Hey God, It’s me Lori,
Please give me the patience and love to take my children to church. So they can see you within our church community and become a part of that community.
Taking my children to Church…
Expose your children to your religion. Take them to Church with you. In this day and age I have spoken to so many parents that say, “I just can’t seem to get anything out of my Church Service when I take the kids with me.”
Let me just say IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU!
When you become parents you split it all, if not give 75% – 99% away for a reason. Yes, there are many times I have taken my four children to Church with me and not heard the readings or most of the homily. My husband and I decided to do it for our family and our children. You do not learn how to behave in Church by not attending Church. I actually asked our priest long ago if he minded crying at times, he said “I would rather hear a child crying during my homily than not have that child present with their family.”
Church to me is a family affair. When you take your children to Church of course they don’t understand everything, they are little. However, as they ask you questions during Church instead of shushing them, whisper the answers and give explanations for what is happening and they will learn more. It is not always easy attending Church with your kids. It is trying but I feel the reward is that your children see Church, not just praying at home, is a necessity. There are many elements that contribute to one’s faith and Church. The body of Christ is not made up of bricks and a fancy building but by the people inside the building, the community learning, praising, praying, and participating by singing and being together. Our Church’s should be full of children who will continue to be Church in the future not just the older people who no longer have anyone to shush anymore.
When you become a parent your faith and religion are no longer just between you and God. God has created these little beings and wants you the parent, first to teach this child your belief in God and bring them to others to learn even more. It all begins at home. It should not begin the first day of Kindergarten in a Christian or Catholic School, or the first day of Sunday school. Your child needs to know your faith long before they enter school. It is not always comfortable to talk to your child about God. Remember this, your child thinks you are the center of his/her universe and you are his/her first teacher. Your child loves you unconditionally what you say, sing or pray doesn’t have to be perfect or always make complete sense. It just needs to come from your heart and touch their heart.
Sometimes I baby-sit for one of my cousin’s children. She has four children ages:11, 9, 5 & 3 and I love them. So to give their parents a break for a date I let them spend the night a few times each year. When I do this I have 8 kids. I love to take them to Church with our family. They are similar to my family because they do not miss Church on Sunday for any reason other than illness. So her children know how to behave during Church. I have only taken them twice but you should have seen the pride in my eyes as I walked 8 kids across the front of Church to find a seat. They were excellent all 8 of them and it’s not because they are perfect children, they are not! It is because their parents believed that as babies you bring your children to Church with you and teach them how to behave and explain what is happening. I guess it’s like bragging rights to me. I like to brag that I can handle 8 kids at Church but the truth is that their parents and myself as well as my husband have taken years to cultivate good behavior and respect for Church in our children. It can be done. It takes a commitment on the part of the parent or parents. You have to make a decision that you are going to follow through with this every week. Inconsistency will kill it all! As in every part of teaching your children how to behave, if they see that things you say will not be followed through. Why should they do the right thing, they won’t have any consequences. If you say to your children we will being going to Church from now on and then only do it once in awhile they won’t take you seriously.
The following is a list of 12 tips that I have learned through my own experiences, for taking your children to Church with you. Many of them seem obvious but I will state them anyway.
1) Attend Church on a regular basis.
2) Explain to your children way ahead of time, not just in the car when you are rushing to Church, how to behave. Remind them in the car calmly how they are expected to behave.
3) For the younger children we use rewards, call them bribes if you want. It gives them an attainable goal and an endpoint. With my youngest to gauge the endpoint of the Mass I tell him how many songs are left and he counts them down throughout the Mass.
4) We make sure that everyone has gone to the bathroom before they enter Church. Unless it is an emergency they are not allowed to go during Church.
5) Do not sit the children who like to pick at each other or talk to each other together. For little children 3 and under you can bring little books for them to look at. If you can purchase a few prayer books for children and specify that your child only use these books as Church books for Sunday, that makes the Church Service more significant to the child. I would not encourage parents to bring a bag of toys because they will think its play time and not pay any attention to the Church Service.
6) Answer their questions about Church as they ask the questions. If they actually ask the questions that means they are paying attention and you want to encourage that behavior. Don’t worry about disturbing the people around you, just whisper the answers. If you just shush your child will most likely not ask any more questions about Church.
7) With small children try to resist the urge to sit in the back of church because you will want to leave when things get bad. If you sit in the front of Church the children can see what is happening better and may be more interested.
8) Participate in the Church Service if you actually sing your child might feel more comfortable trying to do so. Your actions speak louder than your words.
9) When you feel anxiety and that everyone is staring at you because your child’s behavior seems bad, just remember at least half or more of these people are parents and have gone through it before. They are just happy that you are trying your best and are so proud that you are there with your children. I am not just saying that. I can’t count the number of older people who have stopped me after Church and said “It is so good that you bring your children”.
10) In trying to involve my children in the Church Service more, I read the scriptures before we go to Church. Then right before the lector goes to the ambo, place where the word of God is proclaimed from, I say “Ok guys listen and see if she says a letter from Paul….” They all listen and see if I was right. It is a game we play but it gets them to focus and they learn some of the names of the books of the Bible and sometimes actually listen to the reading.
11) DON’T GIVE UP! Just go through it over and over and over again and someday you will be able to relax and enjoy that your child will one day understand it and respect you for it.
12) Our priest said in his homily recently “I can do all things with Him who strengthens me” I use that at Church often.
I urge you to try the above methods. It is so worth taking them to church even if it is difficult. It is also difficult raising them. It’s not easy to put them in time out screaming at you. It would be easier to give in to their tantrum for a little peace and quiet but where does that get them in the long run? It’s the same with Church. It’s easier to keep them at home but you have just neglected to give them religion in your community. What you don’t teach them, they cannot learn!
This article was excerpted from Lori’s book, Just a Mom.
Copyright 2010 Lori Hadorn-Disselkamp