Lenten Tips for Families: Parents and Grandparents, Encourage Children in Drawing Closer to Christ

Overall, it should be all about Jesus these 40 days.

Teach children the importance of spending time with Jesus these 40 days.
Teach children the importance of spending time with Jesus these 40 days. (photo: Courtesy of Katie Warner)

Lent should be less about “what we do” and more about walking with Christ in the desert, allowing our hearts and the hearts of our children and grandchildren to draw closer to Jesus through deeper prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Here are some simple tips and ideas for a fruitful Lent with young children:

Prayer

Offer prayers and sacrifices each day for specific people and intentions. Send beautiful prayer postcards from Holy Heroes, letting others know they are being held up in prayer during the Lenten season. Older children can help address the postcards themselves; younger children can help stamp them or draw a small picture on them. All ages can offer a prayer for a relative or friend each day of Lent and for their unique intentions, learning to help others carry their crosses throughout this penitential season. It’s a great reminder to adults and children alike that we are all one body in Christ, meant to spiritually and physically support one another.

Spend time in God’s word and in silence each day. Use the book Listening for God: Silence Practice for Little Ones* to teach young children the importance and basics of silent prayer, as Lent is a perfect time to begin or renew such a habit. “Jesus Time” cards* are also helpful guides for elementary and middle-school-aged children through silent, independent prayer each day.

Take family evening prayer as another wonderful opportunity to read Scripture together. Open the Gospels each day and read a chapter, or use a resource like Catholic Family Crate’s “Bible Basics cards to journey through the life of Christ during Lenten tea time or at dinner. Better still, spend that silent time in the adoration chapel.

“Our family will focus on joining the suffering Christ in his Eucharistic presence by going to the adoration chapel on Fridays during Lent, letting our children come to him,” said Laura Reyes, an Illinois mother of five children, ages 10 and under.

Go to Mass more. Add a Friday Mass to your routine. Daily Mass is a gift.

“I love to attend Mass with my grandchildren on Fridays during Lent,” said Tricia Peterson, grandmother of nine in Canton, Georgia.

“I remind them that being at Mass is a gift to Our Lord … and a gift to them!”

Msgr. Paul Lejeune writes in Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers, “Frequent Communion will kill all affection for venial sin in a short time,” so what better practice to grow in holiness as a family in the Lenten season than to receive Our Lord more frequently.

Christine Bowles, a Georgia mother of six, age 5 to 23 years old, coordinates the Stations of the Cross for children at her parish, following Friday morning Mass, which offers children a chance to pray the Stations together, at their own pace — and to not only participate, but lead.

Fasting

Make a sacrifice crown of thorns. Craft a crown of thorns (grapevine wreaths with toothpicks inserted work beautifully for this), and encourage children or grandchildren to do good deeds and make sacrifices, removing a toothpick thorn each time they do so. Try to remove all the thorns by Easter, gradually alleviating some of the suffering of Christ through familial works of mercy, charity and good deeds.

Choose a meaningful, age-appropriate fast. For children, this might look like fasting from sweets or from secular media. Replace secular shows and movies, for example, with meaningful faith-focused selections from FORMED or Holy Heroes.

Almsgiving

Stock your parish or local food pantry. This is such a tangible way for children of all ages to give alms during Lent. Consider making it a weekly habit, adding canned goods and other necessities to the family shopping list each week, and allow children or grandchildren to deliver to the collection box.

Make goodie bags for pregnant moms in need. Aid your local crisis-pregnancy center or pro-life group. Children can pull baby items together, adding their own art and notes of love and prayer.

Clean out your closets. Lent is a great season to encourage children to survey their own stash of “stuff,” selecting and donating clothes, toys or other items that would be of greater benefit to others.

Make money to give away. Some children love donating physical cash to church or charities. Encourage them to do special chores or lemonade-stand-like fundraisers (the Warner kids have had elderberry gummy stands and fresh-bread sales and cleaned mailboxes) to raise money to give alms during the season.

Reading

Read Lent, Holy Week and Easter-themed books together — blessed seasonal reading with younger children and grandchildren alike. Find “Children’s Book Picks” at NCRegister.com and bit.ly/3UzTvH4, including a sweet new release this year called The Story of the First Easter Bunny.

Overall, it should be all about Jesus these 40 days.

“I find out how I can support my older ones and I determine how I can best meet the needs of the younger ones,” said Bowles. “I try not to limit the younger ones’ enthusiasm and include them in one or more of my practices, since I am involved in theirs.”

Edward Reginald Frampton, “The Voyage of St. Brendan,” 1908, Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin.

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