Guided patient waiting for your students
By Sheri Wohlfert
Advent is the perfect time to focus on the virtues of patience and self-control. Our fast-paced society doesn’t provide a lot of opportunity to develop these virtues but the beautiful, holy, anticipation packed Season of Advent does. Here are a few tips for helping students learn to wait well.
- Penance vs. Patience: Advent is a season of patience. We are waiting for something amazing, so practice some delayed self-gratification by adding a prayer or minute of silence after the bell rings for recess. The littles can pause long enough after the recess bell has rung to pray a simple prayer like, “Come Lord Jesus be our guest and in our hearts take up thy rest. Come Lord Jesus Come.” The older ones can pray the Magnificat or simply be still and ponder the image of an empty manger or Mary and Joseph on the journey to Bethlehem. Spending the first minute or two of recess waiting with focus is good for them and for us.
- Fun and Service: Have the students make a list of their 5 favorite things to do and 5 ways to serve others. Challenge them to do one thing from their service list before they do something from their favorite list. It could mean taking out the trash before watching TV or playing a board game with a sibling before playing a video game they prefer. Serving others before fulfilling their own desire builds self-control and helps us learn to die to self in tiny ways.
- The Battle of the lists: Most kids get excited about making their Christmas lists. They are often thinking about it and modifying it and daydreaming about it. List-making is an great organizational tool, and Advent is a great time to practice that skill. Challenge students to make three lists. First, the typical Christmas gift list. Second, “The gifts I want Jesus to bring to the world” list, and third, the “People who need my prayers while I wait for Jesus” list. Take a few minutes each week of Advent to ponder each list and share the changes they make with a group. As students spend the Advent season sharing their prayer list and their gifts of Jesus list they can begin to see how he is working in their lives. They can begin to see answered prayers and changes in the world around them.
- Waiting Art: Establish a class art project that will take all of the Advent season to complete. Giant coloring murals, Nativity puzzles, or construction-paper mosaics are just a few ideas. Monitor the time they have to work on this project so they don’t rush through it but gradually watch it come to completion, waiting for that final result.
- Model being still together: Read one or two lines from the Nativity Gospel each day and then just be still and quiet together as a class and picture that scene. Each day, begin the time together by recalling the parts of the story you’ve already read and then add to it in your mind and heart.
Through some guided patient waiting, your Advent will be filled with grace and your Christmas filled with joy and peace.
Sheri Wohlfert is a Catholic wife, mom, speaker, and teacher who writes from Michigan. She uses her sense of humor and her deep faith to help others discover the joy of being a child of God. Sheri also writes at JoyfulWords.org.
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