Should Children Give Up Treats For Lent?

Lent 2019 will begin on Wednesday, 6 March and ends on Thursday, 18 April

Now that Lent is here, people up and down the country will be sacrificing treats and not all will be doing it for religious reasons. If you’ve failed your New Year’s resolutions for instance, this is your chance to start again!

But whilst it’s all very well and good us adults giving up bad habits for Lent, what about our children? Should we be encouraging them to give up treats for Lent too?

Well, whilst it might seem cruel to encourage our children to give up the things they enjoy, we could actually be doing them a huge favour in the long run.

Willpower and Lent

Lent is supposed to represent the time when Jesus stayed in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights resisting various temptations from the devil. The reason he did this was to strengthen his willpower and resolve and it’s a lesson we can all do with learning, whether we believe in the Bible or not. By encouraging children to give up treats you are strengthening their willpower, making it easier for them to resist temptations later in life.

We all worry about what happens when our children come under peer pressure to drink, smoke or take drugs. But by taking time out each and every year to sacrifice something they crave, you are ultimately preparing them to resist other temptations. If a child gives up chocolate for instance, and they are surrounded by children eating chocolate at a party or have to look at the displays of chocolate Easter eggs in the shops, it may seem cruel to still deny them chocolate but just think how much easier it would be for them to say no to something they are being pressured by their peers to do.

Lent and Children’s Health

Many children simply take treats for granted. They have crisps in their lunchboxes or a chocolate bar when they get home from school. They can’t imagine a day without a treat of some kind in it. So are we spoiling our children with treats? Government studies (PDF) suggest we are and that children are eating more saturated fats and less fruit and veg. Therefore giving up these sweets and treats, even for only 40 days, will help to break that spiral and may even encourage children to start looking towards fruit as treats instead.

It’s not just food either. Children don’t get enough exercise as they are too busy sitting down playing computer games and watching TV. Giving this up encourages them to explore new activities and it may even get them outdoors in the spring sunshine! They’ll discover new ways of playing and will learn new skills in the process.

Achievements for Children

Kids feel a real sense of pride when they’ve achieved something and that sense of achievement stays with them, teaching them not to give up but to strive to achieve. This focus is also useful for later on life as it helps nurture their self worth and pride in their own abilities. So always focus on the end result and make sure they know that you’ll celebrate their achievement in style if they only keep at it.

Tips on helping your children give up treats for Lent

Your children will be encouraged by your example, so make sure you give up one of your treats too so that you can support each other.

  • Don’t aim too high. It’s unrealistic to expect children to give up ALL their treats, so just suggest chocolate or TV after school (not including weekends). As they get older you can raise the stakes a little bit!
  • Don’t replace what they are giving up for something else. So if they are giving up chocolate, don’t start buying them crisps instead, that defeats the point.
  • Hold your resolve – for the first few days whilst they get used to the idea, your kids will be a real pain, trust me! But give them time to settle into their new routine and encourage them all you can.
  • Help by crossing off the days on a calendar so they can see how well they are doing.
  • Arrange for a huge treat at the end of Lent so they have something to look forward to and print off certificates to give them.
  • Younger children might need breaks, so perhaps you could give them every Sunday off.

Easter is all the more special when they know they can have their treats back and you never know, they may decide they can live without their treats altogether!