HDYDI: Celebrating Lent as a Family

Ash Wednesday is nearly upon us and I am practically beside myself with excitement.  My heart is craving simplicity, quiet and reflection.  We have some great things in store during the Lenten season.  I’ll be sharing more tomorrow about my Lenten promises , but today I thought I’d share what we do as a family.

Lent can be a beautiful time of year.  So many times, I hear (and I’ve been the one saying), “Ugh, I really felt like I was too busy to participate fully in Lent this year.  I can’t believe it’s almost Easter.”  I say, stop procrastinating.  I’ve given you two full days to get your hiney in gear!

Like I said last year, Lent isn’t just a Catholic thang.  We love to celebrate at Easter, but make the celebration worthwhile.  Die to oneself, surrender a bit of that selfishness and offer it up to God in sacrifice.  Think about the friend you love most in this world.  Go ahead, picture them in your head.  How do you nurture that relationship?  Do you meet for lunch, exchange texts or phone calls, enjoy a night out with one another, pray for each other?  Is there shared conversation, shared experiences?  I’m betting there is.

God wants to meet you where you are.  So set aside the false notion that you must be a “certain this” or a “certain that” and spend some time with Him.  He will lead your heart.  No doubt.


1.  When the house was a little smaller and the people were a little fewer, Lent was really about the sacrifices Scott and I made.  Several years ago we decided to invite the kids to participate through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  I’d say we had mild success.  What we realized is that it is extremely difficult to give up something for 40 days when you’re 5.  There were many exhasperated sighs and lots of “we’re never doing that again.”  It became stressful and that is not what Lent should be.  In a stroke of brilliance, we adopted a friend’s activity and made it our own.  Enter, the PFA Basket.  As in, prayer-fasting-almsgiving.  The kids draw one activity each morning and we hang it on our peg, near the kitchen area.  We have three activities for prayer, fasting and almsgiving, for a total of nine.  Things like “say a decade of the rosary as a family” or “fast from tattling” or “donate a toy or book” are some of the activities.  In past years, we’ve just used slips of papers.  This year, I dug out our laminator and got fancy.  Mostly, because I could not find last year’s slips of paper to save my life and I wanted these puppies to last for several years.

If you want to download our activities in PDF format and print so you can use them, click here for the Lent sacrifices for kids! I’ve included pre-made and blank ones for your (free!) use. Just don’t try to sell them and pass them off as your own, please and thank you.

2.  As a family, we give up eating out every year (and yes, that includes our beloved Happy Hours at Sonic on Friday).  It’s always tough, but in the end we are always so grateful for that sacrifice.  We find ourselves enjoying healthier meals, saving some cash and having more quality family time around the dinner table.  Amazingly enough, the planning ahead makes for a less stressed evening hour.

3.  Scott and I were just talking this morning about how we’d like to try to attend Stations of the Cross at our parish once this Lent.  Because the service typically starts at 7, that makes it difficult with little people.  But, we think everyone is old enough to swing it just once this year.  I’ll let you know if that was a good or bad parenting decision in a few weeks.

4.  We’ve even talked about – I can’t even believe I’m typing this – cancelling our cable…permanently.  Every family we know that’s done it has sung its praises.  We’ll have to see if we’re ready to take the leap.  I’ll keep you posted on that, too.

5.  We do many things in preparation for, and during, the Easter Triduum and as we get closer to that weekend, I’ll share what we do.  In the meantime, call a family meeting and make plans to make THIS your best Lent yet.

Whatever you do, just make sure your heart is where it should be.  For many Lents, I’ve struggled with trying to find the “just right” sacrifice.  What ended up happening is I did it halfway or not at all.  Last year’s Lent was amazing.  I chose to write 40 notes of gratitude to various people last year.  Some were friends I’d had all my life, some were people I just met and some were to complete strangers.  It changed my heart.  It made me grateful.  It strengthened my relationship with my Maker.  And that’s really what Lent is about.  Strip away all the “stuff” you accumulate during the year and stand before God with the only thing that’s left, your soul.  Tomorrow, you’ll get the rest of the story on this year’s sacrifice.


