Lent is fast approaching which means different things for each of us. For some it’s the scrumptious prospect of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. For Christians there is the religious importance and may even mean the time to volunteer at a charity or donate money to a good cause. For believers and non-believers perhaps a time for fasting or abstinence. I love this time of year for the mere fact that it seems to be the one last celebration untouched by marketers and offers a period of spiritual preparation, reflection and growth for all.
We’re often approached by parents asking how to not only maintain their own resilience levels but influence their children positively too. We see the lent period as a wonderful opportunity to influence kids and look at ourselves as parents too.
CAUTIONARY NOTE as a parent this article offers pragmatic insights from someone still mastering the art of parenthood – there is no perfect parent and definitely no one size fits all. I am also painfully aware that any issues raised … the likelihood is you will bump into one of my kids carrying out some of the EXACT behaviours outlined!
The period of Lent not only offers a time of abstinence but consider the possibility of making some intentional commitments too.
Here are some ideas:
For the kids:
Give up a favourite food
– If your child can commit to giving up her or his favourite food for Lent this is affectively committing to a goal. Goal setting is an important life skill helping us to not only realise what is important to us but builds on self-esteem and ultimately self-confidence too. As parents don’t impose your own goal ideas on your kids – they are more likely to see it through if it is their own idea. By seeing it through they are more likely to experience success and build confidence and self esteem.
Limit the Tech
– This is one that will need to be suggested and driven forward by the parents in the house. Our kids come from a generation where operating electronic devices practically moments after they are born seems natural. Whilst there’s a plethora of good that technology brings agreeing to limiting its use this Lent could see the start of improved interaction and family time, improved health and school grades and better quality sleep for your child. The phrase “everything in moderation” is perfect here. Putting the tech down and having a chat about your day is really healthy and should not be a chore.
For the parents:
– When our kids are floundering with a problem, this Lent, try taking a step back and giving them the breathing space to come up with some solutions themselves. We naturally want the best for our children and watching them endure difficulty is hard but jumping in too quickly to rescue does them no favours. Ask them some questions to help them navigate themselves to a solution.
An easy model to use is this
- Listen to their problem without interrupting.
- Empathise – If you can genuinely empathise and reflect that back in your language your children will understand you are trying to help.
- Gently challenge – phrases such as “so, what do you think you could do about it?” or “ok, so what do you reckon your options are for this?” will start your children moving toward solutions orientated thinking – We think of it as giving them a LEG up.
Don’t let Guilt Rule
– Try checking in with your feelings and recognise that one called … Guilt. This Lent let guilty feelings go. By not feeding the “now generation” and saying “no” or “not right now” every so often will help them understand the value of things that they really need. As parents we want our kids to love us every minute and we want to give them what they need. Setting realistic expectations can be an intrinsic motivator not just for you but your child. Parenting experts agree that firm, loving and healthy boundaries are the best demonstration of love a parent can give.
Commit to Role Modelling
– Role model resilience and behaviours. For all the things we encourage our children to abstain from for Lent – mirror this behaviour. We are leaders in our homes – portray dependable, accountable behaviour. Children are picking so much up from our role modelling. The parent who says one thing and then behaves completely differently is giving confusing and contradictory messages which means our children will choose the easy option because they are unsure.
For the family:
Boost your Wellbeing by Giving
Believer or non-believer as a family commit to volunteering or raising money for a charity. Giving has been scientifically proven to make us happy. Research shows that the area in our brain responsible for pleasure is ignited promoting endorphins – hormones responsible for good feelings. Giving collectively will promote the co-operation amongst the family offering a shared sense of pride and contribution.
No to take away from the Christian meaning of Lent it can also be a great opportunity to reset boundaries, boost principles and practices what may have fallen away in the complexity of family life, and to improve our own wellbeing. By committing to and trying just one of these suggestions you could start building and maintaining your family’s resilience.
Written by Leigh McKay and Julian Hall