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Especially for Parents

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

Gleanings From a Book: Everything Tells Us About God by Katherine Bolger Hyde

From the first glance, this beautiful book invites engagement. The cover sets the tone for the book: it creates an expectation for beauty, variety, and a joyful reveling in God’s generosity with His people. When the reader opens the book, the end paper catches their eye. It is a golden, nearly-completed puzzle. But why is that one piece missing? And what does this have to do with the title? Without reading a word, the reader is already curious and determined to know more!

The book begins by telling the reader that the world is like a giant puzzle. God made this puzzle to tell us about Himself. He designed each piece - each part of the world - to help us learn some of His secrets. When we really look at the pieces, we can learn about Him through them!

Tending The Garden – Family Meditations for Great Lent

A brand new resource is coming out just in time for Great Lent! Author and podcaster Elissa D. Bjeletich and Orthodox Christian Parenting's Kristina Wenger have teamed up to create this blog and podcast.

Find the initial blog post, which includes three creative ideas for a "Lenten Countdown" at the blog site, tending-the-garden.com! Remember to subscribe, so that as Lent begins, you can access daily printable meditations related to the themes of Great Lent. The meditations will also be available as podcasts from Ancient Faith, so your family can read them OR listen!

Share photos of your family's "Lenten Countdown" on Facebook or Instagram, with #tendingthegarden , #orthodoxlent and/or #orthodoxfamily.

May the Lord bless you and your family as you prepare for this wonderful, holy season of Lent!

On Demonstrating Love to Our Children

As we approach Valentine’s Day and see reminders of love everywhere around us, the opportunity arises for us to evaluate how well we are loving others. It is one thing to say that we love someone, but often quite another thing to act in such a way as to show them that our words are true. However, even God Himself is demonstrative with His love: “...God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) If God, who IS Love, chooses to demonstrate His love, how much more should we, who are not in essence love, do our best to do the same?

The reason that we know and love God is because of His demonstrative love for us. Because we love God, it follows that love for others should flow out of the love that we have for Him. St. Justin Popovich indicated such (and more!) results of loving God when he said, “Love for Christ overflows into love for one's neighbor, love for truth, love for holiness, for the world, for purity, for everything divine, for everything deathless and eternal... All these forms of love are natural manifestations of love for Christ. Christ is the God-man, and love for Him always means love for God and for man.” And St. Basil the Great encourages us to demonstrate our love, not just for family and friends, but to everyone in his statement, “As God illumines all people equally with the light of the sun, so do those who desire to imitate God let shine an equal ray of love on all people.”

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

On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle 6: Teach the Joy of Repentance

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing. Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Find an overview blog post about the book here. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book here.

Principle 6: Teach the Joy of Repentance

Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book Parenting Toward the Kingdom is filled with wisdom and encourages godly parenting. The sixth and final principle, “Teach the joy of repentance,” is yet another challenge towards godliness, and is as invaluable to the souls of the parents who follow it as it is to those of their children. He begins with a chapter on repentance, then discusses the joy of repentance, and closes with the encouragement that Orthodox Christian homes nurture repentance and confession.

The chapter on repentance begins by encouraging parents not to focus on “doing” parenting, but rather to focus on loving God while responding to our children. He emphasizes that only a saint would parent perfectly, and that we should not expect ourselves to be able to do so. Rather, we should expect ourselves to learn and grow, just as we expect our children to learn and grow. The Holy Spirit will raise in us the fruits necessary to be the parents we must be. If we want to best reach our long-term parenting goals, we need to labor to acquire the Holy Spirit. As we work towards living a Godly life, it is important that we not cover over our mistakes; but rather that we use those mistakes to teach our children the joy that is found in repentance. Since repentance is at the heart of our Christian life, it follows that teaching repentance should be at the heart of our parenting.

On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle 5: Teach the Joy of Obedience

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing. Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Find an overview blog post about the book here. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book here.

Principle 5: Teach the Joy of Obedience

Dr. Mamalakis encourages his readers to teach their children the joy of obedience in chapters 14 and 15 of his book Parenting Toward the Kingdom. Chapter 14 focuses on the joy of obedience, and ch. 15 encourages parents to nurture a culture of listening. Parents need to be attuned to both to successfully teach their children the joy of obedience.

He begins the chapter about the joy of obedience by acknowledging that it is difficult to get our children to listen to us and to obey. He states that while obedience is important, it is not the end goal.

On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle #4: Separate Feelings from Behaviors

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing. Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Find an overview blog post about the book here. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book here.

Principle #4: Separate Feelings from Behaviors

Dr. Mamalakis encourages parents to separate feelings from behaviors in principle 4 of Principle #4: Separate Feelings from Behaviors. This is a very important principle, as demonstrated by the fact that it takes almost one-third of the book to speak to it. He addresses this principle across seven chapters: Take the Side of Feelings, Set Limits to Behaviors, Strategies for Setting Limits, Setting Limits With Your Child, Responding to Pushback, Understanding Consequences, and Giving Consequences.

On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle #3: Understand Struggles in Terms of Kingdom Values and Virtues

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing. Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Read an overview blog post about the book here. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book here.

Principle #3: Understand Struggles in Terms of the Values and Virtues of the Kingdom

Dr. Mamalakis' third principle of parenting encourages parents to understand struggles in terms of the values and the virtues of the Kingdom of God. This principle is covered by two chapters in his book Parenting Toward the Kingdom. The chapters encourage parents to name their child's struggle and to separate their own struggle from their child's.

