The transmission of faith presupposes that parents live the real experience of trust in God, seeking Him, needing Him, because only in this way ‘one generation narrates your works to another, announces your accomplishments.’ (Sal 144, 4) (p 33)
Parents are like roots that penetrate the ground and children like branches that stretch out into the air. Branches are the life that will be, which is developing, nourished by the vital sap of hope. For the transmission of faith, the general principle also applies: children only learn what they live. Religious learning passes through three stages. The first is what passes through observation and imitation. For the birth and development of the infant’s image of God, however, parental influence is decisive. The parent-child relationship is, above all, transferred to the relationship with God. The self-esteem of the child and teenager also has its own roots in the family and affects, in essence, their relationship with God.
The most important thing for parents to do is to clarify their own image of God. We have the responsibility not to deceive our children about God, exposing them to an image of God who is an enemy of life and love, thereby damaging them from a psychic point of view.
Children who live with their parents in a relationship characterized by safe and secure attachment, which children feel, knowing they are accepted in every aspect of their personality and character, consider God to be a loving and caring being, while children with insecure attachment see God as offering them little protection and inclined to punish. In order to understand the divine and embrace faith, the people of first and primary reference are, therefore, fundamental to children.
It is “family religiosity” that forms the relationship of the child with God. The more the child feels appreciated, the more he or she feels accepted in all their feelings, the more, too, they feel protected in their faith and are aware of their own spiritual strength.
Spiritual and religious education are embodied in rituals; evening rituals such as a common shared meal, prayer, or Sunday Mass. The renunciation of rituals is a loss of spirituality. Ritual, with their infinite repetitions, express proximity and affective security. It shows children that their parents are, indeed, with them: I can let myself fall because I feel protected. And prayer explains to the child that there is a superior being that sustains us without His support being related to conditions of any kind, for a love that is, indeed, unconditional.