Our kids aren’t game for anything. I get jealous when I go to my friends house and their kids would walk across the desert for a glass of water just because mom or dad said it’d be fun and meaningful. My kids are the exact opposite. I pitch going to Sea World on a Saturday and they glibly respond, “OK. I guess. There isn’t any good TV on today anyway.”
Knowing that– we still had this crazy idea of bringing our kids into our observance of lent.
Here’s how I did it.
Jelly beans. Yup, jelly beans.
On Sunday, I made a secret trip to Rite Aid and came back with a big 2 pound bag of fresh, delicious Brach’s jelly beans.
Then I waited for them to be in a good mood. A good & hungry mood, that is. After school on Monday was perfect. Both of them were chipper when I picked them up from school (rarity) and yesterday’s lunch at school must have been especially nasty because they were starving for snack.
On the way home I got them thinking. “Hey, have you ever heard of lent? Not lint like on your clothes… lent, the 40 days before Easter.”
That got them thinking a little and asking questions about lent. By the time we pulled into the driveway they were curious and I had dropped hints that mom and dad wanted to talk about a lent challenge and that it had a reward on Easter Sunday.
Mom had hot buttery popcorn waiting for them. They grabbed a handful and started to munch. I interrupted them, “Hey, why don’t you guys go to the bathroom and stuff and come back. We’ll have a snack and talk about lent.”
My jaw dropped. They were into it!
They came back into the kitchen and sat around our little island. That’s when I brought out the jelly beans. Their eyes got huge! They didn’t see that coming.
Hook, line, and sinker… let’s reel them in.
After that we talked about what lent is, why people observe it, why its important to sacrifice something important to us in preparation for Easter, etc.
The whole time we’re chatting they are munching on popcorn & jelly beans. The treats were the oil that is lubricating this conversation! This was reinforcing the kinesthetic learning in lent while talking about why lent was a connection between our 40 days of sacrifice and Jesus’ 40 days in the desert.
“Mom and dad are each going to give up something important to them for lent. We’d really like you guys to think about giving up something important, too. It’ll be a great way for you to prepare your heart for Easter.” Then we talked about silly things to give up, like foods we don’t like or impossible things to give up like peeing or breathing. And we asked them if they thought other kids at school were going to give something up for lent. They didn’t know… so we asked them to ask around, because a lot of kids give up things for lent.
We ended our talk with a simple challenge. “Let’s talk tomorrow about what you want to give up. We aren’t going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t give up. So think hard about it. Each of us will give up something different. And the only one who is really going to know if you’ve cheated is you. (And God) Lent starts on Wednesday.”
I know this is a simple thing. 5 minutes. But for us, not having a lot of success at introducing Jesus into our family beyond praying for meals occasionally and going to church, this was a big success. Totally worth celebrating! And totally building our confidence.
Parenting + spiritual formation? Yes, we can do this!
Update: Click here for free, downloadable lent signs for your house