Teaching children pro-life values
My middle son, Nicholas, has always enjoyed listening to the Catholic Channel on satellite radio. Once, as we waited for his favorite show to start, we caught the end of the previous one. The topic was abortion. After a few minutes, he piped up from the back seat of the car and said, “Mommy, if you’re for abortion, you can’t really be Catholic.”
How true are his words! I was amazed at the insight of such a young child, especially when so many adults are lacking it.
I’ve always tried to raise my kids to understand that the right to life of all human beings should be respected—especially new human beings growing in the womb. I felt it was important to talk with them about this from an early age. It was easy to talk about a baby in the womb, and the beauty and amazement of pregnancy. I just never knew how to bring up the subject of abortion. But the opportunity was thrust upon me a few years ago.
When my youngest was just shy of three years old, and my other two children were nine and six, our church’s respect life ministry was handing out prayer cards and asking people to spiritually adopt a preborn child who was in danger of abortion (see sidebar). As a family, we signed up to spiritually adopt a baby. The kids named her Elizabeth and we took our prayer cards home.
As we were riding home, Mary, then nine, read the prayer card and, from the back seat, asked, “Mommy, what’s abortion?” I simply replied, “Murder.” This really got their attention and, amidst questions of why a mother would murder her baby, I explained abortion to small children, as best I could—with tears in my eyes.
They couldn’t understand why anyone would kill a baby—or why it would be legal. They were stunned. I was incredibly saddened to have to introduce this stark reality into their lives. But I was also glad they knew, because now I could not only foster a love for babies, but a hatred of abortion. I hoped that, if I started this at a young age, they would grow up believing all babies should always be wanted and loved, no matter what.
That night, we added the prayer for a baby in danger of abortion to our dinner prayers. In only a week, my youngest, Jacob, had memorized it. Then he started to say it every night. So, just weeks before his third birthday, my baby was praying for babies.
My children have always loved babies, but I wanted them to value them on a deeper level as well. In their younger years, when we were out in public, I used every available occasion to point out babies or make positive comments about pregnant women. When we saw a baby, I would smile and say, especially to my youngest, “Aren’t babies such a blessing?” Jacob would smile and say yes. Soon, he began to say it on his own.
A few months later, I joined our church’s respect life ministry. Our spiritually adopted babies were growing, and there were fetal pictures at the back of the church so that we could watch their development. After Mass, we would stop and marvel at what a small baby in the womb could do.
As the spiritually adopted babies were about to be born, our church planned a baby shower. Parishioners were invited for cake and punch, and all gifts were to be donated to a local crisis pregnancy center. My kids and I shopped together and had fun picking out baby gifts. At the shower, the kids helped serve cake and marveled at the amount of gifts people brought. We all had fun celebrating the gift of new life as a family.
Several months later, a friend gave me a model of a 12-week-old preborn baby. She was so tiny and looked so sweet. Jacob immediately fell in love with her, and from that day on, she was his. He named her Marie, created a bed for her on a piece of Kleenex, cleared a special place for her on the end table—and checked on her regularly. I tried to foster this sense of responsibility and loving attitude by letting him see me check on her and by commenting on how she was doing.
Everyday life has presented many opportunities to talk to my kids about all life being a gift from God. For instance, the media whipped up a huge controversy about Tim Tebow’s pro-life commercial for the 2010 Super Bowl (see Celebrate Life, Jan.-Feb. 2011). Tebow’s mother chose life for him and proved the doctors wrong—he was born completely healthy. I discussed with my children how it all worked out well for the Tebows, but sometimes children are born with a disease, an illness, or some other problem—and that these children are nevertheless all precious gifts and should be very much loved.
I also seized an opportunity to talk to the kids about Down syndrome after I read about a woman who aborted her baby because he was diagnosed with it. At our former parish, we frequently sat next to a woman and her teenage son who had Down syndrome. We talked about what a joy that young man is for his family and how tragic it would’ve been if his mother had obtained an abortion.
Another teachable and fun moment came from the writing of Dr. Seuss. One of Jacob’s favorite books is Horton Hears a Who! Throughout the book, Horton the Elephant repeats, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” In our family, we smile and talk about how babies are a blessing and should be protected—just like Horton protected the Whos.
Beyond opposing abortion
I also strive to teach my children that being pro-life doesn’t only mean opposing abortion. I want them to fully accept that all people are valuable, no matter what. Having a pro-life attitude is the indispensable antidote to today’s selfish, “me-first” society, with many people more concerned about money than their fellow human beings.
In the Church and society at large, we must especially teach our children to be open to life and cherish it in their marriages. When a married couple elevates worldly possessions over the gift of a child, or when the couple fails to find joy in that gift, resentment often builds. I hope to help my children become aware of this as they grow older and seek a spouse, and help them understand that we must all be shining examples of Christ’s unselfish love.
A baby and, indeed, life itself, is nothing short of a miracle. As faithful Christians, we should be teaching our children—at every opportunity we get—that all human beings, at all stages of development, should be cherished, respected, loved, and protected at all times. If we don’t teach them this profoundly important principle, how will they ever know?
Susan Ciancio is copy editor of Celebrate Life and editor for other American Life League’s other projects. She and her husband, Dennis, and their three children live in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Resources for raising pro-life children
American Life League’s educational resources include these items which are appropriate for instilling pro-life attitudes in children:
• The Fulton J. Sheen prayer card (available in English and Spanish), featuring a beautiful illustration of Mary and Baby Jesus, and on the reverse, Archbishop Sheen’s prayer for children in danger of being aborted:
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
I love you very much.
I beg you to spare the life
of the preborn baby
that I have spiritually adopted,
who is in danger of abortion.
• Life is a Miracle: Families Celebrate March 25, The Feast of the Annunciation (A Day Honoring Babies in the Womb)—A booklet presenting many activities designed for families, children, and classrooms. It includes information about relevant books, videos, songs, prayers, and more.
• Baby Steps: Live from the Womb—A DVD featuring amazing and inspiring 4-D ultrasound imagery of preborn babies in action, from gestational ages of eight to 34 weeks; available in eight languages.
• A number of other educational resources produced by ALL might be suitable for older children and teens, but parental discretion is always advised. For example, parents might wish to share these pro-chastity brochures: A Letter to My Future Wife and A Letter to My Future Husband (available in English and Spanish). Or the fold-out brochure My Secret Life, which beautifully illustrates and explains all of the stages of prenatal development, but also explains abortion methods and includes two photos of aborted babies.
You can order online from ALL’s Resource Department or by calling 866-538-5483 toll-free.