Lenten Ideas for Teens and Tweens
It seems like every year Lent sneaks ups on me. I know it’s coming, yet I still find myself scrambling at the last minute to find something to read and to think of something meaningful to do or not do. Not this year. This year I think I’ve got a game plan – or at least the beginnings of one.
My children on the other hand, are a different story. I realized the profound shallowness of one of my children’s Lenten preparation when I heard her say, “I’m glad it’s almost Lent, I need to get in shape.” It dawned on me then that I wasn’t the only one in the family who needed to prepare in order to prepare for the resurrection of our Lord. So, to help my children get beyond just giving up sweets (and shedding a few pounds) I’ve compiled a list of ideas for teenagers. For those of you who have managed to raise kids who are free from the trappings of this world and whose idea of reasonable Lenten disciplines are horse hair shirts and sleeping without a blanket, I applaud you. I’d love to know the secret, and there’s probably no need for you to keep reading. But my children are a delightful mix of worldliness and would-be saints – who listen to pop music, own cell phones, and think leggings are pants. Here are some things I’m going to suggest they prayerfully consider giving up and taking on for Lent…
LEARN TO PRAY BETTER
Prayer is the key to holiness and to growing closer to God. It should be as important to us as oxygen. And yet it’s so easy to forget to pray or to get distracted at prayer. Having a prayer system can help. Here are some of my favorite ways to add prayer to my day or to make my prayers more meaningful.
- The ACTS prayer – This is a way to organize prayer so we don’t spend to whole time just listing the things we want from God. The ACTS prayer involves praying first Adoration, then Confession, next Thanksgiving, and finally Supplication.
- Aspirations – These are short, silent prayers offered up anytime and anyplace – Jesus, I love you. Lord, have Mercy. Jesus, I believe. Help me with my unbelief. Mother Mary, prayer for us. Any small way that we can turn our hearts and minds to the Lord throughout the day are pleasing to Him and can help us grow in holiness.
- Keeping a prayer journal – It’s easy to say, “I’m going to pray for Brittany.” Or “I’m going to be more thankful.” But as we all know, easier said than prayed. I’m going to encourage my children to write down their prayer intentions and blessings. As any seasoned prayer knows, writing down prayers not only helps us remember what to pray, but allows us to look back later and see how God as worked in our lives.
BEFRIEND THE FRIENDLESS
Every time I pray the third sorrowful mystery of the rosary (the crowning with thorns), I ask Jesus to help my children and me to remember the outcast and the bullied. I realize that our Lord suffered much more than bullying, but still for the sake of His suffering, I hope that my children (and I) will make an effort to relieve the suffering of someone else being mocked, ridiculed, or forgotten. A kind word, a smile, or a “how’s it going?” might mean the world to someone who feels invisible most of the time. I hope this Lenten season my children will invite a loner to sit with them at lunch, compliment a kid who others barely notice, or is some way make a special effort at kindness.
LISTEN TO CHRISTIAN MUSIC
I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of contemporary Christian music. I dislike it for the same reason I dislike most Kelly Clarkson or One Direction songs. There’s nothing wrong with them. They just aren’t my thing. But they are a far site better than most of the vile, brainless junk on pop radio. Blogger, Matt Walsh, makes a great case that pop music isn’t only immoral, it’s also making us stupid. Lent is a great time for all of us to cleanse our hearts and minds. While I do monitor what my kids listen to, totally blocking out the world isn’t really an option. But I am asking my children to replace some of their pop music with more Christian music this Lenten season.
It’s tempting to see Lent an excellent time for the kids to kick some bad habits or to take on a few more household chores. You know, make a few sacrifices. They could pledge to keep their rooms clean for the entire 40 days of Lent or to quit leaving their junk in the car. After all, why not kill two birds with one religious stone. But that’s not really the point of Lent, so I refrain from asking my kids to do the things I think they ought to do for Lent. But I do encourage them to think of new and sacrificial ways to serve their family, friends, church, or community. And cleaning their own trash out of the car wouldn’t kill them.
SHOW SOME GRATITUDE
Again, I’m not trying to turn Lent into my personal to-do list for my kids, but I’d like to see them write more thank you notes. Thank you notes are a concrete way to express gratitude, often to someone who isn’t expecting it – a former teacher, an aging relative, an admired adult. One thank you note a week during Lent is a modest, but meaningful goal. And it has the power to touch the lives of both the sender and the receiver.
PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE
This one is pretty obvious. Lot’s of young people probably quit or limit social media for Lent. That’s great. I’m not asking my kids to give up all social media. And I don’t want them to give it up just to be able to say they gave up something in the Lent. I want them to make better use of their time in general. By limiting social media, they will have more time for prayer, spiritual reading, or just being quiet before God. What better way to grow closer to Him? How much should they limit? I think I’ll leave that up to each of them. My prayer is that they will make space for God.
COVER YOUR MIRROR
Apparently, I am not the only come up with this is an idea. I admire any young lady who can go a month without looking in the mirror. For my girls, who aren’t quite ready to go to that extreme, I am suggesting looking in the mirror less – say only in the morning before leaving the house and not again until the school day is over.
FREE YOURSELF FROM SELFIES
Like looking too much in the mirror, the paradox of the selfies is that they are vain – both pride (Hey! Look at me!) and their insecurity (Please, please, look at me). Spending 40 days not being overly concerned about what others think sounds like a great way to develop spiritually.
READ GOOD BOOKS
Obviously spiritual reading – the Bible, the lives of the Saints, stories from the mission field are a powerful addition to anyone’s Lenten disciplines, but I’d also like to see my children read some classic literature during Lent. I know. I know. Lent is not about getting them to do what I want them to do, but developing a taste for literature that draws our senses to what is true and beautiful is a worthwhile pursuit any time of the year. Why not make Lent a time to let God develop in us a taste for what is lovely and true in literature instead of what is ugly and common and popular. Haley who blogs at Carrots for Michaelmas suggests 10 Book to Read With Your Daughter So She Doesn’t Turn Out Like That Horrid Girl From Twilight.
IF YOU CAN’T SAY ANYTHING NICE, DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL
Of course we should always avoid gossip and unkind talk, but sometimes we forget that this rule applies even when it’s people we don’t know. For some reason we feel totally free to make catty remarks about a stranger’s outfit or a celebrity’s weight. After all, we don’t know them and they don’t know us. What can it hurt? But poison is poison. Why put it out there? This Lenten season I’m encouraging my kids to avoid negative talk of any kind.
I’m not sure which, if any, of the things on this list my children will choose. The point is not for them to make themselves miserable or the “accomplish” some Lenten chores. But Lent is a time set apart. Our lives should be different during these days to remind us that because of Him our lives are different. We are different. Yes, we are called to go with Christ into the desert. But if we come out smug in our own spiritual toughness (and 5 lbs thinner), we’ve missed the point. We go into the desert to be with our Lord. We do this through prayer but also by being willing to shed those things which we hold dear but that might (or might not) keep us from loving Him fully.
As a parent it is my job to guide my children to choose meaningful Lenten practices. It’s a big job. The grace’s offered to us during this time are boundless, and I don’t want my kids to miss out. So, I guess I’ve got one more thing to add to my own Lenten journey – praying for my children’s Lenten journey.
Lenten reading suggestions for teens and tweens..
This Catholic Teen Bible comes highly recommended.
Amy Welborn’s Prove It books answer some of the tough questions about the faith that many teens face.
You Cat – a catechism for Catholic youth.
Just a few days ago I wrote about what I really want for Christmas. It was a list of all the things that, in a perfect world, would be different around my house. That list is spot on. I stand by that list. And yet, as I was writing it, I couldn’t help thinking about how different that list is from one I might have written ten years ago – when all of my kids were small. And it made me kind of sad. So, in addition to matched socks and a crumb-free counter, there are a few things I’d like to add to my Christmas list – things that I never would have wished for a few years ago…
- I used to wish that I didn’t have to stay up until 2:00 a.m. the night before Christmas, assembling toys and stuffing stockings. Now I wish someone wanted a…
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For weeks now my kids have been asking me what I want for Christmas. And I have said the thing that I am supposed to say, that I always say – I don’t need anything. I just want all of my children to be happy and healthy. It’s true. I don’t need anything. And I do want my children to be happy and healthy. But they are good children, so no matter how often I say that I really don’t need anything, they will pool their money and buy me a new bathrobe or nightgown, or a maybe well-intentioned kitchen gadget. And I’ll be grateful because I know they are buying me presents because they love me and want to show me that they care.
But here’s the thing. I’m lying. I don’t just want healthy happy kids. Sure that’s the most important thing, but there are a…
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I begin each semester in Oral Communication with “What Happens in Vagueness…” That way the kids know right off what not to say.
