Our Catholic grade school is doing a penance service this Lent. Do young children really need to go to Confession? How much sin can they really have?
Ask any mom about her children, and see how many would say she has a brood of perfect angels! Parents know that kids do things that are wrong and they often know they're doing it! Even toddlers have a sense of right and wrong. The Church recognizes that their minds and consciences are not yet fully developed, however, and typically waits until age seven to offer the sacrament of Confession. Around that age and beyond, most young people, when asked, can easily explain why something is wrong.
Confession for children is an excellent way to help them reflect on their actions and accept responsibility for their behavior. It helps them to grow in their understanding of sin and how it affects others. This helps them to form their consciences and make better choices in the future. Most importantly, they learn the value of forgiveness, both given and received. Rather than singling out what's wrong, Confession offers hope and a new start! Children can grow in understanding God's unconditional love and develop a sense of inner dignity that transcends their failings. Not bad for five minutes and an "Our Father" or two!