Todays blog post comes from Laura Pearson over at Edutude – Education with Attitude. If you get a chance head over to her site and check it out, you will be glad that you did. Laura uses Lent to give us some ideas to use with our kids. I hope you enjoy!
If you grew up in a Christian tradition which celebrates Lent, you’ve probably heard this before: “what are you giving up for Lent?” For many, Lent is a time when we half-heartedly abstain from a minor vice (like social media or wine), and head to the church hall for a fish fry. Lent has been observed for centuries, with varying levels of sacrifice or fasting involved. Taking the time to look into the reasons for our Lenten fasting can be a great starting point for conversations about healthier choices in our families.
While the vast majority of us will never spend 40 days without food, there are certainly modern parallels we can draw from and discuss as a family. Children may think of Lent as a time they are forced to go without some treat. As parents, we can use this time to dig deeper into the meaning of sacrifice, temptation, and ultimately: making good choices.
Lent originated as a way to recognize the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert in contemplation before his crucifixion and resurrection, described in the book of Matthew. The Gospel describes how the devil visits Jesus as he fasts and says “look, you’re hungry. You’re also the son of God. Surely you can turn these rocks into bread. No big deal, right?” On the surface, the Devil doesn’t seem to have such a bad idea. Jesus is hungry, and he has powers; why not use them? But if you think about it, you realize what the Devil is actually saying is, “Quit while you’re ahead. Do what you want. Life is too short. Do what you feel.”
In our lives, the temptation to “do what you feel” is all too real. Our grandparents may have grown up understanding sacrifice, but these days, it is easy to get any kind of food, drink, or even drugs (legal or otherwise) that we want. We can order what we want online and have it delivered the next day. With one mouse click, we can watch hours of entertainment for a pittance. The problem is, if we can always take what we want, we deny ourselves of the opportunity for greater spiritual fulfillment.
When talking about Lent with your children, talk about temptations you both face. Tailor the discussion to the age of your child. For a little one, the temptation might be to hold out for candy instead of eating vegetables. For tweens & teens, it might be an offer of cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs. The NIH acknowledges that these conversations can be awkward, but if 24% of teens have used marijuana by grade 12, it is not a conversation you can ignore. Having an open, judgment – free conversation with your child about temptations they face helps, says kidshealth.org, (a pediatrician-reviewed website dedicated to explaining health issues of children in plain English). As you talk with your children, you can be honest about your own experiences and how they may have shaped your life. Set goals together – it’s nice for kids to know their parents have room to grow too.
The end result of the fast is a final detail of the story in Matthew that is rarely mentioned. Children, who struggle with understanding delayed gratification, might like to hear that when Jesus resisted his temptations, “the devil left him, and angels came and attended him” (Matthew 4:11). This story is a good reminder of the paradigm that short-term pain can lead to long-term gain. Temptation was hard, even for Jesus. Can you imagine not eating for two weeks, then someone comes along and suggests that you could eat bread if you wanted to? That would be hard, even painful, to refuse. Just like Jesus, we have to make choices and those choices aren’t always that we say no to something bad. Sometimes the choice is to say no to something good for something better. Either way, making a short-term choice of sacrifice, as we do during Lent, allows us to practice using that muscle. It also allows us to make room for angels to attend us, so to speak. We must believe, and even celebrate that choosing better will reap rewards later.
Author: Laura Pearson