Skip to Navigation

Especially for Parents

We've selected content from the Christian Education pages that is of special interest to parents.

Liturgy of Bedtime

by Albert Rossi, Ph.D., St. Vladimir's Seminary

One of the more regular times of "Letting the children come" to God is bedtime. Often stories and prayers at bedtime can be relaxed, non-competitive time with children. When everything is right, bedtime can be a time when the unconditional love of parent for child is almost tangible. Children are usually tired and sometimes less frenetic. It also goes without saying that some nights seem more like thinly veiled chaos. But, hopefully, most nights are more peaceful.

Going to sleep for children happens gracefully only within an elaborate ritual. This is the liturgy of going to sleep and is not totally unlike other liturgies. Father Alexander Schmemann spoke of the Eucharist beginning with the long ritual of getting dressed for Church and continuing through the trip to Church and all the beautiful liturgy preceding Communion. In a similar way, children go to sleep after intricate ceremony. This usually includes taking a bath, putting on pajamas, brushing their teeth, kissing everyone in the household goodnight, hearing a story, saying prayers, getting tucked in, and for little ones, a Linus blanket and Teddy for special security. This is the liturgy of bedtime. It's a tender time, a loving time. It's a rare and precious time. It's a time to be close to each other and to God.

Resources for Parents + December 2016

While there is an abundance of resources for Orthodox Christian Parents on the internet, here are a few that have been featured on our facebook page recently. These resources will help you explore the lives of saints with your children.

To follow our facebook page, visit www.facebook.com/orthodoxchristianparenting.

The Orthodox Church in America Department of Christian Education offers these (free!) printable activity books that will help your family learn about saints (and the animals that served them; those commemorated in the Litiya prayers; those that can help in times of trouble; and those from North America) through stories and related activities.

On The Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos

On Nov. 21 (or Dec. 4) we celebrate the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. This feast celebrates the day when the Theotokos, still a child, went to the Temple. The background story to this event is pretty important:

Joachim and Anna were devout Jews who loved God very much. They lived on only a third of their income, tithing and giving away the rest. Yet they had no child. They promised God that they would give their child back to Him, if He would grant them one, and He blessed them with the gift of their daughter Mary.

Exploring Bedtime Routines and Other Rituals: An Introduction

This fall we will be focusing our attention on bedtime routines and other rituals. Over the summer we posted a survey that many of you took time to answer for us. Those answers will be a significant portion of some of these posts. The first question on the survey invited respondents to rate the importance of a bedtime routine in their family, on a scale of 1 (having no routine at all) to 10 (using the same routine every night). An overwhelming majority (more than 82%) rated routine at bedtime as having an importance level of 7 or higher. We were curious to see if the general public, beyond our Orthodox Christian Parenting community, considers a regular bedtime as truly important or not. We also wondered whether or not it is important to do the same sequence of events in preparing for bedtime every night. We did a little research, and here is what we found:

Learning About the Saints: St. Phanourios

(Commemorated on August 27/September 9)

This morning when I checked my plans for what I would be writing about for this blog post, I immediately got goosebumps. Months ago I had planned that today I would write about St. Phanourios, but I had forgotten that plan until I was ready to begin. Mind you, St. Phanourios is one of my favorite saints, and I frequently request his prayers for myself and for my family. I am indebted to this saint for his multiple intercessions on our behalf. Time after time, his prayers have worked miracles for us, and we are grateful. But the reason for my goosebumps was because St. Phanourios' prayers just worked a miracle for our family yesterday, so the timing is impeccable. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about this wonderful saint!

Very little has been passed down about the life of St. Phanourios. Around 1500, a previously-forgotten chapel was unearthed in a building project in Rhodes. All the icons in the chapel were disfigured or crumbling, but one was still intact. In fact, it almost looked freshly-painted, it was in such good shape. It features a young man named as "St. Phanourios," holding a candle-topped cross. Surrounding the central icon are a series of twelve smaller icons depicting the saint's refusal to give up his faith and the tortures that he endured in the process.

Joy

"Do what makes you happy" is a common thought in today's world. Everyone wants to feel happy, to have that positive emotion in our lives. Because of this, we try all sorts of things in pursuit of the "happiness" we desire. Sometimes we succeed - at least for a little - and feel happy. But we learn quickly that happiness is temporal - a fleeting positive feeling. It is soon lost.

