A lovely Facebook friend from St. Seraphim Cathedral asked if I would write a couple of pieces for the church school families. I thought that it might help your families. This is the first of two pieces, the second can be found HERE.
Cheesefare is coming to a close and Clean Week is rapidly approaching. The trepidation, and perhaps even dread, that parents feel is palpable to their children. To help our children enter the fast with the right attitude and to help them learn to properly fast is especially challenging when we ourselves don’t know how to fast properly. I won’t talk about the spiritual aspects of fasting today because there is certainly no lack of books, articles, and resources out there. Today I want to briefly discuss how to fast in a practical and tangible sense.
Our goal in parenthood is to raise well adjusted, moral, happily Orthodox adults. This might sound strange at first but our goal needs to be on the end, not where we are now. Raising children who stay in the Church as adults is a high challenge and there are things we do that make it easier and things that make it harder. Orthodox Christian fasting is so rigorous and so opposed to the message of the modern world that all of us get a little worried as Great Lent approaches. How we act as adults and the behavior that we model sets the tone for our children’s expectations. The more we complain and stomp our feet or get overwhelmed and cry, the more our children hear that this is not a life worth living. We can and should do better than that.
Some is Better than None
This is basically my mantra and I should have it printed on shirts. If you can’t do it all, do what you can, as much as you can. At least this way, something is done and that is better than nothing at all. If your child is supposed to finish the kitchen after school but has a lot of homework, wouldn’t you rather they do part of the task (say, load the dishwasher) than nothing? Absolutely. Some is always better than none. When you must make compromises or you just can’t fast in the way you would like, don’t beat yourself up. Do what you can and start over again tomorrow with a clean slate and a fresh attitude.
Have a Plan
One of the most stressful parts of fasting is just figuring out what you are going to eat at every meal. One of the ways to limit your stress is to make a list of ideas for every meal. Try to come up with a few breakfast items, a few lunch box ideas, a few snack ideas, and a few dinner ideas. If you put a list up with at least two ideas for each, then when you panic, make something from the list. Monotony is boring but boring is better than stressed.
Involve the Children
Children are in control of precious little in their lives and sometimes their frustration can bubble over. Avoiding meal time melt down is critical in helping you maintain your sanity. Get the children involved by tasking them what they want to eat and make it, even if it seems strange. It will reduce meal time fights and it helps take the pressure off you in deciding what to eat. Less stress is worth it, I promise.
Gather Your Supplies
Once you have a basic list of go-to meals and your kids’ menu ideas, make sure you have the ingredients. If you feel like your back is to the wall, you can recycle that same grocery list again and again and you won’t have to put your brain to work.
Stop Looking for Perfection and Start Practicing Patience
Don’t carefully study labels looking for any trace of whey or butter oil or any other item. You will drive yourself crazy and end up feeling worn thin and bitter. Do what you can but don’t make yourself crazy. Being overwhelmed and feeling small isn’t healthy for anyone and it sets a bad example for your children.
If you are looking for more detailed help such as shopping lists, menu planning advice, and loads of recipes, check out my book. You can find it in church stores, major retailers, and from the publisher by clicking the links in my sidebar or clicking HERE.