Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent for Christian families, a time of preparation and spiritual discipline for the sacrifices Jesus has made for us. According to Catholic Culture’s March 5 report, this is the perfect time to encourage your children to “reflect on what regular penances they will perform through the season of Lent.” But sometimes trying to find the right balance on how to explain the meaning of Lent to your children, or grandchildren, can prove a difficult task.
Kids know that Advent is preparing for the birth of Christ, (a happy time) but the season of Lent, (not so happy) is not as easy to explain. For most children, Lent means giving up something they like, such as candy, chips, or ice cream, all the way to Easter Sunday; but fasting, does not always have to involve giving up food.
Why not encourage your children to “fast” from arguing with each other, or fast from their computer, iphone, ipad, or television for just one hour every day. This extra hour would be a great time for spending it together as a family, in prayer or having your children take turns reading their favorite Bible story out loud.
Another great way to get your children of all ages, (mom and dad too) involved in the season of Lent, is through the “Jelly Bean Prayer.” Everyone gets a small empty jar and a copy of the Jelly Bean Prayer. Each color of the jellybean describes a virtue, and a corresponding behavior or good deed. The white jellybeans can not be earned, for they represent the grace of Christ, a gift we can’t earn for ourselves.
The jellybeans are collected up until Easter Sunday, when the white ones can now be added to the individual jars, filling them up with Christ’s grace for us.
Red for the blood of Christ (a sacrifice).
Green for shade of the palm (doing a good deed).
Yellow for God's light (kindness to others).
Orange for prayers at twilight (good behavior at bed time prayer).
Purple for days of sorrow (apologizing to someone).
Pink for each new tomorrow (forgiving others).
Getting your family involved with something as simple as the Jelly Bean Prayer is fun for everyone, and a way for your children to learn that Jesus is always willing to do whatever it takes to show His love for us, and He wants us to do the same for Him.