Help Your Kids Simplify for Lent
Children & Family Ministry | Student Ministry
We live in a frenetic time. We are constantly inundated with images and ideas and competing values. Amidst our world of over-maxed schedules, as parents, we are still trying—sometimes desperately trying—to figure out how to live the good life. And how to provide the good life for our kids.
Our children are growing up surrounded by screens that give them constant access to pseudo-community through social media, etc. It has become a commonplace among psychologists and sociologists, parents and teachers, priests and theologians: these screens are changing us, and not for the better.
As you know, this Lent at Incarnation, our theme is “Simplify.” We want to strive together, as a church, to simplify our lives, for one primary purpose: so that we can see and hear Jesus Christ more clearly. We want to embark on a pilgrimage where we unlearn the ways of busyness and instead learn the ways of simplicity.
The key this Lent is to identify what things in your life, and your child’s life, most distract you from your relationship with Christ. We have heard from countless families already that screen time is often the worst culprit. It is the source of endless distraction from what’s really important in this life.
Of course, children are usually not aware enough to understand the impact screen time has upon them. And they are not mature enough to regulate their consumption. That role must be for the parent.
We recommend parents approach this sensitive issue in three steps:
As parents, it is our responsibility to pay attention to how much screen time our kids are getting each day. And we need to pay attention to ourselves as well! With a little care and attention, we can estimate the hours pretty accurately. We also need to notice what our kids are watching on their screens. Not all screen time is created equal. Some shows and games are good and uplifting; others are not.
Next, we need to think about what is a healthy and appropriate amount of screen time for ourselves and our kids. This will inevitably involve being “unpopular” and turning screens off. Suggest alternatives such as books or games, and be ready to spend your money and time on these alternatives instead.
As parents, we need to think strategically and intentionally about minimizing both the number of screens in our homes as well as minimizing the time we spend on them. You are setting norms for your children that will stay with them for a long time. Think strategically about your family’s rhythms and schedules so that you can minimize screens and maximize simplicity.
You may also consider these tips that many parents have found helpful, during Lent and beyond:
- Set a good example and turn off the TV and put your smartphone on “do not disturb” during digital-free times with your family.
- Decide on digital-free, unplugged locations in homes, such as bedrooms.
- Plan digital-free times together, such as family dinners or family reading time.
- Consider avoiding exposure to devices or screens for 1 hour before bedtime. Try not to let your children sleep with devices such as smartphones.
Simplicity is, of course, hard. It is also important to be realistic. But we are “playing the long game” as parents. The purpose of the discipline of simplicity is to help us see the love and joy that quality time with God and family can bring. Simplicity is adding value, not taking it away. And, as with all things as parents, it is our own example that will speak louder than any words.