Joy, however, God's joy, is eternal. It is a deep-set "nothing can shake this inner peace" reality. What we all are truly seeking is not happiness: rather, we are seeking joy. We long for the deep, inner joy that comes only from God which is experienced by walking in His ways. In Nehemiah 8:10 we read, "...the joy of the Lord is your strength." If joy is our strength, we can work as hard as we want to try to be happy: but in reality, it is joy that will strengthen us. So instead of doing what makes us happy, we need to do what makes us joyful.

Resting in Christ While Savoring the Simple Joys This Summer

Happy summer!

It is the time of the year in North America that children (and, many times, their teachers, too!) anticipate for months. School lets out for a length of time, routines change, and life is different. It is a good and much-needed respite. But do we parents anticipate the summer as our children do? If not, why not? Should we?

Many of us eagerly await the additional time with our children while simultaneously feeling overwhelmed. How will we keep them busy all summer? What will they do? How can we keep them learning? How can we make sure they don’t lose any of their freshly-acquired skills that they have just learned this year in their studies? What can we do to encourage their growth, both physically and mentally? How can we multiply their positive social skills? How can we best help them to rest from the intensity of school? Considering all of these questions simultaneously is daunting, and aiming for perfection with each is nearly impossible.

On Helping Children to Participate in the Divine Liturgy

We attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday and sometimes during the week as well. Admittedly, there are times when it may seem like a long service to us adults, and it is certainly even more so to our children, for whom time feels different. Depending on the child, their age, and their ability to understand what is going on, the Liturgy can seem a daunting service. Getting beyond merely attending (being present) to truly ATTENDING (paying attention and participating) is not easy for any of us, especially for children.

Some have translated the words 'Divine Liturgy' as "the work of the people." Perhaps a better translation is "the offering of the people for the whole world." Either way, it is the people who do the work or the offering. The Orthodox Church considers all of its members, including children, to be an important part of the Church's life. Therefore it follows that even the children are needed to do this work/give this offering. So, if it is important that every member of the parish participate in this work/offering, but if it is a challenge even for adults to be fully present and engaged, what can be done to help the children? This blog post will offer a few suggestions, as well as links full of even more ideas of ways that all adults in a parish can help the children of their parish to participate in the Divine Liturgy. Regardless of our status as adults: whether we are parents, godparents, Sunday Church School teachers, or any other adult in a parish, we share the responsibility for helping to raise the children who are a part of our parish.

Rather than focus on the things children should NOT do during the Divine Liturgy, we will frame this blog post more positively. Here are things that children CAN AND SHOULD do during the Liturgy to participate more fully. (I will include a few personal anecdotes as well, to serve as illustrations for some of the ideas.) Children in our parishes can:

A Handful of Helpful Books for Children

At the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education, we are always on the lookout for great resources for parents. Whenever we discover some that will be beneficial, we do our best to pass them on to you! This week's blog is about a handful of books that have come to our attention recently. They are written for children at a variety of ages. We hope that you find them helpful. We also hope to periodically offer you more "handfuls" of books that come our way!

For the youngest children among us, we have found the board book called What Do You See at Liturgy? by Kristina Kallas-Tartara. This brightly-colored board book is filled with pictures of what a child will see when they go to the Divine Liturgy. The text is simple, with a delightful rhyming pattern. The photos are basic, featuring only the item being discussed on a white background, but the colorful photos are crisp and engaging. This book is the perfect size for little hands, and offers us an opportunity to help our wee ones enter into the service when their attention needs to be redirected. To learn more about this book, and/or to purchase it for a little one in your life, visit the author's Etsy store.

Holy Week Resources for Families

Holy Week is a wonderful, special week for Orthodox Christians. It is also filled with long services that can be challenging to anyone, but especially to young children. This post offers suggestions for Holy Week that can help to make Holy Week more meaningful for children of different ages. There are many ideas here. They range from ideas of ways to prepare yourself for the week to ways to help your children understand the services to crafty things you can do together.

Check out these ideas if you have time, and apply any that you wish. Please do not let these many suggestions discourage you, especially if you do not have the energy to add “one more thing” to your family’s schedule! You know your family, and what each member needs the most. So live accordingly!

Above all, let us love our Lord and each other throughout Holy Week. May we live this week together, in awe of His compassion and mercy, and in gratitude for His great gift to us. May all that we do (or do not do!) prepare us to celebrate His holy resurrection!

