Examination of Conscience for Kids
Appropriate for Elementary School Children
Children of course have a very limited ability to examine their conscience, but with a parents help, they can develop real ways to avoid recommitting their sins.
It is perfectly acceptable for a child to create a simple list of their sins. A child should list every sin they can recall since most children can only come up with two or three sins on their own. However, reviewing the commandments with your child and how they broke some of them, will enlighten them to their sins. But most importantly spending the time to give your child real ways they can avoid committing those same sins again is invaluable.
Children don’t commit mortal sin. Once they are old enough to commit a mortal sin, this examination of conscience isn’t appropriate. For children, confession is about understanding they sin and offend God, knowing their sins, learning how to avoid the sins they commit and most importantly, understanding that God forgives them, through the sacrament of reconciliation, if they are truly sorry. These habits we teach our children will stay with them through their lives, but they must be consistently practiced to develop. We don’t want children growing up thinking God is a tyrant who is going to banish them when they do wrong. We want the children to know God loves them, even when they sin, and He wants to help them avoid sin and to strive for holiness by praying to God for help and by working hard to obey His commands. Also, remind the children that committing these sins is normal…they aren’t horrible because they do. They simply need to strive to not commit them any more. Through prayer, a plan and practice (The 3 P’s). Pray to God for help. Make a plan to avoid those sins. Practice the plan before the temptation develops.
For example: Johnny, who is 8, hits his brother when he is mad at him for taking the TV remote away.
Explain to Johnny, being angry with his brother is a sin and God calls him to be patient and tolerant of his brother’s imperfections. Then tell Johnny, “God never wants us to hurt others when we are not happy with what they do”. And that, “Nothing good comes from doing something bad.” Now tell Johnny what he can do, that is good, the next time his brother takes the TV remote away. You can tell Johnny pray before he watches TV for the strength to not become angry with his brother since his brother always takes the remote when he is watching the TV. Teach Johnny to go to God for help before an anticipated problem arises. Then role play with Johnny. Sit down with him. You can pretend to be Johnny and Johnny can be the antagonist (the brother). Have Johnny watch what you do (what he should have done), then switch roles and have Johnny practice using his words and praying for his brother offering up his difficulties and ultimately being silent when his brother miss treats him. Now, don’t expect miracles…for some children, actually implementing any of the suggestions takes quite some time. After you role played the event and Johnny practiced doing what you exampled, ask Him what he would do the next time his brother took away the remote. He won’t say all of the coping methods you gave him, but he should remember one of them…now the next time his brother takes the remote remind Johnny of the one coping skill you gave him so he can actually live. Always remember to remind him to pray, even if he forgets.
Ten Commandments for Kids