initiative in planning the family trip to the March for Life or assigning them the task of remembering to pray for a specific expectant mother during family prayer time. Start small with tasks they can easily accomplish and move them toward larger projects. Praise your children—especially those who are naturally introverted—when they show leadership without your prompting. Remind your more boisterous children that a true leader is a servant to all. Use the example of saints who were humble, yet not afraid to speak the truth, like Saint Teresa of Calcutta or Saint Maximilian Kolbe.
As parents, your job is to equip your children with the tools they need to go out and evangelize to the world. Without a strong foundation, your kids cannot possibly overcome the culture of death. By actively training your children how to be evangelizers of the gospel of life, you will prepare them for their future.
Laura Kizior is a content developer for American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program which emphasizes the culture of life as an integral part of every academic discipline. CLSP is dedicated to helping students become effective communicators of the pro-life message. Sign up for our e-mail newsletter to see how we can help you foster a culture of life at home and in school.
images: Nate and Monica Holli via Flickr | CC-2.0