Gleanings From a Book: Catherine’s Pascha by Charlotte Riggle

by Kristina Wenger

This book made me cry. Loud, soggy gasps accompanied my declaration, "I didn't see THAT coming!" My husband came running, thinking something was horribly wrong. "I... love... this book!" I assured him between sobs, and then I showed him the cause of my tears. We'll get to that in just a little bit..

From the moment I cracked it open, this book appealed to me on so many levels. The story is genuine. The illustrations are eye‐catching and detailed. The unity of the Holy Orthodox Church is clearly emphasized. The joy of Pascha is palpable. This book is a delightful celebration of Pascha! 

Catherine's Pascha is written in a realistic, believable way. As I read, it was like I could hear my own children being Catherine's age again, from the "Why do I have to go to bed at regular time, tonight, when I'm getting up again in a few hours to go to church? You KNOW I won't sleep!;" through the delight of shouting "Indeed He is risen!" in multiple languages throughout the Divine Liturgy in the wee hours of the morning; all the way to the gleeful "I'm not a bit sleepy!" while trying to win at the egg‐cracking game and then eating all those things we haven't eaten in weeks. The story itself is a gentle walk through what happens at the Paschal Divine Liturgy, accentuated with the pure delight that children regularly experience and share. The way the story is written fills me with anticipation for the Pascha celebration that lies ahead! Reading the book gave me excited goosebumps.

On the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25)

The Feast of the Annunciation is a very important feast of the Faith. Did you ever stop and think about why that is true? Why is the Annunciation one of the twelve great feasts of the Church? Let us take a moment to think about what happened at the Annunciation, so that we can be better prepared to lead our family in celebrating this great feast.

When we stop and think about it, we can see that each part of this event is notable of its own accord, and together, all are essential for our salvation. It began when the Angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she had been chosen by God to bear His Son.The fact that this angel appeared shows that the event was significant, for he is sent whenever God has an important message to convey. God's selection of Mary to become the Theotokos is a critical part of the event, since she was a holy young lady who had consecrated her life to God's service. Her agreement, "Let it be to me as you say," is a vitally important piece as well, because it simultaneously demonstrates Mary's humility before God and her willingness to obey. Also noteworthy is the fact that this event marks the moment in history when a person became the first Christian, for after the Annunciation, the Theotokos truly had Christ living within her. But the most significant aspect of the Annunciation is in what it announces; what came about as a result of both the announcement and the ensuing humble submission to God's will. And that is this; at the Annunciation, God Himself became human. This mystery is both mind-boggling and crucial. Christ's taking on flesh and dwelling among us was necessary so that He could die, break well. What humility! What love!

Gleanings from a Book: When God Made You

Jane G. Meyer's new book, When God Made You invites readers of all ages to look at each person in the world and consider what God was thinking when He made them. Every spread of this gleefully­worded book introduces a child from a different part of the world, and suggests what God had in mind when He created that child. Each "person recipe" in the book, just as in real life, is completely unique and brimming with the love and enthusiasm of our Creator.

When God Made You celebrates each person's extraordinary qualities, looks, talents, and interests, recognizing each facet as a gift that has been poured into that person's life by God Himself. The book also demonstrates to the reader that God does not just give those qualities to us to enjoy, but because He wants them to be used and shared. Every child in the book, upon being created, is issued a command: to plant, to sing, to paint, to lead... The book brings to life the reality that from the moment we are created, God has in His mind the work that He has set for us to do.

Click here to read more (PDF)!

The Feast Day of Theophany

On the day of Theophany we learned that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We also learned that when Jesus stepped into the Jordan River, the water was made clean. On the feast day, January 6, we remember that one day all of nature will be made clean and new again. Here is how we celebrate the feast....

Click here to read more (PDF)!

See also Why Do We Have Our Homes Blessed by Phyllis Onest

Learning About a Saint: St. Seraphim of Sarov

(Commemorated on January 2)

On January 2, we commemorate the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov. This beloved saint's humility and kindness to both people and animals provide an excellent example for all of us. His name day falls right after the beginning of the new calendar year. We are writing this blog post a whole month before his commemoration, in order to allow time for us to learn about him and teach our children about his life before any of us make our New Year's resolutions. Emulating his life – even just one aspect of his holy way of living – would be an excellent New Year's resolution for any Orthodox Christian.

