Children are keenly aware of the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday and the conclusion of Lent on Easter Sunday but often lose focus on the process between. In an effort to help them have a new outlook on Lent, here are a few suggestions.
(1) A Lenten calendar
One of the best Lenten calendars for kids is at http://www.catholicicing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/printable-lent-calendar-for-kids.pdf. It allows the child to visualize the Lenten path with key symbols for meatless days as well as ample space for him or her to write in their Lenten offering or sacrifice of the day.
(2) Stations of the Cross
Talk with the class about the significance of each of the Stations of the Cross. Walk the kids through each station and use it as an opportunity to remind them of Jesus’s tremendous love for us. Perhaps you can take the Stations lesson outside the classroom, into the Church (if connected to your school) or into a prayer garden to allow the children to reflect on them.
Lent is a time of preparation, and one of the best methods to prepare for the miracle of Easter Sunday is to repent our sins. Schedule a time for the kids to experience the healing power of reconciliation with a priest. This is a good time to review with them how the sacrament works and ease any of their anxieties related to it.
Kids know they should give up something but are never sure what to do. Give them creative and age-appropriate suggestions that could perhaps be implemented as a class. For example, on Tuesdays, the class will drink water for lunch and give up other beverages like juice and milk. On Thursdays, no desserts will be eaten at lunch.
(4) Encourage Extra Acts of Kindness and Empathy
Lent is a great time to reinforce the universal themes of kindness and empathy within the classroom. Instead of giving up something, the kids can do additional things each day as their Lenten offering. Helping a fellow student in need, praying for the family member of a classmate, or just offering a smile to a child that may be having a bad day are important things that can create permanent behavioral changes after Lent is over. Encourage them to be kinder than necessary to their friends and family members during the Lenten season. This is particularly important when bullying becomes more and more important to address in the classroom.
Age-appropriate Lenten observances or traditions can turn into life-long habits for school children. In addition to these ideas, ask the students to be creative and contribute ideas to your classroom’s observance of Lent.