My oldest is turning eight at the end of this year–an age of great significance in our religion. He can make the choice to get baptized once he’s eight. This has led me to a lot of pondering and experimenting on how to help him recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost and make the right decisions on his own.
I wanted to share a few successes here for anyone else who’s wondering how to help their kids feel the Spirit. I must say that we are by no means perfect and what is effective in one family is not always effective in another. So, please, please, please pray for guidance on how to best help your family. At least 98% of the good we do in our home is by divine direction through the Holy Ghost. I would be nowhere without his constant guidance.
Some time ago, my daughter lost her baby doll. We looked everywhere we could think for it. We prayed. We searched. My husband and I were reading a book, Raising Up a Family to the Lord, in which Elder Gene R. Cook describes a few powerful, prayerful, miraculous experiences. My husband was convinced that if we had enough faith we could find our daughter’s baby doll. I indicated that since we had searched through the entirety of our possessions, it was likely lost, maybe in a landfill somewhere. He believed that God could make it come back to us. With some reservation, I knelt with him in prayer. He faithfully prayed and then searched the entire house very thoroughly. There was no doll. He was not deterred.
The next morning I had an impression to call my mom and ask if she had seen the doll. We had prayed with the kids a few times, and they knew we were looking for the doll. With some hesitation (we hadn’t been to my mom’s house in months) we called my mom. To our amazement, the baby doll was upstairs in her box of dolls. The kids were thrilled. Though, when my daughter saw that her beloved doll was two airplane rides away, she was quite upset. The doll was packaged and delivered within a few days.
An encouragement: knowing that God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we expect, it can be difficult to allow our kids to trust so fully in one prayer. I have found my children’s natural trust to be resilient enough to not hinge on a single prayer. In my experience, kids’ desires are incredibly pure and the Lord is often willing to answer their faithful prayers. But I also hope that we strive to deepen our faith by more fully trusting him to show us the answers to our prayers.
I left this experience with great gratitude for my husband’s faith and a renewed commitment to trust God. This experience really began my kids’ trust in God’s willingness to answer their prayers, which I feel is key to them having the desire to pray and ask for his help. Praying and receiving answers is one of the most basic ways to feel the Holy Ghost, so my focus has mainly been on prayer.
We have encouraged the kids to pray when they can’t find something, when they are worried at bedtime, and for other people who are having a hard time. There have been a few experiences of them feeling like those prayers have been answered. Repetition really is key.
A few months ago, we spent some time talking about James 1:5, and I encouraged the kids to pray about a question they had. I reminded my son several times before he prayed about his question one night (something related to God existing or loving him). He was excited to tell us about the experience he had in answer to his prayer.
A few days later, my daughter was searching the house for another baby doll. I wondered if I should help her look. A sudden inspiration came to mind, brought by the Spirit: I prayed that she would have the idea to pray herself in order to find her doll. A few minutes later both of the older kids came running to me with the doll in hand. She had prayed and her prayer had been answered. The kids were thrilled with this experience.
As the experiences added upon each other, I had a deep desire to help my kids remember them. As I looked forward to the little adults my kids would become, with deep questions, I wanted them to remember the feelings they had felt so that they would want to pray and ask for God’s help. As the deep feelings settled in my heart, I kept my mind open to ideas. Pondering is one of the best ways to receive revelation, and a few weeks later, I came across the idea in Come, Follow Me in the family study section to start a family journal. I have not completely decided how to do this, but I will share that once we do. I am hoping it will be a significant way to increase the kids experiences with the Holy Ghost.