Dr. Mamalakis begins addressing this third principle by reminding the reader that if we are truly parenting toward the kingdom, we need to name our children’s struggles and frame every struggle that they encounter in the context of the kingdom. That is, we must look at each struggle in terms of the values and virtues of the Kingdom of God. Every struggle our children experience is an opportunity to help them learn those values and virtues. God has placed each of us into our family to struggle and learn together about His kingdom: that is what family life is all about.

​On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle #1: Always Parent with the End in Mind

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing. Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Find an overview blog post about the book here. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book at Ancient Faith.

Principle #1: Always parent with the end in mind.

Dr. Mamalakis encourages us to “Think Long Term” and to consider “How Children Learn” in the first two chapters of “Parenting Toward the Kingdom,” which address the first principle of parenting: “Always parent with the end in mind.” Parenting with the end in mind requires that we think beyond the moment and our short-term goals (ie: for peace and quiet at the dinner table) to what our long-term goals for our children may be (ie: for them to learn to work out their disagreements in a godly manner) and act towards that end. To be able to do so, we need to think first of what type of adults we wish our children to be when they are grown. Dr. Mamalakis suggests that, as Orthodox Christian parents, we think far beyond earthly “success” as a goal for our children, and look instead to what will make our children successful followers of Christ.

Time to Go to Church… A Time to Fear and Dread?

Author’s note: The Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education is blessed to be able to share the wisdom of others. Parents, find out how others are keeping their kids engaged in the service by exploring this compilation of advice shared by Fr. John Peck on his website Journey to Orthodoxy. You can explore the original article and also view our handout on church behavior.

Let the Little Children Come
by Presbytera Marilisse I. Mars

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14

It's Sunday morning. The church bulletin says that church starts at 10:00am. It's now 10:30am. You're walking to the car to take yourself and the kids to church. You're arriving at communion. You're embarrassed to come in that late, but you're less embarrassed (after all, half the parish comes to church late) than you would be by your children's behavior if you stayed for the whole service. You walk in during the Lord's Prayer. A few minutes later, thank God, communion. Now you can go. Lunchtime!   Read More...

Helping Children Worship
From St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church

Dear St. Luke Family,
We are on a quest to train our children to love the Lord's Day! We want them to love the Divine Liturgy, to actively engage in it, and to understand it.

​Finding a Way to Help (Even on a Limited Budget)

Author’s note: We have written in the past about having a family goal for the summer. If your family’s summer goal is to grow in the faith, read on! We’ve also shared some ideas of activities in your back pocket for when your children need some guidance/something to do. Here is another idea  - something that your family can do together that will offer common purpose while also allowing you to actively live your Faith this summer.

There are so many different needs that come to our attention. A local fire or flood, a foreign orphanage, a friend-of- a-friend’s illness with lofty medical costs, hungry homeless in a nearby city, etc. The list goes on, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. Because we are Christians, we need to live a life of giving and helping. We become aware of needs, sometimes on a daily basis, and we know that we should be part of the cure for those needs. But where do we start?

Gleanings from a Book: "The Suitcase" by Jane G. Meyer

Orthodox Christian author Jane G. Meyer has written a new picture book called The Suitcase: a Story about Giving. The book was illustrated by Chiara Pasqualotto. It is the story of Thomas, a boy who may be autistic but does not let his challenges keep him from being an active participant - even a leader - in entering the Kingdom of God while bringing others with him. Any reader, regardless of age, will be challenged to find ways to make God’s Kingdom happen in the world around them after meeting Thomas through this book. 

Here is a brief summary and review of the book:

Thomas is like clockwork. He is so precise with his preferred activities that you can almost predict what he will do each day. So, when he randomly shows up at the family supper table one night with a suitcase, declaring that he intends to leave for the Kingdom of Heaven, it catches everyone’s attention, for this is far from his routine!

Gleanings from a Book: Parenting Toward the Kingdom by Dr. Philip Mamalakis

I was so excited when I learned that this book was in the works! Before reading it, I had great expectations: I anticipated that it would be filled with gentle nudges towards godliness based both on years of education and personal experience. I knew that the wisdom in this book would be presented in a practical way backed by the in-the- trenches research that life with 7 children offers to their parents. And once I received and read the book, I was not at all disappointed! My expectations for this book were the result of personal experience. Our family had the privilege of meeting the Mamalakis family at Family Camp at the Antiochian Village years ago when they were the featured presenters for the parent sessions. We learned so much from Dr. Mamalakis (and from his lovely wife, Georgia) while we were together. My husband and I could step out of the parent sessions and immediately apply the concepts we had just discussed. Our family is the better for having learned these principles, however imperfectly we have applied them. (An aside: We also benefitted from watching the Mamalakis parents apply the principles they had shared, as they interacted with their children over the course of the family camp sessions. It is a joy to watch these parents lovingly guide their children using the principles! There is an abundance of love in Mamalakis family, and these principles allow them to parent their children in the context of that great love. It is a joy to experience.)

But I digress. Let's get back to the book. "Parenting Toward the Kingdom" outlines the principles that the Mamalakis family has followed:

Gleanings from a Book: Orthodox Christian Parenting Cultivating God's Creation

We recently discovered the book Orthodox Christian Parenting - Cultivating God's Creation by Marie L. Eliades, published by Zoe Press in 2012. This book is a compilation of quotes and writings about raising and educating Orthodox Christian children. The text is gathered both from Church fathers and contemporary Orthodox Christians, and is presented by theme. (An important note: the introduction to the book tells more about the project and encourages readers to discuss what they read with their spiritual father to see what is best for their own family.)

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!

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!

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