  1. Wayne Wang on February 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I’m sure this is nothing new to you, but interesting and it definitely reassures thoughts we may have about television and media for children.

  2. Wiley on February 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    We haven’t had cable in over six years and it totally works for us. We do have Netflix streaming for the occasional brain veg. The area I find most people who go back to having it miss is sports, so consider how much of what you would want is broadcast. You can buy a lot of seasons of shows for the cost of cable as well!

  3. lena on February 20, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    the best Lenten direction that i’ve every receieved, was also the most basic….BE REALISTIC! that means, don’t commit to something that you can’t do — start with what you know you can do and add to it (at the mid of Lent) if you are able.
    best advice, i tell you.

    prayers for a blessed and fruitful Lent.

    Ad Jesum per Mariam,

    p.s. your tags a wonderful lenten exercise. could you provide us with a blank version so i can customize them for my family? my computer is being limited and i’m all about not re-inventing the wheel. 😉

    • Kathryn on February 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      I just updated the post and added blank tags for you. Enjoy!

  4. melanie on February 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Well- Once again Martha…. once again! So, I am the FIRST to admit I printed the cards. I love having smart- ee- pants for friends. Looking forward to trying. Dr. T says he can’t give up eating out… it helps the economy and his figure. Love you all.

  5. Bea on February 20, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    We would give up cable if it wasn’t for sports on tv. Especially football in the fall. Otherwise it’s off minus 1-2 hours I watch a week that I record or a rare video game night for Jay. I don’t even remember when was the last time the girls watched tv- maybe January?

    We were going to give up eating out too- we’ve done giving up fast food for the past few years- but we’re in Cincinnati for weeks during Lent this year. Still haven’t decided (tick tock, tick tock) and it’s thrown a wrench in our family plans since we won’t be home with the girls the whole time (not sure if nana is up for the daily Lent doings- she’s good about the daily prayers which is awesome though).

  6. Lent: It’s more than Cokes and Candy on February 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    […] I touched on how to celebrate Lent as a family.  I also strongly believe you need to do something for yourself.  Yes, you can gain graces from […]

  7. Marisa on February 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I love the lent tags – thank you for sharing! Your enthusiasm is completely motivating; thank you so much for sharing this! We also look for something different to do each year and this is perfect! I too am so looking forward to the next 40 days!

  8. Emily on February 22, 2012 at 11:24 am

    As a Catholic Aggie newlywed (does 13 months still count?) I ADORE your blog. I feel like I’m aiming for a life like yours someday so its so much fun to read about your journey as a Catholic mom and wife 🙂 One quick question – what kind of laminator do you have? I LOVE the tags you made and could see many uses for such a laminator in my house!

    • Kathryn on February 22, 2012 at 11:37 am

      I say hold on to newlywed status as long as possible – one day you’ll look up and be old and married like me! Your words are kind, but we (read: I) still have so much growing up to do.

      My laminator is awesome. It’s a GBC Creative Laminator that I purchased at Office Max for $50 (on sale) over the winter break. It can laminate up to 8.5×11, so it’s pretty versatile for what I needed/wanted.

  9. Lisa Schmidt on March 27, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Cut.The.Cable. (if you haven’t already.) You won’t be sorry!

    Love this post and the resources & ideas you provided.

  10. […] Include your children, no matter their ages, in the season of Lent. If your children are like mine and 40 days seems like an eternity, try these family-friendly Lenten ideas. […]

  11. Pam Marvin on February 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    A Priest Friend once told me… give up a vice that separates you from God and pick up a habit that brings you closer to God. The good news on starting a good habit..it didn’t end when lent was over.. I recommend adding daily Mass if you haven’t already!

    • Kathryn on February 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Great advice! I made a Daily Mass during Lent last year. Unprecedented! I plan on doing the same this year. Someday the season of life will allow me to make it to more than one.

