We all know we should be praying with our families daily. We understand the merits and fruit of the practice. But when it comes to actually doing it, many of us run into several obstacles. We are all busy with work and school and responsibilities and home and children and we’re just trying to get enough sleep. But praying with your family is possible, it just takes some ingenuity. Here’s how to pray as a busy family (even with young children!).
How to Pray as a Busy Family: A Beginner’s Guide
We started praying the rosary almost six years ago. During that period we had a three-year-old daughter, a two-year-old son, and a six-month-old baby. I also had a husband who didn’t know any of the prayers. We started saying it as a Lenten sacrifice (at the suggestion of my mother, who knew we were under a lot of stress and struggling). We have maintained this family prayer time ever since, even in the midst of work, school, activities, friends, and family obligations.
No matter your preferred method of prayer, here are a few tips that were helpful to us when we started praying as a family.
1. Start small and go slow.
Quality is more important than quantity.
When you are first starting out, I would suggest trying a decade of the rosary. Or a shorter prayer like The Glory Be.
When we first started praying the rosary, we looked it up on our phones so we knew each of the prayers and especially the meaning of each mystery. We also would have our children recite the prayer after we said it, going very slowly. Our children had the prayers memorized after a few months.
2. Find a ritual that lets them know family prayer time is about to begin.
This could be lighting a candle, ringing a bell, using incense, or playing soft music.
3. Hold hands.
In the beginning, especially when they were little, we would have our children hold hands. It makes everyone feel connected and they are less inclined (for at least 30 seconds) to start running all over the place.
4. Ask everyone who or what they would like to pray for when you start.
This gets kids excited and it also lets you know what is on everyone’s mind, including the mind of your spouse. Sometimes the days are so busy I may not have been informed that my grandfather-in-law was having surgery that day. This time of intercession serves as a fantastic time to reconnect as a family.
5. Let the children choose a spot where they can be still and quiet.
Wondering how to pray as a busy family with young children? Let them get comfortable. Let them sit where they want. This can be a blanket, a chair, a couch, a piece of wood, or even sitting on a rock.
6. Do not expect perfection and try to be positive.
We do not expect our children to say their prayers perfectly but we do expect them to be respectful. I try to focus more on myself and my behaviors, because I believe what registers for my kids is not what I say but what they see.
7. Set some boundaries.
This will vary depending on your family and children, but you want the kids to be quiet and still if possible. Kids are wiggly, so we let our kids age five and under move about as long as they are quiet. We also have a 3-strikes-and-you’re-out rule. This means you go to bed or you miss out on dessert or receive some other consequence. We try not to be too harsh because we want prayer time to be somewhat peaceful.
8. It is OK if it feels awkward.
Prayer is very intimate, and when you don’t know exactly what you are doing, it is OK if you feel a little weird. This feeling will ease over time the more you all pray together. Just keep going!
9. You can pray anywhere, but I suggest a location with less distractions.
You can pray in the car, in your home, while walking, or sometimes we FaceTime Grandma and Grandpa to join us for moral support. Try to remove distractions as best as you can.
10. Let your children lead.
If your children are old enough to read, you can have them lead some of the prayers. When we first started, this wasn’t possible with our kids. But eventually, when they have memorized the prayers, they can lead one prayer or even a decade of the rosary. We have found they are more engaged when leading.
11. It is ok to change up your method.
If you’re wondering how to pray as a busy family, flexibility is key. In the last six years, we have changed our rosary recitation up a lot. There are a variety of other methods that work.
Here are some other ways of introducing the rosary:
- Youtube videos – The visuals help really explain the mystery, but I would advise making sure your children are old enough because the sorrowful mysteries are intense for children. We really enjoy Father Patrick Peyton’s videos
- Coloring sheets
- 10-minute quiet meditation where you state the mystery you want them to focus on
- Use each bead to have them tell you what they are grateful for
- Have a child FaceTime another family member and recite it with them
- You can incorporate chocolate chips and once they have recited the prayer for that bead they can eat the chocolate chip
- Let your kids write cards to a loved one who is sick or hurting
- Let them walk and play follow the leader as you recite the prayers
Even if the rosary isn’t your family’s prayer of choice, don’t be afraid to mix it up! Prayer time can transition with the liturgical year or with prayers your children are learning at school or at Sunday school. The options are truly endless for Catholics – we are lucky to have such a rich prayer deposit!
What are your tips for how to pray as a busy family? Let’s share ideas in the comments below!
Written by Kristin Reilly, this piece original appeared on her site and has been updated and republished here with permission.