This is made even tougher when one considers the pressure placed on children in striving for academic excellence and juggling social media and peer pressure.
What then, can parents do?
“Your mindset and attitude are key,” said Father Henry Siew. “Are you God-centred or worldly-centred? Relationship or achievement oriented?”
Parents are often pressured by external factors such as the grades of other parents’ children and end up comparing. “This puts unnecessary pressure on your children,” said the parish priest of the Church of the Holy Cross.
Even the simple act of asking children questions when they return from school can mean a lot.
Do you ask: “What homework do you have? What is the score of your test?” or “Is there anything interesting that happened in school today? What did you do with your friends today?”
Asking questions similar to the latter two can go a long way in building a stronger relationship with your children, said the 59-year-old priest.
One other action that parents take for granted is the use of words.
Try and be “affirming and encouraging” in your language even when you have had a long and tiring day, said Fr Henry.
Other key practices that parents should inculcate in their families are “pray, play and eat together”. “Make time to have social outings and even play board games,” he added.
Such practical steps are useful but where does the nurturing of faith come in?
Fr Henry said that tangible actions of care and affirmation are like “planting seeds of faith, hope and love” in your children.
They may not understand or acknowledge these acts of love straight away but as they grow and mature, they will have these values instilled in them, he explained. “The experience of love is key in inculcating faith,” he added.
Fr Henry reminded parents that they themselves have to teach what they believe and practise what they teach.
Also, “entrust your children to the Lord. Relax, do your best and let God takeover.”
With all these insights to share, Fr Henry was recently invited to give a talk at Agape Village on July 12 about what Christian parents really need for their children.
Thoughts of some parents
Ben and Shirley Goh have two daughters in primary school. Despite attending Mass and retreats as a family, the couple are unsure whether their children are “growing in the right direction”.
“We try and educate them in the faith and pray every night but we are not sure if they are just going through the motions or actually taking away something of value,” shared Ben.
Shirley said her elder daughter once “came up to me at night and said it was difficult for her to practise the Christ-like values she was taught because of the ‘nasty and unfriendly’ environment in school.”
There are certainly challenges parents face and I hope the Church can do more in supporting this area, she added.
Another couple Joshua and Nadia D’Cruz said they have found it more difficult to cultivate God-centred values in their children as they grow older.
The couple, who have two sons and a daughter in secondary school, have made it a habit to spend time together every weekend. They also try and go for pilgrimages once every other year to strengthen their family ties.
However, “over the past year or so they have become less interested in what we say to them,” said Nadia. “They are always on their phones and it seems the messages from social media are of greater interest to them.”
Joshua said this is where prayer comes in. “A lot of parents we know try and do too much and end up nagging more than anything. Our faith needs to take over for us to allow God to takeover and lead our children.”