For many of us in North America, the school year is coming to an end. The end of school offers the opportunity to note growth and accomplishment in all of us, most notably in the lives of our children. This a good time to review our children’s growth and celebrate with them the positive ways we have seen them change.
Schools often present awards at the end of the year, offering students certificates celebrating perfect attendance, most improved in certain curriculum areas, best at ____, etc. Those achievements are important, and should be noted, especially in a school context. But there are even more important ways for a child to improve than curriculum and attendance. As Orthodox Christian parents, we should be evaluating and celebrating our children’s spiritual growth. The end of a school year is a great time to do so! Let us take a little time to think about each child and note their growth in the virtues, which is one way to measure their growth in The Faith. In what ways have our children become more virtuous?
Not sure where to start? Check out our recent blog posts on the virtues (see https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/, the beginning of the series), which were focused on our own personal growth in each virtue. Each of these blog posts can offer us helpful information about the virtue on which it focuses, which we can then apply as we think about each child. How have they grown in humility, liberality, chastity, mildness, temperance, happiness, and diligence? Which of these virtues do they best exemplify in their life? In which virtue have they grown the most?
Once we parents have answered some of the above questions together, it would behoove us to find a way to acknowledge our observation of our children’s growth. It could be as simple as setting aside time with each child to privately encourage them and congratulate them on their growth in this area. Or perhaps we could gather as a family for a “virtues awards” ceremony, wherein we note and celebrate each child’s growth in a family context.
If we choose to do an official “ceremony” with our family, we can begin the discussion by showing our child(ren) a picture of them from the beginning of the school year and compare it to how they look now. We can talk a bit about how they’ve grown physically this year. We should mention other things they’ve learned over the course of the year (for example, how to ride a bike or play lacrosse or cook dinner). We should discuss academic growth as well, including the awards they’ve gotten at school. At this point, we can segue into a discussion of the children’s growth in the virtues. We can take time with each virtue as it applies to each child or we can talk about each child in turn and celebrate all the virtues in which we have noted growth for that child. Perhaps we will want to present the children with a tangible award celebrating their growth in the virtues, such as a certificate, a playful token representing the virtue in which they’ve grown, or a donation to a charity of the child’s choice in honor of their spiritual growth. How we choose to acknowledge the growth will vary by family and the parents’ creativity! The important thing is that we are noticing the growth and encouraging our children to continue to grow in virtue!
Annually evaluating our children’s spiritual growth throughout their childhood will help them to understand how important it is to improve in holiness. Perhaps this annual celebration of growth will instil in our children the need to regularly evaluate their own growth, even as they get older. (It could also be that, at some point along the way, our children will begin to offer us, their parents, awards in areas of virtuous growth, as well!) At any rate, celebrating the good things that are happening in the spiritual lives of each family member will have a positive effect on all involved. When others see the good that is happening in us and acknowledge it, it makes us want to press on – and become even more godly!
Here are ideas of tangible awards for each of the virtues, in case you want something to give to your children and need ideas. (Of course, you can choose to do just a verbal award, or perhaps you’d rather give a donation to the charity of your child’s choice in lieu of one. You know – and can do – what is best for your family!)
Ideas for an award for the virtue of Humility:
This printable certificate: Humility Certificate
This playful “award”: a slinky, some silly putty, or a container of slime. All three seek to return to the lowest point, just as we should continually try to be completely humble.
Ideas for an award for the virtue of Liberality:
This printable certificate: Liberality Certificate
This playful “award”: a pack of stickers or a large container of bubble solution – something that can be freely and easily shared, to continue practicing the virtue of liberality!
Ideas for an award for the virtue of Chastity:
This printable certificate: Chastity Certificate
This playful “award”: a playful bar of glycerin soap (perhaps with a toy embedded in it) or a kid-friendly liquid soap pump. Either offers a way to continue to keep (your hands, at least!) pure.
Ideas for an award for the virtue of Mildness:
This printable certificate: Mildness Certificate
This playful “award”: a stress ball or a liquid motion bubbler. Both are calming and can offer a way to remain mild in the face of an opportunity to be angry or anxious.
Ideas for an award for the virtue of Temperance:
This printable certificate: Temperance Certificate
This playful “award”: a box of cookies, fruit snacks, or other beloved treats that can offer the child the opportunity to continue to practice temperance.
Ideas for an award for the virtue of Happiness:
This printable certificate: Happiness Certificate
This playful “award”: a smiley face pin – actually, anything with a smile emoji on it! Wearing a smile will make others smile as well, and will remind you to continue to choose to be happy.
Ideas for an award for the virtue of Diligence:
This printable certificate: Diligence Certificate
This playful “award”: a hoola hoop, jump rope, or puzzle. Whichever your child would enjoy the most, while working at it and being reminded to keep trying and not to quit!