By: Kathleen Cosgrove
As the saying goes, time sure does fly. Lent has almost come, and it is time to reflect on our Lenten devotions and the mercy of God. For those of us with children, it can be difficult to know how to explain Lent. As adults, we are capable of understanding the suffering that Christ experienced and we spend the time between Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday thanking Christ for His sacrifice and mercy, trying to atone for our sins and following the Lenten pillars of prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving. For children, it can be difficult or tiresome to fully understand the grave themes of Lent. Remember to teach the principles of Lent at an age-appropriate level and that children learn best when they are actively participating! Here are ten suggestions for educating your children about Lent.
1. Making Family Sacrifices: Before Ash Wednesday, take the time to think of a family sacrifice together. It can be small, like giving up television on certain days. A group activity can introduce Lenten devotions to even small children and bring your family closer together.
2. Encouraging Charity: Catholics sometimes forget that almsgiving is a tenet of Lent; why not encourage all your children to give a small amount to a family donation box. Choosing a charity together is another way to help them realize how important it is to give to others at a young age.
3. Finding Role Models: Lent is the perfect time to introduce your children to the saints and their stories. It can be hard to follow through on sacrifices, but inspire your children with the great role models of the saints.
4. Teach the Stations of the Cross: The Stations of the Cross are a popular Lenten devotion, one that can be tailored to children of all ages. You can make an age appropriate version or find resources at your church or online.
5. Prayer Time: As a busy parent, scheduling prayer can be difficult, but Lent is the perfect way to begin. Learning how to pray with your children is rewarding and can be a habit you keep throughout the year.
6. Read the Bible: Children’s Bibles deliver God’s Word in an interesting way so children can understand it. Don’t let your Children’s Bible be a book that remains unread.
7. Cook Together: Lent has a rich, long tradition and history, and there are several favorite recipes to be made including hot cross buns and pretzels. Fish is traditionally cooked on Fridays in Lent, and has been for centuries. This is an especially fun way to educate and encourage kids in their Lenten devotions.
8. Make a Lent Calendar: There aren’t many Lenten Calendars to be found when Ash Wednesday rolls around, but making one together is a creative and exciting way for kids to learn about Lent and Holy Week. Talk about the symbols of Lent and have your children draw or design them.
9. Personalize a Game: Many games can easily have Lenten twists. Whether you play music with your kids, color together, or have a family game night, focus the game on Lent. Jelly bean games and Bingo are popular ways for kids to learn about Lent.
10. Follow Through on Your Lenten sacrifices: The most important way you can encourage your children to have a deep faith and love of Christ is to give them a good example. Follow your own resolutions and acknowledge when you haven’t. If you have an active prayer life, your kids will follow in your footsteps.