How soon should kids partake of the sacrament? How do we get them to think about Jesus during this sacred time? Can they think of covenants they have not yet made if they are younger than 8 years old? Is it more important just to keep them quiet so others can think about covenants?
Lots of questions!
And a great opportunity to help a child start a testimony that is truly focused on Christ.
We know that the prime reason we have sacrament meeting, and the most important reason for attending, is to partake of the sacrament and to renew our covenants of baptism, which are to always remember him, to keep his commandments and to take upon us his name.
We should make our children, even at a young age, very aware of these three promises that we make to God every Sunday, and of the return promise he makes us that we may always have his Spirit to be with us.
There is no better recurring discussion to have at the Sunday dinner table than one about the sacrament. Depending on the age of your children, start with basic questions that get them involved and build on what they know:
What does the bread represent? What about the water?
What are the promises we make when we take the sacrament?
Have we made these promises before (if we have been baptized)?
What does it mean to take upon us his name?
What does it mean to always remember him?
We are always interested in the methods various families use to try to keep their children focused on the sacrament while it is being passed. Some have pictures of Jesus or books about Jesus for their small children to look at during the sacrament. Others keep the Cheerios and the quiet toys and books hidden away until after the sacrament. Still others ask their children to write down one thing they love about Jesus while the bread is being passed and another thing during the water.
Families with older children sometimes focus on one aspect of the Savior to concentrate on or think about during the sacrament each week. One Sunday the whole family might think about Christ’s remarkable patience, another Sunday about his love for the oppressed, and so on. (A guide for doing this, with a separate aspect of Christ’s character outlined for focus each week of the year, can be found at http://www.valuesparenting.com/WhatMannerOfMan/)
Doing a good job preparing our children to partake of the sacrament is not easy, particularly with very small children. I (Linda) must admit that there were years when my mind was more on finding some way to keep my little kids from disrupting the whole meeting than on controlling the spirituality of their thoughts. Still, we tried, and as they became older, we felt we had more success. And our efforts led to further discussions of the meaning of the Atonement and the sacrament at our Sunday dinner table and in our family home evenings.
As is so often the case in parenting, as we try to do the right thing for our children, we find ourselves doing better on what we ought to be working on within ourselves. The best way to teach our children to partake meaningfully of the sacrament is to set the example for them by preparing well and trying hard to rivet our minds on his Atonement and on the covenants of the sacrament prayers. As we do this, our devotion will become contagious and our children will grow to love the sacrament time as much as we do.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.ValuesParenting.com and read their books for free at www.EyresFreeBooks.com.