A lot of times, Catholic parents would love to say the Rosary with their kids, but the moment they start, the kids (much younger ones) either begin to get everyone distracted or whip both their Parents and themselves with the Rosary, while the older ones groan and roll their eyes because they seem to get bored.
Here are a couple of insights or strategies that would help you pray the rosary with your kids, and as a family.
For Younger Children
1. Get them kid-friendly ones.
If you’re praying with children too tender to follow directions, say the rosary without the aid of rosary beads because very young children may end up whipping them around. When your kids are old enough, purchase a durable, kid-friendly rosary, such as a cord rosary, that is, if you really want your baby or toddler to have a rosary like everyone else or if you just want to keep them distracted long enough for you to say it, consider getting the Chews Life rosary which is made out of food-grade silicone.
2. Take a step at a time.
Praying one decade of the rosary should take a little longer than five minutes, and be sure to introduce the mystery in advance. Meditate on a different mystery each time, so that you eventually work your way through all the mysteries.
3. Shorten the decades for toddlers
Say the entire rosary, but only say three Hail Mary prayers for each decade. This is a good way of introducing your younger children to the order of the mysteries and the rhythm of the entire rosary. Plan on spending about fifteen minutes.
4. You can use pictures to aid meditation.
Find pictures from online or a book illustrating each mystery of the rosary. Display the pictures as you briefly explain and then pray each mystery. Young children can follow the rosary by looking at the pictures (one per bead), and older children can use it to help them learn the prayers. If you don’t want to invest in books, pull together pictures on your own.
5. Set a prayerful mood.
Before you begin the rosary, set the mood by singing a Marian hymn, or practicing a few seconds of silence.
6. Ignore the kids and pray or use the reverse psychology
This is a way you can use to motivate your kids to say the Rosary with you by telling them to do the opposite of what you want them to do. If your children act up while you are praying, ignore them as best as you can and pray the rosary yourself. Someday, your kids will “grow into” the practice, and in the meantime, Mary, mother of us all, surely sympathizes. Pray the rosary by yourself, or with your spouse. Tell your kids that mom and dad are going to have their “rosary time,” shove them away and before long, your kids would be saying the rosary because they want to.
For Older Children And Teens
In addition to the ideas above, consider the following for your older kids:
7. Make your own cord rosaries.
Teens have been crafting their own knotted and dyed rosaries from nylon cord since the 1980s.
8. Introduce the rosary as a form of meditation.
As Pope Paul VI says in the quote above, the rosary becomes an empty ritual if it is nothing more than the repetition of words. Instead, take time to introduce each of the mysteries very intentionally, and go over the principles of meditative prayer with your kids. You may also find that introducing other forms of meditative and imaginative prayer—and mixing up the way you pray together as a family—supports and enhances your practice of praying the rosary. Once you’ve introduced the principles of meditative and imaginative prayer so that kids have an idea of what they’re aiming for, slow it down. Racing through the rosary, as several Popes have pointed out, is not ideal. If time is an issue, then try praying a single decade slowly and meditatively.
9. Get older kids and teens to lead.
Research shows that the more agency we give kids around religious practices, the more likely they are to retain and integrate those practices into adulthood. Letting your kids lead the prayer is always a good idea, with appropriate support and guidance, so don’t hesitate to let kids lead the rosary with the help of an appropriate resource. You might begin while they’re younger by inviting them to offer their own intentions.
10. Pray the Scriptural Rosary.
As the name implies, the Scriptural rosary incorporates very brief, relevant Scripture readings before each Hail Mary; for example, the first joyful mystery, the Annunciation, would be interspersed with lines from Luke 1, taking the reader through the Biblical account of the Annunciation. You can purchase a Scriptural rosary book, or find different versions online. Alternatively, focus on one mystery (and pray one decade) at a time over the course of a month, reading the corresponding Scripture before praying the decade slowly and meditatively.
11. Pray with music.
Try praying with soft instrumental music playing in the background; alternatively, preface each mystery with the relevant song from Catholic artist Danielle Rose’s excellent Mysteries, in which she has composed a gently meditative song with appealing contemporary styling for each mystery of the rosary. You can get it on Amazon.
12. Pray the rosary for your kids.
If all else fails, and you just can’t convince your older kids or teens to say the rosary with you, then pray it for them. As you pray, focus on entrusting your kids to the intercession of Mary and the care of her Son, and ask for the humility and grace you need to be a good parent.
Be creative in your family practice of praying the rosary…and be persistent. As Pope John Paul II says, “If the Rosary is well presented, then young people will once more surprise adults by the way they make this prayer their own and recite it with the enthusiasm typical of their age group.”