6 Tips for Talking to Your Children About Evil
A priest recently rocked our little Catholic school when he delivered a homily about the Devil. More specifically it was about childhood possession by the Devil. If you are thinking “Yikes!” you aren’t alone. He didn’t beat around the subject, but rather came right out describing his experience with a demonically possessed 6th grade girl. In his discussion, he did a few really great things, which parents can and should model when talking with their own children. First, he spoke honestly about the presence of evil, and secondly, he gave the children specific ways to guard oneself against evil. These two things, honestly and hopefulness are both important components of any tough conversation with children and are essential when talking to your children about evil.
It is important for children to know that evil does exist. And not the far off, unrelated, impersonal sort of “bad people do bad things sometimes”, or “Abortions happen because there is evil in the world”. Kids need to know that real evil is our there. Don’t lament or be dramatic in our presentation of the facts. Rather give your children a concrete understanding of spiritual warfare and how it works. Just as we talk with our children about helping them to hear the Holy Spirit in their hearts, we need to help our children discern when the Devil is whispering lies. The reality is that as children of God we know we will be under attack but we also know that we will win. Here is how you can prepare your children…
1. Teach them that the Devil Speaks Lies. Remind your children when they are faced with conflict, anger, sadness, that the Devil will whisper lies. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Satan is “…a liar and the father of lies…the deceiver of the whole world” (CCC2852). As a parent, you can help them to seek the truth. They need to hear the lies for what they are – Lies! The lies are designed to break us away from those with whom we share love. We need to challenge the lies with the Truth from God. We need to ask God to show us evidence of the opposite.
For example, if we are fighting with a sibling and we are angry it may be tempting to believe “he hates me”. So examine that evidence. Ask God - Does my brother really hate me? Then open your heart to God’s evidence because He will show you the truth: What about yesterday when he gave you his orange? What about last night when you sat and played games together? What about last week when he came to cheer you on at your game? Find evidence to the contrary. God can show you that evidence, so invite him to show you the truth. 1 John Chapter 4 provides instruction on discerning when the spirits we hear are from God or not from God. John tells us that any spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. So bring Jesus into your conversation and He will bring clarity to it all and help us determine the "spirit of truth" from "the spirit of deceit" (1 John 4:6).
2. Stay Away from The Occult and Other Forms of Magic. This is a hard one in our culture because “Magic” is found in books and movies and even popular children stories. Many children grow up without an understanding that witches do exist (although they don’t ride brooms or even closely resemble those who attended Hogwarts). Any attempt to study or practice Black Magic is off limits. Children should not play games in which they attempt to summon spirits. They should not wear jewelry that offers them special powers. Teach them that interest in The Occult serves as an invitation to evil. It is serious and should not be trifled with.
If they show interest in spirits, help them to study and develop a relationship with some of the saints. Many saints were given special skills by God, like bilocation, incorruptibility, ecstasy, levitation and the gift of tongues to name a few. They have some pretty amazing stories! Get them a special saints medal and teach them how to talk to ask for the intercession of the Saints. Use their interest in the supernatural to bring them closer to God. Teach them the difference between wearing a cross or medal or even a scapular as a sign of respect and devotion, and wearing an amulet for special powers.
3. God’s Grace is Found in the Sacraments. We are given God’s grace through baptism and have His continual Grace in the sacraments. Staying close to the Church, the Holy Mass, and the Sacraments fills us with a sort of Holy Armor to defend against attacks.
4. Stay Close to God in Prayer. Most children can become pretty adept at rote prayer. As they get older they develop the ability for more mental prayer and can really transform their prayer life. Teaching our children rote prayers to say when they are scared or overwhelmed is not only healthy, it provides them with tools they need. Our family favorites are The Guardian Angel Prayer and the Prayer to St. Michael. When the children get scared or have a hard time sleeping they will often pray these two, a decade of the rosary, or repeat the Our Father until they fall asleep. One of the lines in the Our Father is “deliver us from Evil”. Calling on the name of Jesus is a powerful way to ward off the evil around us - so teach your little ones to pray.
5. Keep blessing your children. Remind them that you bless them for a reason. When you draw a cross on their foreheads you are recommitting them to Christ and drawing the battle lines against evil. Your children should know that they are branded for Christ.
6. Talk and Don’t Stop. Children are capable of much more than we give them credit for in our current culture. We shelter them from the truths assuming they are too young for serious talks, but the reality is that this shouldn’t be just one talk, but rather an ongoing topic that your family can discuss on a regular basis. When they complain about going to mass you remind them that the one hour they spend with Jesus is time for their soul to be strengthened by His presence and His grace. They will need that strength to turn from the temptations of evil. When they misbehave during family prayers, gently remind them that developing a relationship with Jesus in prayer will help them to hear His voice and discern what is true and good versus what is evil. When they repeat the lies of the Devil (you don’t love me!) remind them that the Devil is whispering lies in their ear. You would give your life for them, and you gladly sacrifice daily for them.
Parents need to keep talking to, praying for, and giving blessings to their children. Children need to develop and ear for The Truth and learn how to discern truth from evil. They need to understand the importance of prayer, The Sacraments, and The Church in keeping them spiritually grounded. Parenting our children is hard. Ultimately our children will choose to follow or to reject a relationship with Jesus. Our job is to set them out on their path of holiness prepared for the journey. Keeping the truth from them does not prepare them. God never leaves us and he has given us the tools to for these encounters. So pass along the truth and equip the next generation for good.
Possible questions, responses and suggestions…
Is the devil out to get me? The devil wants more followers, but if you devote yourself to God, then the Devil can't get you. God lets us choose to follow Him (goodness) or to turn away from good and turn to evil. Just choose God in your heart and your deeds and you will be okay. In 1 John 5:18-19 it is written “but the one begotten by God He protects, and the evil one can not touch him”.
I am scared. Well it is pretty serious stuff but God tells us to Have No Fear. He is always with us. And we each have a guardian angel to be with us a guard against the devil at all times. So you have your own spiritual body guard which is pretty cool!
What if I mess up? God know everything and in His infinite wisdom he knew that we would mess up. He gave us the sacrament of reconciliation to help wipe away those sins. We all make little mistakes so each night we should think about our day and pray to the Lord for forgiveness for the little mistakes we are bound to make.
But what about our loved ones who are not Catholic? It is a little harder for non-Catholic Christians because they don't have the Grace of the sacraments to give them spiritual strength. But God loves all of his followers and if they have a strong prayer life and turn from Evil to Jesus then God will keep them close too. God desires that we all serve Him and know Him and love Him. That is why we were created. It is easier when you have the fullness of the faith, but non-Catholics can still grow to know, love, and serve God. And we can pray that they too will be brought into the fullness of the faith so that they can fully participate in a sacramental life and do things like take part in communion and reconciliation. But that is their own choice and their own journey.