Lent and Fasting with Kids
Lent 2020 starts on February 26th and I've read a few really great articles about the meaning of Lent and whether or not Protestants participate in the Lent tradition. So I'm posting the links here because why repeat what has been beautifully said?!
by Christie Thomas
Christie breaks down some of the myths about Lent and explains it in a really easy to understand way.
by Rachel Schelb
Rachel writes about the background of Lent and discusses why we fast and how Lent can be used as a time to reevaluate our hearts so we can love Jesus and others around us better.
So you've decided you want to celebrate Lent...now how do you do that with kids?
Be Careful of the Fast
When it comes to kids, be careful how you fast. I'm no pediatrician, but it's definitely not a good idea to withhold food from a child. Additionally, kids typically don't have the capacity to understand the spiritual discipline of a traditional fast from food. I'm not personally a fan of fasting from treats or desserts because I don't want my kids to start thinking of anything as "forbidden" at such a young age. Use your judgement on when you want to start that with your kids, you're the parent in your house!
If you want to fast, try fasting from something specific. Examples include:
Desserts, if you're comfortable with that
Come up with something together and kids will be more on board. You can keep each other accountable and talk about it daily during Lent.
Don't be afraid to mix it up...40 days is a long time for kids to commit to giving something up. You don't want to make it a miserable experience for anyone. And honestly, 40 days with no screen time is A LONG TIME during flu season, am I right?! So maybe give up TV for a week. iPads another week. Shopping another week. God doesn't expect perfection from us, He just wants our hearts.
Side note on fasting for adults:
Check your heart when you decide what to fast on. Make sure you are fasting from something because the discipline of it will help you to focus on God's provision. It's okay for adults to fast from specific foods like sugar or dairy, or to fast for a specific amount of time, but be mindful that you are doing it for your faith, not your weight, image, or self-esteem. When it comes to acts of kindness or even giving up something more materialistic, make sure you are not doing it for accolades. Just check your heart before you commit to something. I'm personally guilty of this, I know I can't be alone!
Acts of Kindness
Another way of celebrating Lent with kids is by participating in acts of kindness every day during Lent as a way of "sacrificing self." Get your family together and brainstorm different people you can show some love to during this season. Examples include:
Shoveling a neighbor's driveway
Babysitting some kids so parents can go on a date night
Baking cookies to bring to neighbors
Bringing flowers to someone who is sick
Writing encouraging notes or cards to someone God puts on your heart
Christie Thomas also shares this super fun activity if you are going to try the 40 acts of kindness. Basically every time your kids do something kind, you put a bean or a rock in a jar. On Easter morning the beans turn into jelly beans!
To Help you Keep Track
We made this handy printable as a way to keep track of your fast or your acts of kindness. Every day has a space for you to write what you did or gave up, how it made you feel, and a short prayer. Intentionally talking with your kids about how they feel throughout the experience will help them buy into the idea and take some ownership of it. It's also a great way to reflect on how God moved through the experience of Lent.