Parental blessings are as old as humanity itself, beginning with the oldest patriarchs and throughout the old testament. Throughout history, it has been a custom to "lay hands" on one's child and bless them. This custom has been largely abandoned, unfortunately--even among many Catholics.
I grew up with at least part of this lovely tradition. My mom would place the sign of the cross on our foreheads before bed and before we or she would leave the house. I remember how safe and comforted I felt each time, and I still enjoy when she does it today.
It wasn't until I had my own children that I realized the full beauty and purpose of this parental blessing. I remember standing over my sleeping firstborn's bed, unable to leave the room for fear she might stop breathing at any moment, and realizing that for then and forever, I could not keep my babies safe. I would have to entrust my children to the Lord. I placed my hand on her head and asked the Lord to bless her and keep her safe as she slept, and our new family custom was born.
There is no set prayer you must pray to bless your child. You can use one of the standard prayers, "I bless you, my child, in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit," or "Lord, bless my Child, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," or you can make up you own that is specific to each situation.
You don't even have to say anything--although the words bring so much more meaning to the action--simply make the sign of the cross on their foreheads.
As hard as it is to accept, we cannot control what happens in our children's lives, especially when we are not with them. When I bless my children, I am actively entrusting my children to the Lord, asking that He protect them and guide them. It brings my children comfort as well, reminding them that God is with them, that the Holy spirit it guiding them and that their guardian angel is watching over them.
We should bless our children in the mornings and before bed and before we our they leave the house, but we could also bless our children before travel, during an illness, before a big test or game, and whenever else feels right. It is a beautiful, age old custom and who knows what blessings God will give our children if would simply ask for them.
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