5 “Alms” to Give Your Kids This Lent
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5 “Alms” to Give Your Kids This Lent

 

Lent isn’t just about what we give up—it’s also about what we give, which makes it the perfect time for us as parents to think about what “extra alms” we might give our kids.

 

by Jerry Windley-Daoust

 

Lent isn’t just about what we give up—it’s also about what we give, which makes it the perfect time for us as parents to think about what “extra alms” we might give our kids.

“Wait a minute . . . I do nothing BUT give to my kids.” This is true. A lot of the time, our kids are like newly hatched baby birds—fuzzy little heads stretched out with mouths wide open, perpetually insatiable.

But almsgiving, of course, is not so much about the quantity of our giving as the quality of our giving. The word comes from the Greek eleēmosunē, meaning compassion or mercy. Almsgiving is giving from the heart—even if, as parents, we’re often in the same position as the widow with her two copper coins.

Here, then, are a few suggestions for “alms” you can give your kids this Lent.

 

Hugs & kisses (for the teens, too)

Our seven-year-old still insists on a good-morning hug and a “Hey, you’re home from work!” hug. It’s a fun and warm ritual that helps us reconnect, feel good about one another, and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. And from a faith perspective, hugs and kisses are a very real “incarnation” of God’s love for our kids.

It turns out all those hugs and kisses have a real lasting impact on kids’ development, too. Researchers at Washington University found that kids whose parents were more physically affectionate had a hippocampus about ten percent larger than the other children.

When you have a physically affectionate young one, it’s not hard to get those “daily hugs and kisses” in. But somewhere between age seven and twelve, kids (and parents) often fall out of the habit of making a daily physical connection. And yet, as a veteran parent of several teens once pointed out to me, “Teens need hugs just as much as younger kids do—sometimes more!”

And research backs up her insight: one study found massages were effective in reducing the aggression and stress levels of “problem” teens.

 

Compliments and positive statements

In the space of an hour or two with your kids, do they hear more positive statements or negative statements from you? If you’re not sure, try doing an inventory, and if you find that you’re showering your kids with criticisms, complaints, and corrections, make a commitment to being more positive.

That’s not an invitation to “go soft” on kids, or to smother them in fake praise. Think of it more as a spiritual discipline: discerning God at work in your child and family life, naming that holy presence, and honoring it with a positive statement.

It’s a spiritual discipline worth pursuing because your kids deserve to hear what they’re doing right just as much as they need to be corrected: “Love the new look, Laura!” “Thanks for holding the door.” “You did a good job clearing the table, Matt.” Here are some other possibilities for complimenting kids:

  • Character: “I can see how frustrated you are, but I also see that you’re being persistent. That’s what they call grit!” “Thanks for telling the truth, even when it was hard. That was a good choice.”
  • Effort: “I’m really impressed by how hard you worked on this!”
  • Quality results: “That floor is perfectly clean!”
  • Being who they are: “I love being your Mom.” “You know, I think God must be smiling on you today.”
  • Contributing: “I appreciate you watching your brother.”

Set a goal for yourself. How many positive things can you say to your kids in an hour? In the course of a day?

As a bonus, it’s not just your kids who will benefit from your more positive outlook. You might be pleasantly surprised at how much it transforms your own mood, the mood of your household, and even your kids’ behavior.

 

Blessings to bookend the day

Start the day and end the day by blessing your kids—“bookending” the day with an intentional nod toward God’s presence in your kids’ lives. You can keep it simple: “May the Lord bless you and keep you, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Or you can add a specific intention: “May God bless you and keep you today, and may you know his presence as you take the big test today. Amen.”

Another option: If you pack lunches for your kids (or make them at home), send your blessing in a note.

Combine your morning blessing with a hug and a compliment for a parental almsgiving hat trick!

 

A song and a smile

Skip the balloons, skip the cupcakes—try brightening your kids’ days with a little singing. It’s okay that you can’t sing (or maybe you can—good for you!); you’re singing for the one audience in the world who doesn’t care. Even your teenagers will think it’s cute and goofy.

If you really can’t stand singing, try making your kids smile with corny jokes. Better yet, try deploying humor when they least expect it—like first thing in the morning, instead of the usual drill-sergeant routine.

If your corny jokes don’t make them smile, try outright tickling. Yes, this works for teens, too (up to a point).

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