I know we're not the only family who struggles to find something to do during Lent. With two adults and four children, it's rare there's something we can all give up or add in that will enrich our spiritual lives. The little ones don't really understand what is going on or why they can't have a certain treat (and are not obligated to sacrifice during Lent) and the older two are just now at the age where they can "offer up" a suffering.
My husband and I put our heads together and came up with a list of 25 things families can do during Lent, from the adults down to the Little's. This list isn't meant to be exhaustive; please feel free to add your own in the combox! If you like, pick what works for you and leave the rest but, no matter what, spend the six weeks of Lent growing closer to Christ and closer as a family!
1. Cut back or reduce screen time. Maybe set a limit for each family member or agree that screens are only for the weekends (or special occasions, such as family movie night or when someone is ill). Discuss how you can monitor yourself and each other in a positive manner and brainstorm a list of things to do when the urge to mindlessly flip on the TV strikes!
2. Take a class, either as a family or with just one or two of your children. Six weeks is long enough to really get a good feel for an activity and see if it is the one you want to keep doing.
3. Commit to taking a walk together every evening. If the weather is poor, exercise at home!
4. Does your family have a special treat that you just love? Give it up together! My kids and I are love Sonic Happy Hour. We go about once a week. This would be something great to give up together and donate the money you would have spent to your favorite charity.
5. Pray together. Have you been wanting to start a family Rosary or get back in the habit of bedtime prayers? Start back up!
6. Commit to going to bed at a reasonable time every night. This goes for parents too!
7. Cut back or eliminate unnecessary spending. Kids can help remind adults that they don’t need that impulse soda or the latest book on Amazon.
8. Reduce the amount of meat you eat.
9. Give up between meal snacking or after dinner snacks. Offer up your hunger for people who don’t have enough food to eat. (Note: This would be only for healthy adults and older teens who aren’t growing. Healthy snacks are an important part of a child’s dietary needs.)
10. Have all snacks be healthy and in moderation. No more bags of chips, organic or otherwise! Chose healthy whole foods.
11. Try a healthy eating plan, like 100 Days of Real Food.
12. Work on reducing negative behaviors, like yelling. It’s so easy to get in the habit of yelling or snapping at each other. This Lent, work to speak to each other in loving, caring tones. And when you can’t say anything nice… don’t say anything at all.
13. Practice random acts of kindness, to each other or strangers. Challenge your family to think of ways they can brighten someone’s day, either through a kind word or action. Children of all ages might enjoy creating small bags of treats or non-food goodies to hand out to strangers.
14. Volunteer together!
15. If your kids are too young to physically volunteer take them shopping for goods for a relief agency. Have a list of needed items handy so you know what to pick out and help guide your children in their selections. (Ie, the food pantry probably doesn’t need a new LEGO set!)
16. Give up your pillow for a certain amount of time. Many people in this world do not have the luxury of a warm bed and pillow. Give up your pillow in solidarity with them!
17. If you find money, “give it to God.” Loose change from between the couch cushions and on the sidewalk can really add up! Put it in a special place and at the end of Lent, count to see how much you have. You’ll be surprised at how it adds up!
18. Go to Adoration together . . . and alone.
19. Read the Bible, about the Saints or another book that will help you grow spiritually. Alternatively, find a book that the whole family can benefit from and spend time each day reading from it.
20. Learn new prayers.
21. Have at least one meal together every day or a certain number of meals together each week. Hint: It doesn’t have to be dinner!
22. Give up complaining. It’s harder than it sounds!
23. Stick to a cleaning routine.
24. Declutter! Some of my friends do “40 Bags in 40 Days” or “6 Bags in 6 Weeks.” The whole family works together to declutter what they don’t need and donates the items to charity.
25. Reconnect with someone. Was there a teacher in your life who was special to you or a friend who went above and beyond the call of duty? Write them a note to thank them for their kindess and influence in your life. Encourage your children to write to someone special in their life, thanking them for all they have done.
What are we doing this year? I am committing to going to Stations as much as possible and not snacking after dinner. I also want to take the older children to Holy Thursday and Good Friday Masses. As a family, we are giving up Sonic Happy Hour!
What are YOU doing for Lent?