The recent emphasis on gospel teaching at home has many parents plagued with flashbacks of failed FHE nights. It always sounds good on paper (or in the lesson manual), but putting things into practice can be quite the feat. Here are five common obstacles to having a successful family learning time and how to overcome them:
Different Age Groups
Let’s face it—most families do not have a typical Primary or Sunday School class age span of a mere 12 months. You could have anything from toddlers to teens present for your home-taught gospel lessons. This range of ages definitely keeps you on your toes.
My biggest piece of advice is to prepare in advance.
While prayer and personal study is the number one way for parents to prepare, we also need to do everything within our power acquire teaching tools that we can use during the lesson. Some of these tools might include short inspirational videos, coloring pages, attention-grabbing activities and the ever-popular refreshments.
Parent/Child Communication Issues
Lots of kids go through stages where they might seem distant and hesitant to open up to their parents. During these times it feels hard to connect with them, especially in a group setting.
Taking the time to develop your relationship with your children one-on-one (outside of the family lesson time) will really pay off.
Make sure you take the time to ask them about their interests, concerns and feelings during these individualized moments. Once you have gotten a better idea of what their personal struggles are, your lessons will become more effective and relevant.
Home-centered gospel teaching may feel extremely foreign if your family is not used to sitting and chatting about spiritual subjects very often. Just like any habit, it may take some getting used to, as well as a lot of practice. In the beginning, this learning time may be only ten minutes long, but that’s okay.
It’s important that children associate positive interaction, not force and harsh attitudes, with gospel lesson time.
So make it short, make it to the point, and make it uplifting if you are just starting out.
Moans and Groans
If we approach gospel teaching time the wrong way, it can be met with moans and groans from the children. They might see it as boring or not as high a priority as other things in their lives.
One of the best ways to overcome this obstacle of bad attitudes is to put your children in the role of teacher.
Assigning them to give part of the lesson, whether it be the whole time or just a few minutes, will help make them much more understanding when they are again in the role of learner. Another way to overcome this situation is to simply address the new emphasis on home-centered gospel learning as made by President Nelson in the October 2018 General Conference. When children understand the “why” behind this special time, they will become more receptive to participating in it.
When we, as parents, have a pre-conceived notion of what the perfect lesson is going to look like and stop at nothing to make that happen, sometimes it can have disastrous results. I’m only mentioning this from experience.
Rather than rigidly enforcing behavior and stomping through possible teaching moments and enlightening tangents, we should simply “go with the flow.”
Kids can be inspired, too, right? If you have a lesson about using good language all ready to go and one of the kids starts asking a lot of questions about inappropriate movies or websites, then go with it! Even if your lesson “checklist” doesn’t end up with all the boxes filled in, if the Spirit guides your family, you can guarantee that the Lord’s checklist will be.
As parents, we are to be the prime gospel teachers and examples for our children—not the bishop, the Sunday School, the Young Women or Young Men, but the parents. As their prime gospel teachers, we can teach them the power and reality of the Atonement—of their identity and divine destiny—and in so doing give them a rock foundation upon which to build. When all is said and done, the home is the ideal forum for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.