Introduction
Introduction
Birth to 6 Months
6 to 24 Months
3 to 6 Years
6 to 9 Years

Alphabits

Alphabits is a project funded, in part, by the St. John Paul II fund for religious education and youth ministry. The purpose of the project is to help parents understand their roles as “first teachers in the ways of faith” (footnote to Catholic Rite of Baptism).

By 2025, which is the year when the youngest Alphas are born, Generation Alpha will account for 2 billion of the global population. These children of millennials and late Gen X-ers are very different than generations before them.

To help them grow in their faith, we need to start earlier than ever – and since many millennials have drifted away from their own faith – it will take all of us to make a difference in the lives of young people today.

Each age group is separated into three sections, mirroring the theme of The Leadership Institute:

Encounter
Encounter is rooted in the experience of the person of Jesus Christ and is intended to help young people encounter Jesus at home and in their community.
Formation
Formation includes how young people can learn more about their faith.
Discipleship
Discipleship requires us to live our faith. At a very early age, young children will need to be accompanied by caring adults who can show them how to live a life of discipleship. Eventually, the example set for them will become their own way of life. In time, the young children will grow into disciples and accompany others.

Birth to 6 Months

Encounter
  1. Create a family environment that is warm, loving, safe, and peaceful.
  2. Provide for the child’s basic physical needs like food, sleep, clean diapers, baths and exercise.
  3. Develop and maintain a dependable schedule for daily routines, especially at waking, eating, transitions and bedtime.
  4. Take time to touch, hold, cuddle, talk and play with your child.
  5. Avoid loud noises, music or behavior which can be disturbing to your child.
  6. Avoid circumstances in which your child sees or hears your frustration, anger, fear or disappointment get out of control.
Formation
  1. If you haven’t already, attend a pre-Baptism class and discuss your responsibilities as your child’s first teachers with your priest and/or deacon.
  2. Make sure you discuss your expectations with the child’s Godparents. What role do you want them to play in the spiritual development of your child?
  3. Spend time in prayer, giving thanks to God for the gift of your child and asking for the strength for the journey ahead.
  4. Grow in your own faith. Attend Mass together as a family. As you plan your child’s Baptism, invite others to celebrate this milestone with you. If possible, have your son or daughter baptized within the context of Mass so the entire community can be a part of your child’s special day.
  5. Continue to learn about your faith. Read a book, watch some videos, take a class (online, after the baby is in bed), and continue to struggle with the questions you might have about your faith.
  6. Remember the baptismal promises you made to your child before God and the parish – to accept the responsibility of training your child in the practice of faith. You are part of the beautiful promise of God to be faithful to all generations.
  7. Be a strong link that allows the passing on of faith from one generation to the next through actively engaging in your faith.
  8. Find a “Mommy and Me” in your area or start one at your church where mothers of young children can gather for play, conversation and formation.
Discipleship
  1. Bless your child on the forehead every night. Ask God to bless him/her with a rest that is free of worry or fear.
  2. Choose child care options that are consistent with your personal and spiritual values.
  3. Take positive steps to resolve conflicts between you and your spouse which can have a negative impact on your child.
  4. Take immediate steps to remove your child from circumstances in which they are in danger of being emotionally or physically abused.
  5. Display and explain signs and symbols of faith such as statues, pictures.
  6. Invite your child’s Godparents to be part of your child’s life through including them in celebrations and encouraging them in the building up of faith in your family.
  7. Welcome others members of your parish into your family, connecting your child with others who are actively living their faith. This will create a fabric that will help your child to remain connected to his or her faith.

