By Anne Metz
Lent is the 40 day period before Easter. It is an important season because we are preparing to witness the death and resurrection of Jesus. But how do we impart Lent’s importance to our children while still keeping up with all the demands and daily tasks that come along with raising a family?
We’ve compiled a list of ideas to help you do just that using the traditional three pillars of Lent: almsgiving, fasting, and prayer. Pick and choose what works best for your family. Be sure to talk about the why behind each activity.
Almsgiving is the practice of giving money to help the poor and hungry. Work together as a family to set aside money and goods for those in need. Sacrifice some of your treats and luxuries and donate that money instead.
Here’s how to get the kids involved:
Have your child go through their toys and books and put some aside for kids in need. Take your child with you as you drop the items off at a local shelter.
I don’t think I can remember a Lent without a “rice bowl” on my kitchen table. Catholic Relief Services provides a cardboard box for you to deposit your change throughout the season. The money goes to help poorer nations. This project helps over 100 countries each year. If your parish does not give out rice bowls, you can get one here: https://www.crsricebowl.org/
Acts of Service
In addition to putting their spare change in the rice bowl, you can encourage your children to do acts of service to earn money to donate to those in need. Keep a list of extra chores they can choose, then pay them for their act of service.
Lent is the perfect time to up our prayer game. It can feel overwhelming to find time in our busy schedules to add in more prayer, but I promise, when you make time for God, He makes time for you.
Pray in the car
A super simple way to find time to pray during Lent is to pray in the car. Perhaps your family can start each car ride with a rosary, or if that feels too daunting, start with a single Hail Mary or an Our Father.
Go to adoration
Spending time with God in adoration is powerful! Make a weekly trip to an adoration chapel near you. You don’t need to make it a holy hour, especially if you have young children who may not be able to sit still and be quiet for that long. You can introduce them to this beautiful way of prayer in shorter periods. Even 5 minutes in front of the Blessed Sacrament is better than none.
Pray the Rosary
Another powerful form of prayer is the Rosary. If your family does not pray the Rosary regularly, consider adding it to your Lenten journey this year. A rosary does not take long, only about 20 minutes or so. Depending on the age of your children, you might need or want to break it up. Why not start with a decade each day? Brother Francis has some great resources on the Rosary that will help your children stay engaged.
Lent is also a time of fasting. Anyone 14 years of age or older is called to abstain from meat on Fridays. Healthy people ages 18 to 59 are called to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (per the USCCB). Many also choose to “give up” something for Lent. Fasting is doable in a busy family since it doesn’t add anything to your schedule at all.
On Fridays in Lent, have your children help you prepare the meal or set the table. Talk to them about why you are serving a meatless meal.
Give up something as a family
If you all give up the same thing, it will be a good bonding exercise for the entire family.
Skip screen time
A great thing to fast from during Lent is screen time. Pick a time of day or day of the week that your entire family will turn off their screens. Instead of looking at screens, do a puzzle, play a board game, or go for a bike ride. Enjoy that time with your family.
By adding in a few of these Lenten ideas, you’ll be creating a new tradition in your family, all while teaching your kids about our beautiful faith. And just maybe, after Lent is over, you’ll be inspired to take one or two of your Lenten practices and add them into your everyday routine.
When she’s not writing about faith, Anne Metz works for Growing Catholics, whose mission is to bring Scripture to all, especially tweens and teens.