What to do When Praying the Family Rosary Isn’t all Sunshine and Rainbows

I’m a huge believer in the power of praying the rosary as a family.

It really does reap so many amazing benefits and graces and it has honestly been transformational in my own spiritual life. (If you’re curious, I talk more about my family’s personal experiences in this blog post: Here’s What Happens When a Normal Family Starts to Pray the Rosary Daily.)

In case you’re wondering what’s so great about the family rosary (especially if you’re already in the habit of praying the rosary on your own) here is a short list of why your family should pray the rosary:

Why Your Family Should Pray the Rosary

  • It is “the Bible on beads”. By meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, your family is learning about the entire life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Lord.

  • It builds a strong family bond. As Father Peyton (the founder of Holy Cross Family Ministries, also known as the “rosary priest”) famously said, “The family that prays together, stays together.”

  • St. Pope John Paul II wrote in “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” his 2002 apostolic letter on the rosary, that the rosary is “a prayer of and for the family.”

  • The Rosary is simple. The prayers are short and repetitive and anyone can pray them anywhere. It’s also easy for kids to memorize and participate even before they can read.

  • It will bring peace to your home. St. Pius X said, “If you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family rosary.”

  • The world and the devil are arrayed against faithful Catholics--praying the Rosary together gives your family a much better chance of remaining faithful.

But despite how awesome the family rosary can be...it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

I’ll be the first to admit that it can be extremely difficult to build this practice into your life--or to feel as though its bearing any fruit at all...

Especially when one of your children is using their rosary as a whip on their siblings (who are practicing somersaults in the middle of the floor) during the family rosary...not that that’s ever happened to me of course…

But in the purely hypothetical situation that you also happen to have perfectly normal kids and a perfectly normally family who finds praying the rosary together to be difficult, I thought perhaps you could benefit from some of the following tips to help make it *slightly* easier:

Tips and Best Practices for Praying the Rosary

  • Start before you’re perfect (because you will never be perfect on this side of heaven!) So just start! Even if you:

  • Don’t have all the prayers memorized

  • Don’t have the “perfect” rosary to use

  • Are tired, stressed, frazzled, etc.

  • Don’t feel any warm fuzzy feelings towards God or Mary at the moment

  • Prioritize making it a positive experience. This is way more important than doing it “right” or that the kids sit still or participate perfectly. Focus on letting it be a time of snuggles and love--this is how you are teaching your kids about God’s love. You want them to look back on the family Rosary with warmth and gratitude and not resentment!

  • It doesn’t have to be the whole family the whole time. Toddlers and babies can be in bed, or only there for part of the time, or wander in and out, or play with quiet toys on the floor, etc.

  • Let the kids lead the decades as soon as they are able to--this will really help foster participation and let them be a bigger part of it--even if they can’t do it perfectly and need a lot of assistance.

  • Have the person leading the decade pray the first part of the prayer and everyone else prays the response. This “call and response” format really helps to keep the kids engaged.

  • If kids have questions during the rosary (and you have the time for it) it’s fine to spend a little time between the decades talking about what the mysteries mean in more depth. For instance, on the 1st Joyful Mystery, the kids might wonder what the word “annunciation” means and you can explain simply that it's when the Angel Gabriel “announces”, or formally tells Mary that she will be Jesus’s Mom.

  • If you don’t know something, it's okay to say you don’t know! Make a point to write down the question that your child has (or that you have!) and try to look it up before the next family Rosary

  • Set a time that makes sense and stay as consistent as possible. When is there a natural lull in your day that your family can all be together? For our family this tends to be in the evening after the kid’s baths but right before bedtime stories. By keeping a consistent time and place it will be much easier to build the habit.

  • Remember that the devil hates you, your kids, your marriage, Mary, and especially the Rosary. So go ahead and expect to feel some opposition. Expect that you will almost never feel like praying the Rosary before you start and you will be reminded of a million other things you “need” to do right at the time you have designated for the Rosary. Pray for the grace to push through all of that. If the Rosary wasn’t such a powerful weapon against sin and the devil, it would be easy.

  • Remember the words of the “Our Father” and be merciful! Your kids are probably going to get on your nerves at some point during the Rosary. They might grumble, fight with each other, speed-pray, mumble-pray, throw things...you name it. They’re human and that’s normal for kids. Your job is to forgive them and keep your cool.

  • If your spouse isn’t Catholic, ask him/her to still sit with you during the Rosary. This will build solidarity for the kids and reinforce that it’s a family activity. And honestly, Mary’s been known to work a few miraculous conversions! If they refuse, don’t let it become a huge argument--just gently ask again from time to time, and when you do, emphasize how important it is for you to pray the Rosary together as a family.

  • Insist that all TVs, phones, tablets, etc. be turned off during the family Rosary Some wireless routers can even be set to turn off at certain hours to help enforce this!

  • It should only take about 20 minutes to pray the whole Rosary, depending on how many questions that kids have. It’s okay to answers questions, but try not to go down too many rabbit holes or it will take much longer than you may have allotted for the Rosary (Typically 5 mysteries of the Rosary can be prayed in about 20 minutes, maybe a little longer on the first few days when everyone is still learning how to do it).

  • You will wonder sometimes if it is even worth doing because sometimes it will be so rough and chaotic with little kids--YES! It is! Just trust Our Lord and Our Lady here.

  • Expect your kids to complain. Because they're kids, and let’s face it, kids complain about doing things that are good for them (eating vegetables, going to bed on time, doing homework, brushing teeth...the list goes on!) Just because they're complaining doesn’t mean you shouldn’t insist on the family rosary. After all, you wouldn’t let them not brush their teeth if they were complaining about it, would you?

  • Be no-nonsense, non-negotiable, and non-emotional about announcing when it’s time to pray the Rosary. This will help diffuse power struggles. You don’t need to yell or be mean at all, but you also don’t want to invite any negotiation. The more calm and matter-of-fact you can be, the better (of course, this applies to so much of parenting, but it's also useful here!)

  • It's okay--and recommended--to let everyone sit comfortably, preferably in a circle or semicircle shape (like on comfortable chairs and couches in the living room). You do not need to force everyone to kneel the whole time--or at all. The idea is to make the experience as pleasant as possible so it's something that the family will look forward to. Personally, I usually sit on our couch with my feet up and the kids take turns climbing in and out of my lap or snuggling me. Since it's usually the first time I’ve sat down all afternoon, I relish the chance to relax a bit with my family and it helps me look forward to Rosary time.

  • Keep the lights low: dim them, use soft lamplight, light candles, etc. This will help everyone (adults included) to settle down and relax a bit during the Rosary

  • Use scented candles or an essential oil diffuser to create a nice atmosphere. We usually have a scented candle that we’ll light just before the rosary to help make it more pleasant. As an added bonus, kids who are well-behaved during the rosary may get to snuff or blow out the candle. Kids tend to love fire, so this turns out to be a pretty good incentive for a lot of little kids!

  • Don’t criticize your children or your spouse for how they participate or don’t participate or for any other way they are praying the rosary “wrong”. If you browbeat and scold I can guarantee no one will want to pray the Rosary and you’ll inadvertently shoot yourself in the foot. Remember to prioritize keeping the experience positive!

I don’t have an awful lot of tips on praying the family rosary with older kids and teens, since my kids are all still fairly little, but I’d love to hear about any experiences you may have in the comments.

Finally, you can do this! May God richly bless you and your family and may Our Lady shower you with graces!

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