Lent seems like a lonely endeavor sometimes. Everyone has their own sins to fight and their own sacrifices to keep up with. Even Christ was in the desert alone for forty days. So can Lent be a family activity?
It’s much easier for the second-biggest Catholic feast – Christmas – to involve the whole family. There’s making gifts, setting up the tree, and many other activities where everyone pitches in and everyone can see that Christmas is coming.
Lent is also a time of communal preparation. Yes, we each have our own struggles, but as a Church and as individual families, we need to support each other to have real success.
Here are some fun ways your family can get the most out of Lent by making it a family activity:
Teach Perseverance with Peas
Sacrifice isn’t necessarily fun, and the kids might not understand why it’s important; if it’s not explained to them, it’ll seem like just another chore, just something to do because mom and dad said so. And that isn’t the point at all.
Yes, there are specific things even we adults are required to do for Lent, such as fasting and abstinence, but doing them “because the Church says so” is also extremely simplistic. The point of fasting is not to get more carbs or check something off the list – the point is to change our hearts. We’re detaching ourselves from the little idolatries we have every day (do we go to food, drink, or something else for comfort, instead of to God?). By depriving ourselves of other comforts, even legitimate ones, we re-center the focus of our lives on God.
You can do a lot in 40 days, but Lent is a mirror of the life’s journey to sainthood. Holiness isn’t achieved in singular acts but through decisions in our everyday lives. Lent is about training us for holiness, too. Of course, this is pretty theological, so how do you teach this kind of perseverance in doing the good every day to your kids, who probably can’t sit still for five seconds?
An easy way to show how lots of small actions lead to big change is with peas.
You heard me right. Buy a bag of dried peas and put them next to a vase. Whenever you or your children give up something you want or make a sacrifice, put a pea in the jar. By the end of Lent, the vase will be full, and you and your kids will have a visual representation of your Lenten sacrifices.
Make sure you communicate that this isn’t about who puts the most peas in, but about seeing how small everyday actions build up over time.
It’s also a reminder to keep up with your Lenten promises. Because no one else has a vase full of peas sitting around for any other reason, believe me.
Interactive Stations of the Cross
It’s human nature that we get desensitized to the faith. You’ve seen that crucifix on your wall a thousand times, and you’ve repeated the Hail Mary more often than you can count. It’s not that we do it on purpose; we just adapt to our surroundings and circumstances. Like the people you live with, it takes effort to make sure you notice things and don’t take them for granted.
Lent is a time to reconnect and re-see the faith around us and how it changes our lives. One easy way to do that it by praying the Stations of the Cross as a family.
The Stations of the Cross are a prayerful, imaginative journey through Christ’s passion and death; it serves to make us realize what Christ did for us, and it’s been doing that long before The Passion came to the big screen. And while watching a movie like that (or Jesus of Nazareth for the younger kids) helps you see how Christ’s passion may have happened, it’s not the same as praying through it.
Many parishes offer Stations of the Cross, but you might not be able to get everyone there, and the little ones might not get much out of it.
The solution? Make the Stations an interactive prayer session.
Get a shoebox and have your kids help you find items that represent each station. Get three bandaids for each fall of Jesus, get a small nail for the crucifixion, get a wooden block with the letter “T” for Thomas, etc.
While you’re praying at home, have the kids take turns getting the right item out of the box and lining them up on the table for each station. Again, it’s about visual representation, and it will help them remember the Stations, too. For those kids who have a tendency to wander around, giving them a job will help them stay focused and make prayer more fun.
Craft a Lenten Calendar
Most stores have Advent calendars, so why don’t they sell Lenten calendars? Because we can’t have tons of chocolate in Lent, that’s why. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make our own, calorie-free calendar.
You can make a chain of construction paper with the date and maybe the name of the saint’s feast day on each ring of the chain. Then you can get a decorated clothespin or something similar and let the kids take turns moving it each day. Since kids don’t usually have calendars, it helps them grasp how far away from Easter they are, and helps them stay excited as it comes closer.
What’s Your Idea?
Do you have any other suggestions for families to get the most out of Lent? What are your family traditions? Share them in the comments below, and happy first Sunday of Lent! Have a great week!
For more ideas for encouraging your kids in the faith, check out the Biblezon Kids tablet.