Lent With Kids
It feels like we just wrapped up Christmas, but Ash Wednesday is only 2 weeks away! In addition to preparing children for Ash Wednesday, and explaining the purpose behind Lent, here are a few ideas for how to incorporate Lent into daily life at home and weekly parish life.
Life at Home:
Pray. If you don’t pray as a family, Lent is a great time and place to start. Set up a specific time and space that will be available for family prayers. Light a candle. Use a prayer book. Make it voluntary, but make it important and special, too. “This Lent, I’ll be praying in the living room after dinner for a few minutes and I would love to have you join me. You may choose to do something else that’s quiet, but I will be praying. I would love to have you come pray, too.”
Consider removing some favorite decorations like pictures or mirrors. I had a friend in college who covered her mirrors and gave up looking at herself for the 6 weeks. While this might be drastic for your family, removing focal points is one jarring and visual way to remind yourself that this is a season of fasting and reflection.
Give up a default drink or snack that doesn’t provide necessary nutrition. Things like orange juice or an afternoon cookie can be replaced by water or cheese and crackers. For children, giving up a large category like “sweets” or “desserts” can seem overwhelming, but giving up a smaller category like juice or cookies is more doable. This can be voluntary (i.e. talking with your child about giving something up) or obligatory (“Oh, we don’t have that in the pantry right now because it’s Lent, and we don’t buy juice/cookies during Lent.”). This gives regular opportunity to talk about why we give things up and focus our direction on Christ and his sacrifice.
Give together. Rededicate the money you would spend on that special snack to a ministry that you’ve chosen as a group. Keep a jar or bowl on your table for collecting these donations. Many children will want to contribute from their own bank! They will be able to see a practical, physical representation of what they’re gaining/giving by foregoing treats.
Make a habit of encouraging others: Gather a stack of stationary, a list of addresses, a roll of stamps, and writing supplies and write encouraging notes as a family for people in your church, community, and abroad. This is a great way to integrate being others-focused into little moments of the day.
Provide a written explanation via a handout, newsletter, or blogpost for Ash Wednesday and Lent to families in your congregation. Include service times for Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter. Include the Sunday morning story content for each of the 6 weeks of Lent.
Change your worship space. We’re in a mobile space, but I’m considering what I can do to add some mystery and darkness to our story tents and reflection spaces. I am planning on printing and laminating the Stations of the Cross for an interactive activity with our Older Elementary class.
Make Anglican prayer beads and send home children with a print-out on how to use them. You can read about how to use these here. While this is widely used in Catholic churches, the tactile opportunity for prayer is perfect for little people. They can assign beads to family members, places like school and home, and regions of the world.