As the aunt of 10 nieces and nephews, I love to watch my brother and sisters raise their kids. Among the grandchildren in my family, we’ve got two daredevils, two wild-childs, one bossy pants, and the sweetest autistic boy you’ll ever meet. Needless to say, wrangling—I mean, parenting—these kids is never the same for my brother and sisters. So when the children near the age of eight, how do they—and parents everywhere—decide on the best way to teach their child about the importance of baptism? And how much does the child actually understand?
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1. Start Early
Preparing a child for baptism should start long before the child’s eighth birthday. There are many ways to teach children of young ages about baptism. No two ways are the same because no two children are the same. So if some of these tips don’t work for your kid, don’t worry! Starting from the child’s seventh birthday, many parents use family home evening lessons (like the ones linked to in this article) to teach simple principles that accompany baptism: following Jesus’s example, repentance, the sacrament, or the Holy Ghost, just to name a few. But if your child is yearning to know more, then by all means, teach as much as you feel they can understand.
Amy Spencer, a mother of four girls, says, “Several weeks before our oldest daughter's baptism, we focused our family home evening lessons on different part of the baptism covenant, using Mosiah 18:8-10. Breaking it up into different lessons helped us to focus on each idea and try to apply it to our lives. For example, what does it mean to come into the fold of God, or stand as a witness? We talked about God's promises of being forgiven, receiving the Holy Ghost, and returning to Him.”
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But don’t feel as if Monday nights are the only time to talk about the gospel. Maybe something more casual is in order. Quiet talks one on one during the walk home from school or while preparing a dinner are also great opportunities to discuss concerns and questions.
Another useful tip is pointing to the example of older Primary children or teenagers who have already been baptized. “We attended as many friends' baptism as possible,” Spencer says. “I feel the Spirit so strongly during baptismal services and talked about that with my daughter. She saw what the services were like and looked forward to having her turn.”
2. Keep It Simple
Nowhere in this post will you find tips on how to get a photographer for your child’s portraits or great recipes of delectable nibbles to serve after the baptism. That’s not to say that those aren’t wonderful ideas for the big day. Part of making that day so special is incorporating baptismal family traditions that the children can look forward to. But make sure your child knows that being the center of attention and having a party is not what the baptism is about.
Go over the words that will be said during the child’s baptism and confirmation. Talk about what each word means. What does the phrase, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ” actually signify? How about “remission”? What does it mean to “receive the Holy Ghost”?
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Melanie Hall, a mother of three, knows that most kids won’t get it all. “But they can understand the basics about Jesus: He is God's son; He is still alive; He loves us; and He wants to help us. He wants us to be happy. When we are like Him, we are happy.”
3. Keep Teaching
After the child’s baptism, keep teaching them about the importance of those cleansing covenants and the help they are entitled to from the Holy Ghost. From an early age, have them practice taking the sacrament. (Check out these great children’s books that teach them about the importance of the sacrament and baptism.) Once they are baptized, help them understand that they can be clean every week as they take the sacrament. Teach them that they can always have the Holy Ghost with them because they received the Gift of the Holy Ghost after their baptism.
Lastly, teach them that they are following Jesus by getting baptized. “Part of being like Jesus is getting baptized,” says Hall. “And we can continue to be like Him afterwards because the Holy Ghost will help us do that. So rather than talking to my 8-year-olds about everything to do with baptism, we just focus on the Savior and the Holy Ghost.”
We know that these tips are just a good starting place for teaching children about baptism. But what has worked well for you and your children? If you have any good tips from your experiences, please share on social media and tag LDS Living.