St. Seraphim, first named Prochor Moshnin, was born in in Kursk, Russia, in 1759, to devout parents who took him to church and taught him the things of God. At an early age, miracles began to happen in Prochor's life. For example, when he was only 7 years old, he once fell from the bell tower (which was 3 or 4 stories tall) of the Kursk Cathedral. He should have been seriously injured, but God worked a miracle, and he was unharmed. When he was 10, he became very ill. One night, the Mother of God appeared to him and told him that he would soon be healed. A few days later, a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos was processing through Kursk when rain suddenly began to pour down from the clouds. The procession took a shortcut through Prochor's family's yard. His mother carried her sick boy outside to venerate the icon as it passed, and he recovered from his illness that very day.

Coming Soon: Focus on the Nicene Creed

COMING SOON!

A series of bite-sized blogs focusing on the Nicene Creed, beginning September 2015.

Follow us at: orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com

 

On Celebrating New Life in Springtime

by Kristina Garrett Wenger

It is springtime in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is a tangible way in which we see how our lives are changed by God's grace. All around us, the "dead" is "coming back to life" and growing, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is the perfect time for us to talk with our children about the new life that Christ brings to us through His death and resurrection, as we see the miracle of new life all around us in this season!

We have just come through Great Lent, a spiritual "season" that is a flowering springtime for our souls and should bring us new hope. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware once spoke of the words of the Lenten Triodion in an interview, "Lent is spiritual springtime. Not winter, but spring. The world of nature is coming alive round us during the Lenten season. And this should be a symbol of what is to happen in our own hearts. The dawning of springtime... It goes on to speak of repentance as a flower that is opening. We shouldn't just have a negative idea of repentance, as feeling sorry, gloomy and somber about our failings. But repentance, rather, is new hope. An opening flower. How our lives can, by God's grace, be changed." (myocn.net/metropolitan-kallistos-ware-memorizing-scripture) That change is a continual process, and God continues to offer other reminders of His work in our lives.

Brief Description of Events and Services of Holy Week

© Tudor Antonel Adrian, Dreamstime.com© Tudor Antonel Adrian, Dreamstime.comTo track the events, use Map 6 of the Orthodox Study Bible 
Download PDF version

Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday

Saturday: Jesus was found in Jericho and asked to come to the house of Lazarus who was sick. He traveled to see Lazarus in Bethany, but his sisters told Him it was too late, Lazarus was dead. The shortest, and one of the most poignant verses in the New Testament comes from this episode, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Then He went to the tomb, and said with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”

Sunday: The miraculous resurrection of Lazarus caused crowds to gather for the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem the next day.

The solemn days of Holy Week are preceded by two joyous days. The first commemorates the day Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. On Palm Sunday, Jesus is acknowledged and acclaimed as the Messiah, the King, and Redeemer of Israel. With palm branches in our hands, we identify with the people of Jerusalem. Together with them, we greet Christ and confess Him to be our King.

Ways to Share Great Lent and Pascha with Your Child

Children are never too young to be brought to Church for services. The sooner we introduce them to the Church, her services, and her wisdom, the sooner we begin the process of "becoming" an Orthodox Christian. In order for Orthodoxy to make sense, our children need to experience all that the Church offers.

Make it part of this year's Lenten commitment to attend more services, or attend more often. When Holy Week comes, block out all other activities. Make it a point to attend every service you can with your children. Be creative so that you can keep little ones directed and occupied. Locate service books for children who can read. Explain what's going to happen. Talk about what Holy Week and Pascha were like when you were growing up.

The following article is taken from the Orthodox Family Life Archives:
http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/lentpask/share.htm

 

Ways to Share Great Lent and Pascha with Your Child

by Ann Marie Gidus-Mercera

Take your child to Church! 

Whenever a service is scheduled, plan to attend. Services like The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete may be physically tiring with the many prostrations, but don't think your child can't be a part of them. In my own parish, which is filled with pre-schoolers, the children do a great job of making prostrations right along with the adults. Many of the children will join in as "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me" is sung. This experience is good for our children! If they see their parents attending services, they get the message that attending Church is important. If we bring our children to Church with us (both young and old), they get the message that their presence in Church is important. The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is especially good for teaching our children that we worship with our entire bodies.