No long ago I happened across the article What Happens is Vagueness Stays in Vagueness. In the article Clark Whelton laments the decline of the English language. Among other things, he notes the overuse of the word “like” as a sentence filler and the seeming inability of young people to answer a question in the affirmative, but rather to respond with a vocal inflection that would indicate a question.
Whelton also quotes a Vassar professor’s assertion (way back in 1988) that high school teachers seem to no longer hold their students to any sort of standard when it comes to how students speak in class. Yikes. That struck a nerve. How often have I failed to correct (or even flinch) when a student proclaimed, “I ain’t done my homework!” or “Can I borrow like a pencil?” And there is the ever-vague, “I have this sorta headache. Can I…
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The Giver is a dystopian novel set around the life of a young boy, Jonah, and his community. In this community everything is regulated – careers, family size, emotion, even the temperature. At the age 12, when all children are assigned to their life’s work, Jonah is given the job of The Giver. The Giver is the one person entrusted with all the memories of humanity. For decades all other citizens have been denied knowledge of the pain, fear, and joy people experienced before the community was “perfected.” They are given only “the sameness.” The job of The Giver is both beautiful and torturous. It also gives Jonah an understanding that no one else in his community could possibly have – an understanding that makes it impossible to go back to the content, secure life he knew before.
The Giver is not exactly pop fiction. It has been…
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Recently I wrote about how lousy it makes me feel when I read about all the ways other mothers are managing to feed their children absolutely nothing but organic, homemade, raw, freshly sprouted, GMO free, free-range, amazingly delicious, healthy food. Seriously, it’s exhausting. Well, now it’s back-to-school time and I am faced with the same kind of Pinterest-induced guilt.
For starters, there’s the Back-to-School Party.
Seriously? We are not having a party. The week before school starts my children are practically wearing sack cloth and ashes. We distract. We indulge. We don’t celebrate. We are in mourning.
There’s Back-to-School redecorating. Does making them make their beds count? I mean, we spend a small fortune on backpacks, note books, pens, markers, clothes, and Kleenex. Who has extra money to redecorate?
There’s back-to-school menu planning for the…
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Cadence Sinclair is the oldest grandchild in an old-money, east coast family. She spends her childhood summers on the family’s private island with her cousins, Mirren and Johnny and their dear friend Gat. They are The Liars.
The cousins are extremely close and fiercely loyal to each other, despite the efforts of their mothers, the Sinclair sisters, to use their children to win the favor of the family patriarch. Cadence, Johnny, and Mirren’s mothers are each paranoid that the biggest summer home and the bulk of their father’s fortune will be bestowed on another sister. They attempt to pit the cousins against one another, and each Sinclair sister urges her child to make a play for their grandfather’s sympathy and favor. Their Grandfather seems to take some perverse pleasure in his daughters’ greed. He enjoys the rivalry.
Ye even in the midst of all this dysfunction, the Liars spend magical summers, swimming, playing games, and growing up together. But the summer Cadence is 15 she suffers a a terrible accident that leaves her with memory loss and debilitating headaches. While she tries to put together the pieces of what happened, her family seems to be falling apart and her relationships with Gat and with her cousins takes a confusing turn. What Cadence discovers about her accident and that mysterious summer is haunting.
We Were Liars may not be the book for everyone. It is very engrossing – read in one sitting engrossing. But it is disturbing. The end left me a little shaken. That said, a friend of mine who read it predicted the surprise ending (maybe I’m a little dense) and wasn’t blown away like I was. Either way, we both had mixed feelings about the novel. Neither of us could put it down, but in the end, we weren’t sure liked it. We Were Liars paints a rich portrait of childhood summers and takes the reader back to those care-free days. Yet, I couldn’t help feeling that I wanted to see all of the characters redeemed, become better people. That’s what supposed to happen when things go terribly wrong. But in the end, I’m not sure any the Sinclairs are better people – just damaged in a different way and for a more legitimate reason.
We Were Liars illustrates the devastating effects of unbridled greed and selfish ambition. Their mothers’ greed ultimately destroys the family and changes the Liars forever.
Overall, the subject matter might be a bit heavy for middle schoolers. I recommend We Were Liars for grades 9 and up.
Perhaps some mild four letter words.
Cadence and Gat fall in love. They kiss and their is some hinting at additional physical contact, but there is nothing graphic. Mirren’s lies about having “a lot of sexual intercourse” with her boyfriend but in the end admits there is no boyfriend and no sex.
