Lent is about life, not a lifeless tradition. It’s about drawing closer to Jesus by pulling away from the things that distract us from him. It’s about reorienting lives to make more room for God. And it’s something children can participate in.

Our children have practiced Lent as long as I can remember. At seven years old, my daughter gave up her favorite food last year. Cheese! And my son gave up playing his Nintendo DS even on the twelve hour drive on spring break…both ways. While it was challenging at times, it wasn’t as hard as some parents think it is.

It’s not too late to start your children on the Lenten journey to Easter. Here are a couple of tips to get you started.

Explain Lent

Most kids only see Lent as a season of giving things up. They don’t understand that it’s so much more. It’s about sacrificing something you love for the ONE you love more. It’s about running to God instead of the thing that comforts you. I like to explain it to my kids like this. “Jesus gave up his life on the cross for us, so we’re going to give up something we love to show how much we love him.”

When you put their sacrifice into perspective, most kids arise to the challenge easier than adults.

Give Them Options

While adults and teens may be able sacrifice their sweet tooth for Jesus, it’s unrealistic for kids to give up all that sugar. This year my two youngest are giving up candy. They can still have cake, cookies (minus chocolate chips,) an ice cream, but when handed a candy in class for good behavior, my daughter said “No, thank you.” What a wonderful testimony to her class and character building in her life.

The key to success is not to set up your child for failure by stretching them too far. Other kid size sacrifices we’ve given up in the past include sugary cereals, pizza, and gaming.

Lead by Example

Lent isn’t just about sacrifice. It’s about replacing something we love with time with God. If you’ve given  up something for Lent and haven’t replaced that time spent in that activity with time spent with God, make a conscious effort this week to do so.

If a craving hits, share with your children how hard it is for you, but your choosing to replace that cup of coffee or candy bar with Bible reading or prayer. Then when their cravings hit, suggest they watch a bible video, read their bible, or draw a picture for Jesus. If they see you doing it, they’re more likely to do it themselves.

It’s never too late to start observing Lent. If you make it a family event, it could be the sweetest journey to Easter your children have ever experienced.

Your turn!! What do you think about children and Lent?