We started praying the rosary almost 6 years ago. During that period we had a 3 year old daughter, 2 year old son and a 6-month old baby. I also had a husband who didn't know any of the prayers. We started saying it for lent as a suggestion from my mother, because she knew we were under a lot of stress and struggling.
Here are a few tips that were helpful to us when we started praying as a family.
1. Start small and go slow
Quality is more important than quantity.
When you are first starting out I would suggest maybe trying a decade of the rosary. (If you don't know how to say the rosary you can follow along here)
When we first started we were staring at our phones so we knew each of the prayers and especially the meaning of each mystery. We also would have our children recite the prayer after we said it, going very slowly. Our children eventually had the prayers memorized after a few months.
2. Find a ritual that lets them know family prayer time is about to begin
This could be lighting a candle, ringing a bell, using incense or playing light music.
3. Hold hands
In the beginning, especially when they were little, we would have them hold hands. It makes everyone feel connected and they are less inclined for at least 30 seconds to start running all over the place.
4. Ask everyone who or what they would like to pray for when you start
This gets kids excited and it also lets you know what is on everyone's mind. Including the mind of your spouse. Sometimes the days are so busy I may not have been informed that my grandfather-in-law was having surgery that day.
5. Let them choose their spot where they can be still and quiet
This can be a blanket, a chair, a couch, a piece of wood, or even sitting on a rock.
6. Do not expect perfection and try to be positive
We do not expect our children to say it perfectly but we do expect them to be respectful. I try to focus more on myself and my behaviors, because I believe what registers for my kids is not what I say but what they see.
7. Set some boundaries
This will vary depending on your family and children, but you want them to be quiet and still if possible. Kids are wiggly, so we let our kids 5 and under move about as long as they are quiet. We also have a 3-strike rule and you are out. Which means you go to bed or you miss out on dessert or some type of consequence. We try not to be too harsh because we want prayer time to be somewhat peaceful.
8. It is ok if it feels awkward
Prayer is very intimate, and when you don't know exactly what you are doing it is ok if you feel a little weird.
9. You can pray anywhere, but I suggest a location with less distractions
You can pray the rosary in the car, in your home, while walking, or sometimes we FaceTime grandma and grandpa to join us for moral support.
10. Let your children lead
If your children are old enough to read you can have them lead some of the prayers. When we first started this wasn't possible with our kids. But eventually when they have memorized the prayers they can lead a decade. We have found they can be more engaged when leading.
11. It is ok to change up your method
In the last 6 years we have changed it up a lot. There are a variety of other methods that work.
Here are some other ways of introducing the rosary:
- Youtube videos - the visuals help really explain the mystery, but I would advise making sure your children are old enough because the sorrowful mysteries are intense and a lot for children. We really enjoy Father Patrick Peyton's videos - link
- Coloring sheets
- 10-minute quiet meditation where you state the mystery you want them to focus on
- Use each bead to have them tell you what they are grateful for
- Have a child FaceTime another family member and recite it with them
- You can incorporate chocolate chips and once they have recited the prayer for that bead they can eat the chocolate chip
- Let your kids write cards to a loved one who is sick or hurting
- Let them walk and play follow the leader as you recite the prayers