Lent is long and Lent is hard—especially for families with children spanning different ages and levels of spiritual maturity. You want to make Lent a time of spiritual growth for all the kids…and yourself!
And there’s just no “one-size fits all” solution.
This year is our 10th (!) annual Lenten Adventure (which we offer free online—and which over 100,000 families have taken part in!).
As you can imagine: during all those years we’ve heard a lot from parents about what they do, what works for them, and how they focus their efforts for children of all ages and in families of varying sizes.
Here’s the advice we’ve received over the years from parents, grouped by the ages of the children best suited.
But first: Lent is about allowing the Holy Spirit to prepare your heart and soul and mind to renew your Baptismal Promises at Easter Mass, so everyone old enough should go to Confession! Here are our best suggestions for fruitful Confessions by age group:
- Littlest: our new “Confession pack” consisting of 3 items parents always ask for: (1) our “Remember 5 Things” Confession guide card; (2) 4 sheets to carry into the Confessional with “what to do” and space to write down your sins so you don’t forget (then destroy it afterwards–HOORAY!); and (3) a fantastic little booklet we just found (cleaning for Clara’s bridal shower…). It was written in 1958 and assisted assisted many of our children with their First Confession as well as subsequent Confessions with its age-appropriate examination of conscience based on the Ten Commandments.
- Teens & Adults: How to Make a Good Confession — clear, direct, and inspiring discussion of the Sacrament, concluding with a 17-page examination of conscience that is better than anything else we’ve seen. Language used is fine for teens and up. (Best way to purchase is in the 3-book set of this Confession book plus Overcoming Sinful Anger and The Hidden Power of Kindness – both books being great for your Lenten growth.)
And second: Don’t forget our 3 best-sellers to bring the Stations of the Cross into your home and engage the entire family. Here’s the link to all three. Moms & Dads tell us that it is SO TOUGH to get to Stations at parishes with little children, so make some time during Lent to “do-it-yourself” at home with these aids. Family-focused meditations and descriptions of the Stations make this perfect for every age. EWTN has been playing our audio version for 8 years in a row now (featuring the first 4 of our kids, including Trey about a word behind in every prayer!), and we’re selling out our 3rd printing of the bi-lingual (English and Spanish) companion booklet. A new “Road to Calvary” coloring book is still completed every Lent by most of the kids still at home…
Now, back to what moms & dads have told us are their Lenten approaches, by age-group.
8 and under
- Lenten Adventure — is easy on Mom & Dad because everything is emailed to you throughout Lent (3 times a week). Kids-teaching-kids is mesmerizing, so let the Holy Heroes Adventure Guides teach your children through short videos, audio “pray-alongs,” and all sorts of printables which teach about Lent, Easter, and all sorts of things about the Catholic Faith. It helps keep everyone focused day-by-day, with lots of activities suitable for the littles up to age 12 or so. It’s free, it’s online, and you can let the kids manage it themselves (really—we hear that all the time!). You can select what activities suit which children, and ignore the rest. Register here.
- Note: several years ago we were asked by many Moms to offer printed books of all the activities—saves the cost of printer ink and easier to preview. So, you can purchase sets of both the Lenten Adventure books (book #1 covers Ash Wednesday through Palm Sunday, and book #2 covers Holy Week through the Octave of Easter to Divine Mercy Sunday). Want to save some $$? Bulk discounts automatically apply for 5 books or more, so get a group to purchase together right away.
- Lenten Road to Easter “roadmap” activity – Lent is never the same “road” twice–so neither is our “roadmap”! Here’s a great way to “countdown” while you also “crack the code” to reveal a secret message of joy and hope for your children. Every year the secret message and answer is different! So–get ready to figure out the new secret message devised by Anna (and tested last night by Lillian) this year! One roadmap comes with every Lenten Adventure book #1, but we also offer them in “family 5-packs” so no one has to share (great for classrooms, too). Can be used as a simple countdown tool, as well, with stickers or a big bold marker to “X” off each day.
- A delightful new idea for the littlest ones – Lent is a time to turn their little hearts to God–with joy! The love of God comes through sharing parent-to-child the wonder of God’s love, and there’s nothing better to build excitement for Easter than reading through the Catholic Children’s Treasure Box set. There are 20 colorful, adorable, joyful books full of stories of God, the angels, saints, missionaries, and simple games and rhymes! Little prayers–and lots of things to point to!–all telling of God’s love for little children in story and verse. Delightful artwork from the 1950’s with sweet-looking children and no weird abstract drawings. Written by nuns who provide “parents’ info” on the inside covers to explain how to inspire in little imaginations the lessons in the short little stories and poems in every book. There’s nothing more mesmerizing than the stories of other Catholic children in these 32-page paperback books. Here’s a link to the blog post about the easy way to use them (just scroll down when you get there–you’ll see the instructions!).
9 – 12 year olds
- Lenten Adventure—of course.
- Clare’s Costly Cookie—a fantastic book for girls to teach them how to pray to Jesus as a friend, sharing all their joys, sufferings, and concerns. Our three youngest girls have loved this since it first came out several years ago. Highly recommended.
- My Path to Heaven—our entire family does this “retreat” each Lent (thanks to the recommendation of a mom at a conference!). Here’s a link to the blog post explaining how we do it.
- The Picture Bible—every child can “read the Bible” for Lent. The first Bible all our children read…and they read it cover-to-cover over and over again! In our cleaning the past week, we found THREE copies of this Bible at home–one so used that the cover had fallen off! Recommended by Venerable Fulton Sheen, seminary professor Brant Pitre, and all the Holy Heroes Adventure Guides!
- The Works of Mercy: How God’s Love Transforms Your Heart—Lent is the perfect time to practice all the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and this full-color booklet not only explains them all, but also provides ideas for how to implement them in your family and neighborhood (and there are pages for children to enter their own thoughts and plans, too).
- Fatima Family Handbook: Heaven’s Plan for Your Family—another great way to focus Lent on what God asks of us, using the very words and recommendations of the three children of Fatima. Francisco, Lucia, and Jacinta are so inspiring to children. Did you realize they are the youngest children ever canonized who were not martyrs? Bring the words of these children whom our Blessed Mother befriended 100 years ago into your home and into the hearts of your children this Lent. Again, we’ve included pages for your own notes, too. On sale now with bulk discounts automatically applied for 5 or more books.
Teens & Adults
- A Year with the Bible—will help you begin a daily practice of short Bible reading with meditations. Patrick Madrid has selected 365 short verses with meditations for applying God’s Word in the daily lives of busy moms, dads, and budding adults. I used this a few years ago during Lent–fantastic companion to morning coffee (unless you’re giving up coffee for Lent!). Start the Bible habit with this book!
- Meditations on the Stations of the Cross—a short but profound booklet by our friend, Ron Thomas, a theology professor (and formerly an Anglican priest). I asked him to write these nearly ten years ago–and now we’re digging into the latest print run of 20,000 (yes: you read that correctly). Also feeds your meditations through the stunning photographs of the Stations of the Cross in the Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians, at Belmont Abbey.
- Holy Heroes Spiritual Journal—hands-down the recommendation for kids 12 & up. The first editions sold very well, then we asked for specific feedback from users for improvements, resulting in this latest release with a pocket in the back pre-packed with “prayer prompt cards” specific for each liturgical season and plenty of room for your own personal devotion aids. Pages in the front for prayer lists, and lots more. Bulk discounts automatically apply when you order 5 or more. Here’s a link to the blog post with more details.