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Children, Lent and "entertainment"?

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#1 Isaac Crabtree

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 05:19 PM

What are common practices when it comes to children and Lent? I know we adults should endeavor to put away things that detract from silence like radio and tv, but children can hardly give up playing. Are there some standards that have been developed for this?

Apologies if this has been discussed recently.

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 02:39 PM

Here is a sermon that I recently translated from Russian for Great Lent that is on this topic.

Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev & All Ukraine
from the book: Bless and Ask

How should children fast?
-For children, the strictness of the fast is determined by their parents, but it doesn’t need to be so strict. The child should consciously/willingly take part in the fast and not see in it only things he is forbidden from, or even worse, as a punishment.

It is necessary for the fast be done according to the strength of the child. If the child is not able to manage without candy, then it is better to give him candies rather than to provoke him into being false/insincere.

Traditionally, children up until the age of seven are not restricted, as to the food [they may eat.]. For children then, the fast means not to argue, not to swear while with friends, to obey one's parents and to help them in household chores.

We can sometimes remind the child that during the fast/lent it is appropriate to limit the amount of time spent watching television or with computer games. It is good if parents, during lent could make it a practice to read Holy Scriptures to their children (or holy books; books about the Church) or the lives of the saints.

But the main thing that parents must be reminded of is to never demand of the child what he still doesn’t understand or is not aware of.

At what age should children begin to fast? Should youngsters be obliged to fast? ( note: in the Russian Church a child (mladenets) is classified as someone from infancy until age seven; an adolescent (otrok) from age seven until fifteen).

The fast is an ascetic labour for which gradualness & preparation/training is necessary. Among traditional families this question is resolved through the child’s gradually learning about the meaning of the fast.

In general, for children the fast can begin by setting defined limits at certain times. And not only in food. This can also involve abstaining from watching certain television shows, from music or computer games. It is important though that this be from the choice/conscious will of the child and not just from the parents forbidding it.

The child can begin learning to fast from the time of his first confession, ie about seven years old. It is precisely from this age that the Church stops regarding him as a little child ( my note: in the sense referred to above). But it will still be a long time before he reaches maturity in a churchly sense.

Therefore, the child must learn the fundamentals of the faith and of Christian life, by looking to his parents and having them as an example, and make his conscious choice, saying: “I want to and will fast”.

Important note: in the Russian original we find the phrases: выбор ребёнка; and сделать свой сознательный выбор. The first means literally “the choice of the child”; the second- “to make his own conscious choice”. A word of caution though needs to be kept in mind about the word выбор/choice. In English this implies that the choice to fast is made almost entirely by the child. However in the Russian the idea is more that the child uses his will to assent to what is right; ie that he doesn’t just fast dumbly, without understanding, as forced by his parents or by the rules. This is definitely a case where proper translation is affected by understanding Russian culture. Also throughout this passage Metropolitan Vladimir keeps referring to this theme of the child's conscious choice and understanding.

Edited by Fr Raphael Vereshack, 25 March 2011 - 05:13 PM.

#3 Donna Rail

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 06:21 PM

When I was a kid, my Mom used to have me stay inside and read on the crucial holy days. It was also fun to paint the eggs in the last couple days. :)

Activities such as crafts, illustration, and even board games, if you think those are okay, could help to pass the time. At least they're not TV. :)

#4 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 02:25 PM

Fr. Raphael,
thank you for posting this. We have thought about this too. Our children are 4 and under, so their fasting comes many times from the meals we eat together. We also try to include activities they can understand. And they definitely are understanding that daddy (the choir director) is going to church a lot. But it is true what the Metropolitan says, you cannot take from something from them (like a TV show) at this age because they just don't understand.

Sbdn. Anthony

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