Cover image via Gospel Media Library.
While adults may long for and excitedly anticipate the opportunity of cozying up at home and enjoying a relaxing weekend of five General Conference sessions back-to-back, our energetic, active children may not share in the same enthusiasm. How can we as parents help our children and ourselves be spiritually and physically prepared for a successful, spiritual feast?
If your kids are like mine, they live for holidays, parties and celebrations of any kind. So why not make conference weekend a holiday– prepare special foods your family loves, display a countdown chart, go outside and let the kids run wild between the sessions- take a picnic, decorate with pictures of the prophet, apostles, and other church leaders. Talk it up! Sometimes anticipating a holiday, is just as much fun as the holiday itself.
Kinesthetic children learn and listen best when their hands are busy. Invite your children to gather their favorite quiet time activities: coloring books, art supplies, clay, melty beads, playdough, hand crafts, etc.
We like to set out these activities the night before conference, it gets the kids excited! It’s like setting out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. Our kids all “pick their spot” where they will set up their supplies. Adding a few tasty snacks to each child’s pile only adds to the anticipation.
If you have young children who struggle sitting still, remember, they are learning so much from the spirit that attends conference. They might not understand all the words of conference, but they will FEEL that something special is taking place. They will come to love and enjoy this special holiday. They will appreciate the family time, the snacks, the fun, and the coloring. But most importantly, they will watch YOU. Your example and attitude of hearing our prophet’s words will remain with them.
One thing we’ve tried to teach our children is the concept of seeking after and finding GOLD! Just as a gold miner would pan for gold, they would sift through layers of sediment in hopes of striking it rich. We too can be like spiritual gold miners. As we listen to each talk, hymn, and prayer, we can pay close attention to those precious thoughts that speak to our soul. Those sacred moments of revelation when we feel the Holy Ghost teaching us and working in us, we strike gold! Share your gold nuggets with one another, how did you feel, what did you learn?
Just as a prospector wouldn’t set his precious gold aside, we too don’t lay aside spiritual impressions and experiences. We hold on to them tightly, so we don’t lose them. This is where a spiritual journal comes in to play. We make sure that our older children have a journal and a pen ready to go. We teach them that they need not write down pages and pages of word for word notes, but rather to write down their own personal gold nuggets that they receive from conference. We ask them to record the impressions they receive any other additional insights gained. How critical it is to teach our children HOW to receive personal revelation!
Julie B. Beck, former General Relief Society President stated:
“The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.”
In recent years as we’ve studied the Come Follow Me lessons, we have found these spiritual journals to be a wonderful tool in gaining revelation. Each day, I use a white board and write down the scriptures we will be studying. Each family member will then read their scriptures on their own. We invite the children to highlight their favorite verse(s) with a red pencil and then write in their journal, recording their thoughts.
As we gather together as a whole family, we invite each person to share their journals with us, we call these our gold nuggets. Our youngest boys, ages 7 and 9, listen to the audio version of the daily reading. They too highlight in their scriptures and come prepared to share their nuggets with us. The kids feel important and validated when we call upon them to share their words with the whole family.
Using journals has helped our children find deeper meaning in their daily reading. They come prepared to share. It is no longer the parents doing the teaching, but rather, the kids are all taking turns teaching one another. I’ve noticed that the kids’ journal entries have gotten much longer and more insightful, as they’ve practiced this habit of scripture study. I have come to love our family scripture time. I enjoy hearing my family members share their testimonies on a daily basis. I appreciate that they are teaching their siblings and getting the chance to share their spiritual thoughts. Most especially, I love that they are learning to SEEK for the gold. They are seeking for personal revelation.
As we listen to General Conference this upcoming weekend, encourage your children to bring with them a notepad and a pen. Model note taking and help your children learn to do the same. Conference is just one more excellent way of helping our children learn to receive messages from the Lord.
Now I understand from firsthand experience that listening to general conference with children in tow may not always be the most relaxing, reverent, and calming experience that parents may be hoping for. Conference weekend may require more energy, preparation, and patience from the parents, but as President Nelson taught us- “The Lord loves effort.” May the Lord bless your home and family as you put forth effort in bringing your children and yourself closer to Him this Conference weekend.