Lent is the season of penance and conversion, so this a great time for children to celebrate their first confession.
In our parish, children do this in grade three. It’s a challenge to prepare them in a way that resonates right now, and also equips them to recognise in the future the value in examining one’s conscience, naming one’s sin, requesting God’s mercy and healing, and all the other ideas and practices which inform the complex concept of Christian conversion.
The best starting point, I think, is always sacred scripture. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) In my experience, children especially like, and respond to, the story of Zacchaeus, and the parable of the prodigal son.
It’s also good, I think, to situate sin and conscience in the context of good choices and bad choices. Am I right in thinking that “good choices” is something children either intuitively learn, or their parents and peers teach them, even before the school years?
In any event, here are two YouTube clips which lend themselves to this idea of good choices and bad choices. I don’t know how pedagogically valuable the first clip is, but it’s certainly entertaining, and illustrates a point the kids are already familiar with.
The second clip is a real godsend. I vaguely recall a friend (then a teacher, now a seminarian!) sending me a similar clip a few years ago, which he used in class to illustrate supererogatory charity — that is, love that goes “above and beyond the call of duty.” The big difference is that the former clip was American, and this one — filmed just last week — is Australian:
Turns out, Brendan’s generosity is even more impressive than the newsreader makes out. You can read the details here: Is 8-year-old baseball fan Brendan the nicest kid in Australia?