As your child is preparing to participate in the sacramental life of the Church in a fuller way, you too can deepen your understanding of these sacraments and renew your own commitment to grow in holiness.
The first step in helping your child prepare is to assess your own attitudes and understanding and pray for the grace to see clearly so that your child can “catch” your enthusiasm for these gifts.
Entering the confessional is your child’s sacramental encounter with the mercy of Christ, and it is important to have a positive attitude; there is no need for fear! It is here that we learn of God’s unconditional love and mercy. No matter what we have done, God is waiting to embrace us in love, through the priest. This understanding of God’s mercy must grow by frequently coming to admit our failings and hearing the words, “I absolve you from your sins.”
Even young children know the difference between right and wrong and are able to say that they are sorry, though they may not have any serious sins to confess. It is important that they form the habit of asking for forgiveness from the very beginning of their sacramental life, as the Church continues to encourage frequent Confession to keep us growing in holiness. It is important for you as parents to teach your children this spiritual truth through your own example.
What can you do to help prepare your child? Talk to him/her about the beauty of forgiveness and God’s unconditional love. He loves us “no matter what,” and wants us to be free of sin so that we can belong to Him and be happy! Help them in the evening to examine their own consciences by asking questions, such as, “Did you think about Jesus today? Did you remember to thank Him? Were you kind to others? Were you giving to others or were you taking for yourself?” Practice the Rite of Penance with them; practicing will help alleviate their nervousness. Help your child choose between kneeling at the screen or sitting in the chair before Father.
On the day of First Reconciliation, we will begin with a brief prayer service and examination of conscience, with children sitting with their families. They will take turns in the confessional, then proceed to the altar to light a candle and say their penance and a prayer of thanksgiving. Parents and other family members are also encouraged to go to confession – this should be a family celebration, but not the only one! Come to this sacrament as a family often.