It’s that time of year again—Lent! It’s a special time of grace for us. If you have kids, you are probably already thinking of ways to help them understand Lent better. Here are a few ideas to help with your Lenten planning.
Keep the focus on Jesus
No matter what type of Lenten activities you choose, always keep the focus on Jesus. This is the most important thing. In Lent parents can explain to children how much Jesus loves us. He gave his life for us on the cross in order to bring us to eternal life.
With small children, a simple, age-appropriate explanation about the cross is fine. Stress that Jesus died out of love for us and he rose again to bring us to heaven. Tell them that the things we do in Lent are important because they are ways that we can show our love for Jesus in return.
If you have older children, you may wish to bring them to church and make the stations of the cross. The stations are a beautiful way to tell kids about Jesus’ death. You can draw simple lessons from the stations to help the children understand how they can imitate Jesus. For example, in the eighth station Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem. You can say that even though Jesus was suffering, he still thought about the needs of other people.
Another excellent practice is to bring children to church to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, if they are old enough for that. You can help them to prepare by going through a simple examination of conscience at home. Explain that Jesus is very merciful and forgives all their sins through this wonderful sacrament.
Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving
Broadly speaking, the three Lenten practices that the Church urges us to do during Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Family prayer is a great way to help kids live Lent. Sunday Mass is the most important prayer time of the week. Bringing children to church for Mass is essential to their life of faith.
Prayer times as a family are also very important. Praying the rosary together is a good way to not only observe Lent, but also to instill love for Mary in children. If they can’t get through the whole rosary, at least pray a decade. It’s simple and only takes a few minutes.
Another idea is to make a simple prayer jar or box. You and the kids can write prayer intentions on small slips of paper, then put them in the jar or box. At the end of Lent you can read the intentions together and thank God for the ways he has answered your prayers.
The purpose of fasting is to help us be moderate in eating so as to be more open to the workings of God in our life. Children need to eat enough healthy food, so the aim is not to deprive them of that. But you could encourage them to give up something they like but don’t really need, like candy. You could also encourage them to eat something they might dislike but that is healthful for them, like broccoli or another vegetable.
On Fridays of Lent, the Church asks Catholics, starting at age fourteen, to refrain from eating meat. You can explain to the older children that this is a way of showing our love for Jesus, since on Fridays we remember his great love in giving his life for us.
While almsgiving is usually thought of in terms of giving money to the needy, it can include any kind of work of mercy done for others. There are many possibilities, and the best way is to start at home. You can encourage children to help their family members in small ways, such as taking out the trash, cleaning the house, being kind to each other instead of getting irritated over things.
In all this, the purpose of Lent is not to take on so many extra things that we get over burdened. Instead it is to grow in love for Jesus and for others. Then when Easter comes, our hearts will be ready to rejoice with the risen Lord!
For more ideas for Lenten activities, check out https://www.thereligionteacher.com/lent-activities/.
Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life,
form yourself in me,
that I may see with your eyes,
smile with your smile,
and love with your heart.
Mary, our Mother, Teacher, and Queen,
pray for us.
Article by Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP