Helping general conference become a meaningful experience for children is often a challenge. But it is important for children as well as adults to listen to and appreciate the words of our General Authorities. Here are some ideas from several families on how they get their children involved in general conference.
We believe it is very important to create the proper atmosphere for conference—a climate which says general conference is important. So, barring an emergency, watching the sessions is our first priority for the day. We tell our children of the importance of watching conference, so although they may not always choose to join us, they know that we expect them to respect our desire to listen and learn. If the little ones want to play near us, we welcome them. But we expect them to play quietly.
Our older children are expected to watch or listen to speakers of their own choice. It works well in our family to discuss the subject of the talks with our children at the completion of each session. We also suggest that the children listen with some question in mind: How can this talk help you in school, with your friends, or at work? How can you apply the ideas presented in this talk in your everyday life? What goals can you set to help you live the precepts given in the talk? What was the happiest part of the talk? What was your favorite part of the talk? The questions help focus our children’s attention and help make each session more meaningful. Craig and Kathleen Bradley, Salt Lake City, Utah
Our most important preparation for conference is an ongoing process of helping our children understand how important the General Authorities and general conference are. We pray for the President of the Church and keep pictures of Jesus and the First Presidency in the house. As we read articles about the General Authorities in the Church News or the Ensign, we share the information with our families. In this way, these men become real people to our family and we are more interested in hearing what they have to say.
We have six sons from the ages of three to thirteen. To make the days of conference happy ones—days we look forward to—we have to channel their active exuberance. So we plan a fun family work project or outing between Saturday sessions. We do our regular Saturday duties on Friday so there are no dull chores to be done that day. And we prepare fun, festive foods during the week before conference to give a holiday air to the two conference days.
We have found these activities a good incentive to help our family participate in conference. We have developed activity books to help our younger boys develop their own, more sophisticated method of taking notes. And our approach to conference helps us all remember the importance of listening to the words of our General Authorities. Kent and Marsha Richards, Salt Lake City, Utah
Before general conference, to help prepare our children, we take our Ensign photo sheet of all the General Authorities and review their names and positions. We want the children to be familiar with these men and their callings. If we know something personal about the man, we tell it to the children.
During the conference session, which we watch via satellite at the stake center, the children each have paper and pencil. They write down the speaker’s name, the speaker’s topic, and at least one story or example mentioned in the talk pertaining to the subject. (They usually write down more than one.) The little ones draw pictures of the speakers and write down something about the subject with a parent’s help. We have our Ensign photo sheet there too, and the children like finding the speaker’s picture.
On the family home evening following conference, we review the speakers and their talks with the aid of the notes taken. We find the understanding the children express encouraging. The children are more excited about conference, and the three oldest commented (without prompting) that they like this plan and think conference is lots more fun this way. Tom and Linda Walker, North Vancouver, British Columbia
We begin preparing our children for general conference by teaching them who the General Authorities are so they will recognize them as they speak. We bought a set of pictures of the General Authorities and have worked with the children to help them memorize the names and faces. Then during conference, we ask them to identify each speaker and find his picture in the set. During the talk one of our older children looks up the speaker in the Church almanac and reads his background. This helps the younger children learn something about the speakers and gain some appreciation for who they are and what the purpose of general conference is.
During the last year or so we have asked our older children to select at least one speaker from each of two sessions and take notes on his talk. Later I go over their notes with them and put the notes in a file I keep for each child.
We also try to make general conference day attractive to the children by doing something special when conference is over. For example, we sometimes have the children’s favorite dinner or make a special treat like doughnuts or crepes. Sometimes, too, we visit relatives or friends. John and Dianne West, Denver, Colorado
We try to limit our activities with our young children to one session. Then our children don’t become bored and dislike conference, and we don’t become frustrated because we are missing the spirit and inspiration of the talks.
During this one session with our children, we use “Our General Authorities” (Friend, Apr. 1977, pp. 23–25), a chart using a pulpit and pictures of the General Authorities, to help them focus on the individual speaker. Each of our three active preschool children also has a homemade booklet with blank pages. After each talk we discuss the message briefly with each child, write a summary in their book, and let them illustrate the idea.
Even with these directed activities, our children often become restless after a while. We then ask them to play quietly until the session is finished. Bill and Lisa Hansen, Payson, Utah
Our approach to helping our children enjoy and listen to conference has changed through the years as our children’s ages have changed and as our ideas have developed. Our conference activities have now become a cherished family tradition.
The original goal in our family’s early years was simply to keep the children in the room during the conference session. To do this, we gave a paper sack to each child containing special cut-and-paste activities. As the children grew older and were able to understand the talks better, we asked them to “take notes.” At first the notes consisted of two things—the speaker’s name and a short summary of his talk. For each talk they recorded they were awarded ten cents to be redeemed during the family home evening after conference at a nearby ice-cream store.
These one-page notes have grown into our family conference notebook. At present, each child is assigned to take notes, summarize the talk, draw the topic, or paste the speaker’s picture in the box provided on each page. (We copy the General Authority page of the previous conference issue of the Ensign for the pictures.) And we still continue our trips to the ice-cream store.
To make the day more enjoyable for our children, we have a special breakfast and give each child a bag of treats with the admonition to “make this last the two hours.” We also visit the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City sometime during the year and have pictures of the General Authorities in our home to help the children have a better understanding of the who and where of conference.
This method has worked well for our family. Just recently I heard my teenage daughter say words I never thought I’d hear—“I’m really looking forward to listening this time.” Michael and Maria Moody, Bountiful, Utah
Because all of our children are older—either teenagers or young adults—we have found conference to be a time of discussion and growth for the whole family. During each session each child has his or her own way of listening to the talks. Some take notes; others just listen attentively. Then, during meals following conference and at family home evening we discuss the insights we each gained from the talks and how they can help us improve our lives.
As a final project, we read the conference talks together on Sunday afternoons (or before Church if we are on an afternoon schedule). This approach has helped our family remember the words of our General Authorities and incorporate their messages into our lives. Miles and Karen Bachman, Los Angeles, California
(For further ideas, see Ensign, August 1983, p. 61, and Ensign, March 1984, p. 67.)