6 to 24 Months

Encounter
  1. Encourage your child’s initiative and curiosity; reward effort more than success.
  2. Model an attitude of wonder and gratitude about human life and nature.
  3. Limit your child’s exposure to electronic media, including television and DVDs.
  4. Invite extended family members like grandparents, aunts and uncles, godparents and good friends to participate in the care of your child.
  5. Give your child an opportunity to make simple choices which are appropriate for his or her age and development.
  6. Limit children’s exposure to conflicting values and lifestyles depicted on TV, other media, and advertising.
Formation
  1. Talk to your child; name and explain what your child is observing or doing to the extent that he or she is able to understand.
  2. Tell or read your child stories that help your child learn about themselves, people and the world around them.
  3. Tell or read bible stories adapted for very young children and other simple children’s stories with faith themes, bible heroes, saints, and examples of Christian values.
  4. Model a routine for your personal prayer, study and spiritual growth as an individual and as a couple.
  5. Participate in formation, education and spiritual enrichment programs for adults and parents.
  6. Teach children to share, to be fair, and to be honest with friends and playmates.
  7. Teach children to respect nature as part of God’s creation.
  8. Teach your child the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior toward themselves and others.
  9. Accept your child’s natural curiosity about human bodies, but teach them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior and touch.
  10. Be patient with your child’s behavior. Correct misbehavior by re-directing it toward more appropriate behavior.
  11. Encourage and praise your child’s efforts to learn and grow; do not set unrealistic expectations by comparing your child to siblings or other children.
Discipleship
  1. Encourage your child to express himself or herself with music, song, arts, crafts and play.
  2. Provide a good balance between structured and free play.
  3. Use simple prayers at meals and bedtime; invite your child to participate when they are able.
  4. Use religious symbols and objects (candles, pictures, statues, etc.) in family prayer and celebrations; explain these to your child to the extent that they are able to understand.
  5. Use simple blessings or prayers for special family occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
  6. Establish family rituals to celebrate religious seasons and events like Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, feast days and holy days.
  7. Adapt or develop family customs and traditions which express religious faith and values.
  8. Establish a routine for your personal prayer, study and spiritual growth as an individual and/or as a couple.
  9. Read scripture as a family and discuss it together.
  10. Make an effort to resolve any conscious or unconscious conflicts you have with the Church.
  11. Model an example of church attendance and participation.
  12. Sit up front with your child and help him or her to focus on what is happening during Mass. Most priests are very welcoming to families. Only use the cry room if absolutely necessary.
  13. Talk about Mass afterwards and share ways that God spoke to you through His Word, the Homily, or in other ways.
  14. Encourage other families with newborns by reaching out to them, speaking to them at Mass and getting to know them.
  15. Model appreciation and respect for social, cultural and economic differences among people.
  16. Model an example of concern, respect and service to others, especially the less fortunate.
  17. Model times of personal prayer for your child and encourage them to pray to God in their own words.
  18. Model an expectation of experiencing the supernatural. Ask, seek and knock in persistent prayer and, expect that prayers are heard and will be answered by God. Witness to your child about His work in your life.

3 to 6 Years

Encounter
  1. Establish a family atmosphere that is secure, loving and forgiving.
  2. Cultivate and model an attitude of wonder and gratitude about human life and nature.
  3. Develop parenting styles which reflect Catholic/Christian convictions about the dignity and value of every person.
  4. Choose child care options that are consistent with your personal and spiritual values.
  5. Invite extended family members (grandparents, aunts and uncles, Godparents, friends) to participate in the care and faith formation of children.
  6. Set expectations for the child’s behavior which promote confidence and self-esteem.
  7. Encourage initiative and curiosity; reward effort more than success.
  8. Preserve family time and opportunities for one-on-one nurturing between parent and child.
  9. Participate in adult spiritual renewal and personal enrichment programs.
Formation
  1. Talk about God, Jesus, the church and your faith.
  2. Help children identify signs of God’s presence in nature and in their own life experiences.
  3. Explain signs and symbols of faith (e.g., the church, its furnishings, statues, pictures, etc.).
  4. Read/watch bible stories adapted for children and other children’s stories with faith themes, bible heroes, saints, and examples of Christian values.
  5. Limit children’s exposure to contrary values and role models on TV and other media.
  6. Enroll children in pre-school religious education programs.
  7. Teach children to share, to be fair, and to be honest with friends and playmates.
  8. Teach children to appreciate and respect nature as part of God’s creation.
  9. Limit children’s exposure to conflicting values and lifestyles depicted on TV, other media, advertising.
Discipleship
  1. Teach your child the Sign of the Cross; use simple prayers at meals and bedtime.
  2. Use simple blessings or prayers for special family occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, first and last-time events, life-changes and family problems).
  3. Use religious symbols and objects (candles, pictures, statues, etc.) in family prayer and celebrations.
  4. Celebrate religious seasons and events (Advent/Christmas, Lent/Easter, feast days, holy days).
  5. Adapt or develop family customs and traditions which express religious faith and values.
  6. Sing songs and tell stories; develop arts and crafts activities that express your faith and values.
  7. Model an example of church participation and an adult prayer life.
  8. Model appreciation and respect for social, cultural and economic differences among people.
  9. Model an example of concern, respect and service to others, especially the less fortunate.
  10. Model being the hands and feet of Jesus by engaging in service through the parish or community. Serve as a family, and discuss before, during and after that we serve others out of love for Christ and for our neighbor.

