If you’re like my family growing up, in addition to any personal Lenten observances, you may be doing something as a family. For us, it was giving up sweets. Naturally, we hated it. My mom is a fabulous baker and boy did we feel the loss. To
this day, when we go to my parent’s house for a visit, my mom will ask if there’s anything in particular we’d like to have to eat. My mind always jumps to dessert first.
My parents did a great job explaining what Lent was and why we gave things up. My head was generally on board, but my child’s heart wasn’t quite there.
The concepts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are not beyond children, but these concepts often don’t seem to hit quite like we want them to. My siblings and I were often kept faithful to the penance through sheer force of parental will, not necessarily an overflowing love of Christ. That’s not entirely a bad thing; I certainly learned some discipline from the experience, but I don’t think I learned a lot about Christ.
Here are some tips to help your kids keep their eyes on Christ this Lent:
1) Encourage them to talk to him. When I unthinkingly reach for something I gave up in Lent, I try to say a quick prayer, reminding myself that Jesus is the actual fulfillment of all of my desires. If nothing else, you can have your children pray “Jesus, help me to remember you.” Even such a simple prayer helps keep the focus of Lenten devotion on Christ.
2) Talk about the Bible passages that are the origin of the season of Lent. Just looking at the Sunday readings will help with this, since the Church has already selected many key readings for you. Taking the time to talk about th
e readings, especially during the week, will help them connect their experience with that of God’s people throughout the ages,
3) Change up the observance. Many children (and adults) have a hard time really keeping engaged with a theme for 40 days. Nothing says you have to be doing the same exact thing for all 40 days. Ask your kids if they have a special prayer intention to focus on for a week, or three days, or even just one day. When they have a chance to really think about and own their Lenten prayer, fasting, and/or almsgiving, kids tend to be much more enthusiastic and willing, even when the Lenten practice is tough.
These tips have helped us keep our family focused on Christ during Lent, and hopefully they help yours as well. We’re always looking to improve, so if you have any tips for us, please put them in the comments!