6 ideas to help children benefit from Lent
The Coptic Orthodox Church has started Lent. For 55 days, Copts will follow a vegan diet.
However, Lent is so much more than abstaining from cheese and chocolate (notice how chicken and meat are not even on my mind?).
Lent is a spiritual journey towards Easter when we celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection and our salvation.
While all observant adults are called to fast, the topic of children fasting leads to different opinions and heated discussion. I firmly believe that only you can determine when your child is ready/capable of fasting, which is why this article will explore other ways to help your child fully benefit from Lent.
1- Family Prayer time
For the duration of Lent, assign time during the day for praying together as a family. This could be as simple as praying together before bedtime, but in a family setting. The family could meet in the living room to recite the introduction of every hour (from the book of prayers, the Agpeya) one psalm, the gospel of the hour, and the concluding prayer. Alternatively, you can decide to read 3 psalms together and ask the child to pray from the heart. This is also a fantastic opportunity to ask your child to compile a list of names of friends and family members that you can pray for every night. You can decide to alter the list on a daily or weekly basis.
2- Family Bible Reading Time
Don’t feel intimidated by this suggestion. You do not need a degree in theology to read a chapter of the Bible with your child. True, some children ask extremely complex questions that might cause you to sweat profusely, but your child is not looking for a dissertation on the Trinity.
Should you be confronted by a question you can’t answer simply write it down and research it later. You can ask your priest about it and provide the answer at a later time.
This humble and simple solution should erase any trepidation you feel about reading the Bible together, and you will be teaching your child a valuable lesson: even adults don’t know everything about the Bible, and we keep learning as we grow older. Start small, maybe half a chapter a day or one chapter per week on a designated night, but set a Bible reading routine and stick to it.
3- Outreach activities
Do your children have some toys (in good condition) that they can donate? Research which charities are accepting donations in your area.
Do the children receive an allowance? You can encourage them to donate a portion to charity.
Have an elderly relative who is at a senior citizens’ residence who might be feeling lonely? Pay them a visit with your child during Lent.
Before going for a visit, making the donation, or offering a portion of their allowance,
read Matthew 25:35-40 and discuss the importance of following our Lord’s commandment.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
4- Attending additional liturgies
Our church has weekday afternoon liturgies throughout Lent. Depending on where you are in the world, you may be able to attend liturgy in person or online (a lot of churches livestream their liturgies). Most churches have additional liturgies during lent and attending one extra liturgy per week would really amplify the benefit of Lent for your child. This may not be possible every single week, but if we aim for at least one additional weekday liturgy during Lent, we would be more advanced than we were last year (at least, I would be!).
5- Offering a “sacrifice”
If you would like to introduce the concept of fasting, start by asking your child to give up one thing. Your child may not know what to choose, but you can help them by suggesting one of their favorite food items or eliminating a food group.
6- Watching Christ-centered movies and television shows
There is now an abundance of online offerings – where was CYC when I was growing up? You can download the app on the television or mobile phone/tablet and have access to quality, entertaining, wholesome content for the whole family.
Among the many fantastic options, there are programs about the History of the Church, Questions answered by Anba Youssef, and showings of Veggie Tales, SuperBook, and recordings of the weekly sermons of the Thrice Blessed Pope Shenouda the III.
You can check out their weekly schedule here: https://cycnow.com/weekly-schedule/
I pray that we all experience spiritual growth this Lenten season and may it bring you abundant blessings.
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