6 to 9 Years

Encounter
  1. Establish a family atmosphere that is encouraging, affirming, understanding and forgiving.
  2. Adjust parenting styles and discipline to the child’s developing ability and needs.
  3. Use family meetings to discuss and decide important family decisions and issues.
  4. Strive to balance time between family, work, school, sports, church and other responsibilities.
  5. Spend time individually with your child on a regular basis.
  6. Identify and invite other adults to serve as mentors for your child.
  7. Set expectations for children’s behavior that encourage cooperation, not competition; use mistakes and failure as opportunities to learn, not punish.
  8. Participate in parish activities for children and families.
  9. Participate in parenting education and enrichment opportunities.
  10. When necessary, get professional counseling for special needs, family or marriage problems.
Formation
  1. Enroll children in a formal religious education program (Catholic school, parish faith formation, etc.).
  2. Engage your child in discussions about the content of their religious education program. Reinforce the content and concepts at home and take time to connect with your child’s teacher. Demonstrate that you are a co-learner through their curriculum.
  3. Provide access to children’s bibles, books and videos with stories about Christian values and Christian heroes.
  4. Discuss the content of TV and other media in terms of Catholic faith and Christian values.
  5. Identify and explain basic concepts of Catholic faith and Catholic practice.
  6. Share your personal thoughts and convictions about God, faith, and church.
  7. Explain personal and family decisions in terms of your faith and moral values.
  8. Discuss Catholic/Christian values related to sexuality, money, time, death, and social justice.
  9. Participate in preparation for sacraments (First Reconciliation, First Communion).
  10. Participate in adult education and family education opportunities in the parish. Show your children that your own faith experience is as important as theirs.
  11. Teach children how to be good stewards of their time, friendship, possessions and money.
  12. Teach children to respect human life and the environment.
  13. Help children identify ways they can use their personal talents to help other people and protect nature.
Discipleship
  1. Use meals and bedtime as occasions for family and individual prayer.
  2. Help children learn traditional prayers and devotions by praying with them regularly.
  3. Invite children to participate in developing prayers and rituals for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, first and last-time events, life-changes, and family crises.
  4. Participate as a family in Sunday Eucharist and the other sacraments.
  5. After Mass, discuss the homily, scripture and your experience at Mass. Share a moment of insight you received so that your child comes to seek transcendence and feeding by the Word and the Eucharist.
  6. Commit to making Sundays special by spending time as a family, unplugged and active together.
  7. Celebrate religious seasons and feast days, especially Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter.
  8. Attend the Easter Triduum (Holy Week) services as a family.
  9. Participate in parish retreats or spiritual renewal programs.
  10. Adapt and practice some of your family’s religious customs and traditions.
  11. Identify and practice healthy ways to express powerful emotions like anger, fear, grief, and sorrow.
  12. Participate in liturgical ministries, when possible and age-appropriate.
  13. Participate as a family in service or social justice programs at school, in the parish or community.
  14. Give children opportunities to meet and appreciate people from other cultures, races, economic means and handicapped persons.