I don’t want to give too much away. The truth of Cadence’s accident is not so much violent as disturbing.
QUOTES FROM THE NOVEL
“One day I looked at Gat, lying in the Clairmont hammock with a book, and he seemed, we’ll, like he was mine. Like my particular person.
“Do not accept an evil you cN change.”
“A part of me died… And it was the best part.”
“Our kiss turns the world to dust. There is only us and nothing else matters.”
“He cried like a man, not like a boy. Not like he was frustrated or hadn’t gotten his way, but like life was bitter. Like his wounds couldn’t be healed.”
The time is short now. Your cap and gown have been hanging in the closet for weeks. Your announcements have been sent, and today you finished your final exam. High school is almost over. Even though 18 years is a lifetime for you, for me it has been a vapor. Suddenly I’m scrambling to think of last minutes lessons I might have forgotten or words of wisdom I’ve failed to impart. There’s still time, right? But the thing is, I’m blank. We are proud of you and we love you. I’m not sure what else to say. So maybe I’ll skip the last minute advice – except (you knew it was coming) to say there will be some well-meaning friends, relatives, teachers, and greeting cards offering you words of wisdom traditionally given to the young as they set out into the world. I’m asking you to ignore these.
DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
This sounds good. Who doesn’t want to be happy? The thing is (my apologies to our founding fathers) pursuing happiness rarely makes you happy – at least not for long. Happiness isn’t a bad thing, but it should be a byproduct of a life well-lived, not the goal of life. Making happiness your goal is intrinsically selfish. Pursue goodness. Pursue peace. Pursue holiness. These are higher goals and the only way to be truly happy.
JUST BE YOURSELF
I’ve found this to be bad advice for me. This isn’t to say I don’t like myself. I’m actually quite fond of me. I try to be a good person. But I know myself well enough to know that at my core, I am selfish. I tend to stew. I can be a little scatter-brained. And I sometimes dominate conversations. That’s me. In a lot of situations, I have to reign myself in. I see a lot of people, especially young people, shrug off glaring faults and bad behavior by declaring proudly, “That’s just who I am.” That’s a cop out. Don’t just be yourself. Be your best self. I love you all the time, but your best self is easier to take.
FOLLOW YOUR HEART
What does that even mean? It’s stupid advice. The Bible tells us“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?”. Ouch. But the truth is, following your heart or your gut or your feelings is far more likely to lead you down the wrong path than following your head or better yet, your conscience. Feelings change, but you can’t go wrong with good sense and good morals.
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING AS LONG AS YOU BELIEVE
Ummmmmm. No, you can’t. That is also stupid advice. You can do anything within reason as long as you believe – and work hard and the timing is right and as long as other factors (other people, your health, the global economy, the weather, etc.) do not stand in your way. I hate to break it to you, but you will probaby never be an Olympic swimmer. Nor will you be the king of a small island nation. And really, I wouldn’t hold your breath about winning the lottery. But I think you have an amazing future ahead of you. Believe you can and will work hard in school and in your future career and be a success. Believe you can find a wonderful, Godly wife someday and make a life together. Believe in living a life of service. Believe in God’s mercy. This is not to say you should not set goals. But remember that life is not about reaching some far off goal just to prove you can. The best success is a life lived in love and devotion to God others. Believe in that.
LIVE FOR THE MOMENT
Don’t fret. Don’t worry. But by all means think beyond the moment. Because when the fun of the moment is over, you are stuck with the consequences.
TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Okay, maybe sometimes. But sometimes the road is well traveled because it’s the best way, especially when it comes to our faith Enter through the narrow gate, but you don’t necessarily have to blaze a trail. The Church is full of saints and scholars who have blazed that trail for you. Stay on it.
Okay, so while I was writing this I did think of some last minute words of advice: Always be kind. Say your prayers. Call your mother. I love you.
Every year on Mothers Day, my children are forced to battle it out for the title of Mommy’s Favorite. That might sound a little twisted, but it is actually really fun. Well, at least it’s fun for me, and it’s my day, so everyone has to do what I want. Mommy Trivia! In the spirit of this wonderful holiday dedicated to the appreciation of mothers, I will pit child against child in a test of their love for (or at least their knowledge of) me. The older they get the more difficult it is to come up with questions, but there are still a lot of things my kiddos don’t know about me. Here are last years’s questions.
1. What is Mommy’s current favorite song?
2. If Mommy could only eat one dessert for the rest of her life what would it be?
3. What is my dream dog?
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