  12. It’s Ash Wednesday, Time to Get Serious on February 13, 2013 at 7:31 am

    […] rosary all together. The kids have all chosen different things and we’ll see how those go. Last year, we debuted the PFA Basket (prayer-fasting-almsgiving) and it was a huge hit. It’s a keeper for this year, […]

  13. Brenda on February 13, 2013 at 11:31 am

    You won’t miss the cable!! +:D

  14. […] a beautiful prayer card in photoshop) our Lenten prayers on a piece of card stock. I printed out Kathryn Whitaker’s Lenten cards to use with the family. And I added a few of my favorite things […]

  15. HDYDI: Make Lent 40 Days of Awesome on February 24, 2014 at 7:31 am

    […] Get creative {and be realistic} with your kids. A few years ago we instituted the PFA (Prayer-Fasting-Alms Giving) Basket. The kids spotted it when I was putting up the Christmas decorations and were practically begging […]

  16. Getting Ready for Lent | Motherhood and Miscellany on February 26, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    […] have ice cream). I’m also going to use the Prayer, Fasting, Alms-giving basket mentioned in this post to help the girls (and myself) focus more each day on […]

  17. […] 40 days of awesome is almost here. As I said on Facebook earlier this week. Don’t be scared, be awesome instead. During previous Lenten seasons, I’ve done various things: written 40 notes of gratitude to various people, culled 40 bags of extra “stuff” at our house and donated it, fasted from Facebook, refrained from unnecessary shopping, attended daily Mass 1x week and more. Scott and I are still working on ideas for this Lent and I look forward to sharing those next week. If you’re looking for ideas on making Lent relevant (and doable) with your kids, you can try out our PFA (prayer-fasting-alms giving) basket. […]

  18. Leslie on February 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Seriously, your blog is awesome. And I love how red-ass you are. (for the non-Ags, that’s a major compliment). We are now in New Jersey and I am brainwashing my boys on A&M. Anywhoo, I love these Lent ideas, however, here is my question: My boys are 4.5, 3, and 2. I have no idea how or what I could do that would make a connection with my 4.5 year old, much less the little ones. (Isn’t it funny how your life season dictates whether 4.5 is a little one or big one??) Do I let myself stress out over this or not?

    Leslie ’98

    • Kathryn on February 28, 2014 at 9:13 pm

      I haven’t been called red-ass in a very, very long time. So, thank you for making my day! When your kids are super little, they hardly know when to put on their shoes or take a nap. I say wait until they’re 5 to really go gang busters. Maybe this year, you can choose one small thing a day for your 4.5 yo to do during the 40 days and call it a win. Just my two cents!

  19. […] I found a fabulous idea at Team Whitaker, which is a “Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving” basket. We are going to do try to do this also. The idea is to have a basket full of slips or tags, with […]

  20. Lisa on March 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

    This is wonderful! I am planning to use this with my family. Thank you so much for sharing it. I would like to invite you to please join my Lenten Linkup so others can be blessed by your post, as well. http://our4kiddos.blogspot.com/2014/03/what-are-you-doing-this-lenten-season.html

  21. […] Team Whitaker’s awesome printables to make each day something different for Lent! We love […]

  22. HDYDI: Celebrate Lent with Kids - Team Whitaker on February 11, 2015 at 12:31 am

    […] and Scott and I, this is in addition to what we’ve decided to do during the whole 40 days. The kids are already begging that I pull out the basket. I think that’s a good […]

  23. […] year we did the Lenten calendar from Catholic Icing to count down the days of Lent, and these printable cards from Team Whitaker to pick acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving each day. This year we’re combining these […]

  24. Melissa @ Homegrown Catholics on March 3, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you for sharing your ideas for Lent. The tags have been an inspiration to my next project I wanted to create and share with my readers. Have a Blessed Lenten Season!

    • Kathryn on March 4, 2015 at 5:49 pm


  25. […] Include your children, no matter their ages, in the season of Lent. If your children are like mine and 40 days seems like an eternity, try these family-friendly Lenten ideas. […]

  26. HDYDI: Celebrate Lent with Kids - Kathryn Whitaker on February 11, 2021 at 7:06 am

    […] and Scott and I, this is in addition to what we’ve decided to do during the whole 40 days. The kids are already begging that I pull out the basket. I think that’s a good […]

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