Keeping Your Children in Mass – A How To Guide From Birth to Age 5

983552_familyI’ve found that helping your children to be “good” in Mass is usually dependent on three things.   First, it is dependent upon frequency.   Second, it is dependent upon consistency.  And third, it is dependent on your home being a domestic church.

I am well familiar with some seasons being easier than others, but children learn best how to behave in church by being there, in the sanctuary, EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK.   And better yet, try to attend daily Mass on a regular basis, too.  There was a time where my husband was able to attend daily Mass most days of the week and that was when my oldest learned how to behave in church.   Since then, our daily Mass attendance has been sporadic at best, but it is excellent for the children since they can usually see more of what’s going on.  In addition to that, there is just something about the extra graces provided by attending an extra Mass with the kids by yourself.  I’m filled with joy every time we go; even if it’s a struggle the whole time ;).

Consistency is also a key.   We used to let our oldest crawl and walk all around the pew.   That totally did not work.   She is 5 and still has trouble facing forward and not being a little monkey!    With our next, we got a little wiser and I decided that she was going to be a lap-baby until she was at least 2 years old.   If we are in church, she is on somebody’s lap.  Period.  If she struggled, we squeezed her thigh and told her, “no, we sit quietly in church.”  If she resisted again, we told her “no” and squeezed her again.   The next time, we took her out, disciplined her and then went right back in.   There were a few times we went out more than once (or twice or three times), but under no circumstances did we let her run around in the vestibule, go to the cry room, or take her for a walk.  It didn’t take long before she sat as quietly as you can expect from a small child.   On the plus side, it also meant that we never had to take out a screaming child who had fallen and gotten hurt again J.

Lastly, if you have a domestic church, it makes it much easier to teach respect for God and prayer time in ALL settings, not just during Mass.  Our children are required to be respectful and participate as much as they are able while we are saying grace, doing a family rosary, and even reading the Bible.  We also teach respect for Holy items in church such as Bible’s never being thrown or put on the floor or not wearing Rosaries as jewelry.   When they are instructed from birth about these objects and behaviors it almost becomes a part of who they are and how they behave and it makes attending Mass an extension of the Church.

As a practical manner, here is how we cope with and address issues with children during Mass

Birth

  • They attend Mass and are usually held or put in a sling.   If they are asleep in a carrier, we have done that on occasion, as well.
  • A soft (quiet) toy to grasp is also helpful.

Age 1

  • Still on the lap!
  • Remember a pre-church snack!    I try to feed them before we leave, although we now have crackers in the van for the ride over (and back) since we attend the late Mass each week now.  This is especially important when the child is not nursing as much or when you’ve decided they are old enough that they no longer need to be nursed during Mass (about 15-18 months in our home).
  • A religious beanie baby or stuffed toy.   We used to bring a book or other quiet toy, but it became annoying when they dropped it at the quietest point of the Mass J.

Age 2

  • Off the lap as they are able to sit quietly.  So far, mine still prefer to be on a lap most of the time.
  • A small notebook & pencil, a ring of holy cards, or small beanie baby or other stuffed toy.

Age 3

  • Off the lap.   Facing front.
  • A small notebook & pencil, a ring of holy cards, or small beanie baby or other stuffed toy.

Age 4.

  • Off the lap.   Following the motions as desired or sitting in the pew.
  • Participate in giving Peace and saying the Our Father.
  • A small notebook & pencil or a ring of holy cards.

Age 5

  • Following the motions of Mass – standing, sitting, kneeling.
  • Participating in the Peace and Our Father.

We have also made some listening pages for our 4-5 year olds to use during Mass that helps them follow along, yet have something to keep their hands busy.   There is a different one for each liturgical season and I have made them for both the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Masses since we attend each depending on our mood and schedule.   You can find them on my blog today — Catholic Mass Listening Pages — Novus Ordo and Traditional Latin Mass.

How do you keep your little ones in the sanctuary during Mass?

Copyright 2013 Jen Steed

20 Comments
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