Last week I posted the first part of this two-part series, where I touched on CHURCH AND CHILDREN, PART 1 – WHY BRING THEM?
The only thing harder than getting kids to Church is getting those kids to stay put, and behaving.
For a long time the big sis was quite hesitant about going to church. In all honesty, what young child does? Sometimes, especially in the beginning, it was a struggle within myself to get us ready to leave on Sunday morning.
Even though my mother didn’t always bring us to Church, now I wonder how she brought us at all? She was a single mom, and had only herself to get us ready out the door.
I can at least rely on my husband to help with the getting ready part, he is great about that much. Though, as far as the rest he does remind me that “This is your thing.” He and I do not have the same feelings about our faith.
I have to be the one to get us there, both on Sunday School and non-Sunday School days. Believe me, this is no walk in the park, sometimes just the car ride is enough to drive me bonkers.
This is why I am extremely proud of each person that I see next to a little one at church. It takes faith, patience, strength and more patience, to bring young children to church week in and week out.
Honestly, there are some days when I’m “too sick” to go to church and I almost want to thank God that I don’t have to fight my daughter that week.
Now that she is four, she kind of likes going to church, and the fact that she started going to Sunday School this year makes it more fun for her. However, there are still times when she gets a little extra excited, a little extra loud, or towards the end, a little extra grumpy and ready to go.
It’s those times that I really begin to feel the judging eyes of all of the other parishioners on me. Or, so I think. Though in all honesty, I believe that I judge my daughter’s behavior at Church even more than anyone else.
Of course, that makes me feel guilty, and I just assume everyone else is judging me just as harshly. Maybe that is true, maybe not, but I can not put thoughts into other people’s heads because I do not know their hearts.
I feel that moments like this are a test from God, reminding us that no matter how bad things seem, we have to keep trying to build faith within ourselves and our children. Am I strong enough to continually face this test? Only time will tell, but I am sure as heck gonna try!
God is really the only one who is truly allowed to judge anyone, so I need to leave it up to Him to decide how good I’m doing. I need to believe that He is happy that I have my girls at Church most, if not every Sunday. I also have to believe that He will forgive the noise and mess they make.
After a few years of dealing with the big sis in Church, I have learned a few things to help make this a little more bearable, and the big sis’s boredom radar go on the fritz.
This comes from trial and error along with observing other parents at Church, and getting some much-needed advice from time to time (which I’m totally okay with).
Now that I am also starting to bring the little sis to Church with us, all of my dealings with the big sis will finally pay off. God gave me a second chance to be an even better mother to both of my girls and I am going to take it!
Here are some things I found that helped me over the years.
Diaper Bag Savior – For babies up to two years old bring a diaper bag. Even though it’s only an hour or so (and hour and a half at our Church), you never know what might come up. Always bring a full diaper bag (we use a backpack this time around), and make sure to pack everything you would for a regular trip with the little one. Think bottles, pacifiers, soft toys, diapering items, etc.
Church Bag – Once you have a toddler in tow, this is a great time to start a Church bag . This can be a backpack, purse, or any other type of bag for the child to have with them. We started with a Minnie Mouse backpack that my daughter still uses to this day.
Filling the church bag is different depending on the age of the child. Here are the ages and items that I find best.
See Diaper Bag for babies to two years old.
Toddlers Up to Four Years Old:
At this age, they are still young enough not to really understand Church etiquette. Though, this is when they start to learn that this is a quiet place. Of course, they don’t necessarily like it. These items should help with them.
- Light Snack – Dried fruit, crackers or cheese are all great choices. Though the less crumbs, the better.
- Juice Box – Try to have this in the car on the way to Church, however you can have this inside as long as you are careful not to let it spill.
- Soft Toy – Sometimes the young ones just need something to “play” with. I find soft toys, with no rattles inside of them, to be the best. If they fall, the toys do not make a sound (though, the kiddo may). No loud toys, unless you really want to be that parent.
Preschoolers Up to Six Years Old:
They are finally old enough to being understanding Church etiquette, and this is when you really need to put your foot down about staying quiet and not leaving the Church during Mass. Of course, it also starts some changes that they may not necessarily agree with at the time. First, no snacks inside the Church. At this age they should snack only in the car on the way to Church. Don’t skip this, even if they had breakfast already because somehow they will complain that they are hungry in the middle of the Mass. A hungry toddler is a, not so fun toddler. At this stage, let the child have the backpack, and wear in into Church. They are responsible for this.
- Notebook, Coloring Pages and/or Coloring Book – Try to have them Church themed if possible.
- Colored Pencils – I have found this is the best utensil for the notebooks. Anything else has a chance to mark up the pews, so I would only stick with these.
- Soft Toys – I have even seen some parents with Barbie dolls, and more but I still find these the best for any age.
Over Six Years Old:
Sorry folks, my daughter is only Five and I will have to get back to you on this one. I am hoping that my First Grade, she will be old enough to sit through Mass without assistance from the bag, but only time will tell. I am going to try to weed it out that year, but until then it is Church Bag city for us.
I do however want to leave you with a few no-no items to save you some pain, from my experience:
No Stickers – Great idea, but bad in execution. Who wants to be the one to try to get these suckers off of the pews? Not this lady!
No Markers, Pens or Crayons – Stain city, no thank you!
No Noisy Toys – Kids are noisy enough on their own, let’s not add to that if we can help it.
What are your favorite tips on helping kids behave and observe at Church?