Practical Tips For Living Out The Season Of Lent With Your Special Needs Child, by Anne Jones

Lent is a season of forty days leading up to Easter during which we try to strip away the distractions in our lives so we can focus on deepening our relationship with God. Catholics often mark this time of year in three ways: fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. I am sharing a few ways our family observes Lent in the hopes that they might be helpful to your family too.

Explaining Lent

This year, I am explaining Lent to my child with special needs by creating a picture of Jesus standing in a desert. Then, we will place images of distractions (video games, television, treats, etc.) on top of the picture together, making it hard to see Jesus. We will read the story of Jesus praying for forty days in the desert and then talk about why Jesus might have gone there to pray. Next, we will take off the distraction pictures together, talking about how Lent is a special time in the Church. I am hoping this will help him understand how we are going to “fast” from some of these distractions to help us “see” Jesus in our lives. We are also going to discuss how giving to others (almsgiving) and talking with God (prayer) can also help us to better love Jesus.

Fasting/Almsgiving Tips

We mark this time of year as being different by changing the environment in our home. I take down the seasonal decorations around the house and decorate the fireplace mantle with purple cloth (a purple t-shirt works great), the crucifix, and a vase of palm branches. I play Lenten/religious hymns in the background instead of our usual music. This visual and audio fast helps to keep our minds focused on Lent as we go about our days. For some inspiration, check out the free download from Sadlier Religion which includes Lenten Table Scape ideas. They suggest involving your children in helping to plan and place Lenten decor in your

Another fasting idea would be to consider what your family could fast from to save some money each week. Our family often gets donuts after Sunday mass. During Lent, we keep our Sunday breakfast simpler and use the money for almsgiving. Our family learns about different charities together and our children vote on which charity gets the money. It is a way for our children to see how their sacrifices can serve our neighbors. Simplifying schedules can be another wonderful way to fast, breaking from busyness and giving our time to each other. Another option is to fast from unkind behavior and give our alms of compliments, smiles, and loving words to those we daily encounter.

Prayer Ideas

The Stations of the Cross are often offered at parishes in Lent. For our family, praying this devotion at accessible outdoor Stations of the Cross on our own schedule has worked better than participating in the parish option. We have also done this devotion within the home by printing images of the stations and hanging them around the house. If you need some ideas for this devotion, a few options include:

Whatever option you choose, do not feel guilty if you need to adapt it to meet your child’s needs. Just looking at the images together or listening to the stations on audio can be a great way to help your child focus on Jesus! A final option for prayer would be to pick a prayer to pray together as a family throughout Lent. The Hallow App has some short prayer ideas or you could choose a Bible verse to mediate on. Whatever you decide, keep it simple and manageable! I would love to hear your ideas on how you explain Lent and your family traditions! I hope this Lent brings you and your family into the desert and deepens your relationship with God!

Read more of our posts about Lent HERE.

Anne Jones is a Catholic wife and mom of five, one of whom has a rare genetic condition. While she hails from the Badger State, she currently loves living in the South (minus the snakes!). She enjoys learning more about the Catholic Faith, volunteering, reading, and attempting to grow things in her garden. She is grateful for the opportunity to connect with and learn from other Catholic families with children with special needs. 

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