Is Lent just a time for grown ups? Is it too austere for the children to understand and embrace? While Christmas seems to be the most exciting season of the year, packed full of gifts and indulgences, Lent appears as its sober counterpart, a time of gloomy penance and fasting. Certainly, fasting and abstinence is an age related discipline mostly for adults. The question is whether only committed adults can embrace Lenten sacrifices or children can embark in the same journey of self-giving too.
Saint John Chrystostom offers an indirect answer in reminding us that Lent increases our capacity for charity, compassion and mercy. He further clarifies “we need to fast from our anger, being friendlier, more loving and easier to get along with on days of fasting.” This advice applies to each of us, despite our age and level of faith. Lent is a special time of grace to deepen our relationship with God, while overcoming our material and human faults. Lenten discipline should open our minds and souls to encounter Jesus.
The vocation of good parents is to guide the emotional and spiritual growth of children and Lent should not be an exception to this rule. What better place to practice daily sacrifice than a family setting, full of daily crisis’ and ongoing issues and arguments? During Lent, a family should foster the faith of each of its members and support children in their search for God and God’s will for them. It is a great journey in understanding one another; appreciate one another; and become more spiritually united to each other.
Children should be encouraged to develop a Lenten routine. Some little works of mercy made out of love rather than made for a tangible reward may be the beginnings of a vocation of love. The only important recommendation is to discuss Lent with your children. From the meaning of Lent you are able to help them create a list of achievable goals, by suggesting little ways, without imposing in on their freedom. Some ideas? Giving up the weekly allowance for the poor; or helping with the daily chores; clearing the table; to washing the dishes; or even reducing their screen times. But most importantly, keep the Lenten journey simple.
Forty days is a challenging marathon! The fruit of Lent will help to make our family a place of harmony where the joy of daily giving will visibly be taking place.