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10 Things Your Kids Need to Know ...

Our children need to know many things to succeed in this highly technical, always changing, world. As parents, we may cringe to read that our students are falling behind China or India or some other emerging power in math and science achievement. We wonder what new skills they will need to compete in the new global economy.

The fact is, we don’t know. The best we can do is to give our children educational opportunities, chances to grow and develop, and the grace and wisdom that comes from our Catholic faith. In fact, if you think in terms of the true goal in life – to gain heaven – then you will narrow your list of what your kids absolutely need to know. You will focus on things that are deeply personal and rarely changing.

Here is one father’s list of 10 things I want my children to know. Click here to submit your own list.

Brian Caulfield
Editor, Fathers for Good

10 Things Your Kids Need to Know …

1. You love them
Love is the foundation of any child’s life, and it is a resource he or she will draw upon throughout life. Our children can get for themselves most of the things we may fail to give them. But one thing they can never get anywhere else is parental love. Say today, “I love you,” and then give life to the words.

2. God loves them
In Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), Pope Benedict XVI writes, “I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.” To some children, God’s love may seem as clear as the crucifix on the wall or the picture of Jesus with his arms around the children. For others, such love may seem abstract or distant and they will need convincing. In either case, they will look to you, their father, for affirmation through your actions that the Father in heaven does love them.

3. You love their mother
The marriage relationship is the central reality in the lives of children. The love a father bestows on his wife will be a model for his sons of how to treat women, and a model for his daughters of how they will expect to be treated by men. As fathers, we should help them to expect only the very best.

4. Life has meaning and is worth living
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, the most popular preacher of the 20th century, titled his 1950s TV show “Life is Worth Living.” He knew that after two world wars, a deep sadness and cynicism was threatening the culture. He knew that people needed hope and meaning – to know that, indeed, life is worth living.

The things that make it worth living are God’s love for us, our love for others and the deep mystery at the heart of creation that is reflected in the human heart. Teach your children to respect the mystery, accept the unknowable and discover their own potential for love and achievement under the eyes of God.

5. They must learn to forgive
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” You can say these words of the Our Father a thousand times and still not realize their full meaning.  Forgiveness is absolutely essential for one to enter the kingdom of God. If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us. Forgiveness also has the temporal benefit of reliving us of psychological burdens, freeing us from the clasp of revenge, and making possible love even of our enemies.

6. Morality matters
There are voices inside of every heart saying, I can do as I please – my law myself. And there are more than enough enticements to keep those voices alive. Yet we need only look at a playground to know that there is a law outside the self – that morality matters – when one child takes the toy of another and the offended party cries out for justice. There is a right and a wrong in life, and the sooner your child understands this, and seeks to live accordingly, the better it will go for him or her.

7. The Catholic Church is the one true Church
Yes, we still believe this, and it does matter that we teach it to our children. Although you will hear from many sources that all religions are basically the same, the Catholic Church has never taught this as official doctrine. In fact, the Church has condemned the teaching that all religions are equal.

As Catholics, we believe that the Church has all the means given by Jesus for salvation and that only the Catholic Church has the fullness of the four marks mentioned in the Creed: one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic. Catholics are united in faith under the earthly head, the Pope, who is a successor of St. Peter, the one Apostle Jesus chose to lead his Church.

Those who are not Catholic can be saved, of course, by God's mercy and the abundant graces overflowing from the Catholic Church.

8. Evil is real and they will suffer
This is the true “inconvenient truth” of our day. Evil has been downgraded to personal failure or genetic tendency, and the devil has been laughed out of polite conversation as though he really has pitchfork and horns.

Suffering has been cast as something simply to be avoided or to be medicated or psychologized away.

Yet evil will confront your kids, the more they strive to be good. St. Augustine tells of that germinal moment when his peers tempted him to steal a pear. He rightly saw in this moral decision the heart of all evil – the free choice to do what is wrong when we know it is wrong. Those who are wise in their own eyes dismiss Augustine’s “scruples” and excuse the “wild oats of youth.” Yet we should teach our children that the devil roams “like a roaring lion” seeking souls to devour. They must stand strong in faith and resist temptation.

9. One day they will die
Despite the best medical efforts, death is inevitable. Your children will see you die or, God forbid, you will see one of them die. Death is the universal sentence. Yet death is not the thing to be most feared or even regretted. The great benefit of death is that it gives form and structure to life. We know we have an end, and only so much time. We want to believe, more than anything, that we will outlast the grave. And – lo and behold – there is one religion that says we do and can actually prove it! The Catholic religion proclaims that Christ rose from the dead and founded the one Church that gives us all the means on earth to gain everlasting life as well. Good news for sore souls.

10. Love is stronger than death
We may have heard this at a Catholic wake our funeral. “For strong as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion, … Were one to offer all his riches to buy love, he would be roundly mocked (Song of Songs 8:6-7).

The love of Christ has rescued us from death, so now we need not live in the fear of the shadow of death, but are free sons and daughters of God, destined for love in eternity.

If your children know even this one last thing, they know much.

Submit your own list (10 or less) of “Things Your Kids Need to Know.” You may add a few lines of explanation, but a simple list is enough. Your list will be posted as a sidebar to this article.