What Our Children Are Learning about the Divine Liturgy + Part 3

3 On Entering into the Divine Liturgy With Prayers and Song
By Kristina Wenger, Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry

Part 1: On the Divine Liturgy
Part 2: On Preparing for the Divine Liturgy

This is the third in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy from the Orthodox Christian Parenting Facebook page and blog. Consider following these to learn from the articles and the daily posts that feature related quotes, ideas and resources. The intent of the series is to remind us parents of what our children are learning about the service. That way we can all better understand what is happening around us during the service, and then together as a family we can more fully enter into "the offering of the people for the whole world!" (Photos courtesy of Teaching Pics.)

In a prior blog, we studied the first part of the Divine Liturgy: the Preparation. The second part of the Divine Liturgy is The Liturgy of the Word. It "is much like the Jewish synagogue service, which consists of prayers, psalms and hymns, scripture readings, and a sermon. Catechumens [those preparing to enter the Body of Christ, the Church] were allowed to attend the Liturgy of the Word." (OFL, 27)

What Our Children Are Learning about the Divine Liturgy + Part 2

2 On Preparing for the Divine Liturgy
By Kristina Wenger, Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry

Part 1: On the Divine Liturgy

This is the second in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy from the Orthodox Christian Parenting Facebook page and blog. Consider following these to learn from the articles and the daily posts that feature related quotes, ideas and resources. The intent of the series is to remind us parents of what our children are learning about the service. That way we can all better understand what is happening around us during the service, and then together as a family we can more fully enter into “the offering of the people for the whole world!”

Some days I arrive at church and enter the Divine Liturgy with great determination to participate. Unfortunately, on other days, I simply walk in and hope for the best. I know how I should be entering into the liturgy: with a steadfast heart and focused mind; ready to actively participate in the communal work of offering up prayers, tithes, and my very time for the people of the whole world. After all, I should be already ready to jump in, on arrival: our family has a 30 minute drive to church, during which time we say our morning prayers and read the daily epistle, gospel, and saint-of-the-day reading. My heart should be ready: but some days, I struggle to jump right in and singlemindedly participate. Making that happen is not easy, even though I know that is exactly what I am supposed to do!

What Our Children Are Learning about the Divine Liturgy + Part 1

1 On the Divine Liturgy
By Kristina Wenger, Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry

This is the first in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy from the Orthodox Christian Parenting Facebook page and blog. Consider following these to learn from the articles and the daily posts that feature related quotes, ideas and resources. The intent of the series is to remind us parents of what our children are learning about the service. That way we can all better understand what is happening around us during the service, and then together as a family we can more fully enter into "the offering of the people for the whole world!"

The Divine Liturgy, the work of the people, is indeed work. I don't know about you, but during the Liturgy, I often struggle. My eyes look all around me, my ears pick up all kinds of sounds unrelated to worship, my mind wanders, my feet complain, and I could go on and on about how poorly I attend to this work. In light of my own struggle, I will spend the next weeks focusing on the Divine Liturgy and sharing my learnings in this blog. Our children are learning about the Liturgy through their own experiences and observations in the context of Sunday Church School, and (if they are blessed to attend) at church camp as well. It is important that we as parents learn along with them, and add to that learning in whatever ways we can. It is my hope that whatever I encounter and share here will be helpful to all of us as we lead our families towards Christ and His Church.

Pastoral Challenges in Marriage Conference: "Oneness: Protecting and Growing the Blessed Communion"

Announcing: Pastoral Challenges in Marriage Conference, "Oneness: Protecting and Growing the Blessed Communion"
Sponsored by the Center for Family Care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese for both clergy and lay persons.
Dates: January 28-31, 2015 at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Ana, California.
Early bird registration due December 31.
For more information go to www.family.goarch.org/oneness.

Materialism: Stealing Our Children?

by Kristina Wenger

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal (Mt. 6:19)

In this age in the United States of America (and, indeed, throughout the world), the acquisition of "stuff" is what society embraces as the goal for life. With the forthcoming holiday season, in particular, the fight-to-convince-everyone-to-acquire-more-stuff will be intensifying all around us. But is more stuff really what we or our children need?

Let’s Know and Support Those Who Teach

by Kristina Wenger, M.A.
Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry to Parents

It is the beginning of a new school year in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a good time to set goals and also begin good habits for the year. As our children participate in school, homeschool groups, library or park classes, clubs, Sunday Church School, and other such groups, let us as parents be mindful of those who are leading and teaching the children in these groups. This school year, let us set a goal to do a better job of knowing and supporting these teachers, and let us also begin the habits that will help us to meet that goal.

Syndicate content