As I have said in previous posts, First Communion is a critical and memorable step in a child’s life for faith. The sacrament marks the first time a child receives the body of Christ. Because of this sacred act, a child is required to prepare thoroughly - which can be a lot to ask of someone who is seven to nine-years-old. While a child may be looking forward to the actual mass and the thoughtful First Communion gifts that come on the special day, there is so much work ahead of that time!

A child preparing for First Communion is likely taking specialized classes or participating in retreats to help with the rigorous preparation, but parents and families should get involved as well. The most important thing you can do to help your child spiritually prepare for First Communion is by practicing patience. Patience is more important than any of the books, readings or projects. Without patience, a child is not given the space and support needed to trust in him or herself and their relationship with God. Your child is in particular need of patience at this time because the preparation requires a new level of independence and that can always require a period of adjustment. As a parent, you need to provide that loving foundation that will nourish all the other preparatory work.

Once parent’s patient support and love are established, there are several ways to assist with spiritual preparation for First Communion. Some of these would make wonderful First Communion gifts that you could give your child in advance.

If your school or church has given first communion assignments, then start to get involved. This is so easy to do because others have actually selected and vetted the content. All you need to do is engage with your child so that the learning is taken to the next level.

If your First Communicant loves art, you can make your own First Communion bookmark (perfect for child’s first Bible) or just purchase a pre-made First Communion activity book. Through the process of creation, some children really make those important spiritual and religious connections.

Just as some children learn by doing, others learn through words and reading. Cuddle up with your child during the First Communion process. Read something spiritual or religious together. Spark a discussion and connect the content to his or her First Communion. Even if the book is not spiritual or religious, you may be able to help him or her draw some important conclusions from shared reading - perhaps about independence or staying true to your beliefs. If you give a book as a First Communion gift ahead of the big day, it can also be used afterwards, time and time again.

Have some fun! Choose a spiritual or religious game or DVD. Sometimes these activities feel like a mental break for your child. But, if selected properly, a game or DVD can also be a preparation tool.

All of the above demonstrates that preparation will be different for each child. But it also demonstrates that spiritual preparation should also take varied forms for all children. In other words, kids need multiple avenues for learning - try one way and then another.

First Communion is a special time for you and your child. It is easy to focus on the day itself - the cake, the First Communion gifts, the procession - and miss all the opportunities for spiritual growth in the weeks and months leading up to First Communion.