Helping children enter into Lent
Lent is beginning and children can enter into this great period of the Church too. Forty days can seem like a long time for adults, let alone children but Lent can be a time of fruitfulness for all people, and in a special way for our children.
The time of Lent has three pillars, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let’s look at them.
Most people know that during Lent we give up something. But did you know, we should add something as well? Adding prayer to your home is an amazing way of helping your child to come to know and see the God who loves them. A short time of prayer with your child every day can make all the difference. So why not try to pray like this:
1 – Gratitude – Begin by thanking God in your own words for the things in the day
2 – Reflect – reflect on the day. What are you sorry about, happy about, anxious about. Tell God about it.
3 – Forgive – Ask God to forgive you and fill you with His peace.
4 – Others – Lift up to God anyone you feel needs prayer. Ask God to bless them.
5 – Our Father – Finish with the Our Father prayer.
Your child learns from this that God loves them and cares deeply for them. That God is interested in their lives, what they are going through, the ups and the downs.
Often when we think of fasting we think of giving up big things and eating very little. For little ones, and poorly ones, it is too much to fast in a big way. But giving up something is a very good spiritual practice. We can encourage our children to make little decisions to give up little things and to remember in that moment that Jesus gave up everything in order to save us. So a child can say no to that piece of cake and to fill that moment with a little prayer of love to Jesus. Or a child can choose ten minutes less TV time in order to give a family member a call and ask them how they are.
This is about giving to those in need. Often we think of giving money and obviously children don’t have much of that. But there are things which are more valuable than money – our time, our love, our attention.
Encourage your child to be creative in thinking of ways of giving time to others. Maybe it means phoning someone who is lonely, or helping another sibling with their homework.
Encourage them to give their love to others by little acts of love – helping around the house or telling other people something nice.
Encourage your child to give attention to others. Like at Mass, listening very closely to everything going on. Or at school, spending some time with someone who is lonely.
Lent is a time to get creative with your children. It is also a time to allow them to be creative, just always bring it back to Jesus and growing in relationship with Him.