Wednesday, April 20

Tips for Surviving Evening Services with Little Ones...

1. Feed your little ones well and with good, healthy food before church. If a child's tummy is full and they aren't thirsty, their behavior will be a lot better.

2. Limit (or eliminate) television and sweets for several hours before church. I have found that my children tend to act much more calmly if they aren't hopped up on sugar and have been playing rather than vegging out before church.

3. Be positive about going to church. It is hard to go to church at night with little ones after a long day, but children pick up on their parent's attitude. If you are feeling resentful about going to church, then everyone in your family will too!

4. Keep your children close to you. Our church has 21 children and 35 adults. The parents in our church have found that if we insist that our children stay with us and don't play or talk with their friends during services, their behavior is a lot better. We also try to allow them to play together a bit after church so that they do have some time to cultivate friendships.

5. Bring your children to church in their pajamas or bring a bag of pajamas and toothbrushes with you to change them in the bathroom or car. Having them all ready for bed once they get home makes things a lot simpler.

6. If you have a bedtime routine that is important to you and your little ones, try to still do it. When we have church at night, we have bathtime before dinner and stories after we eat... then we head out to church.

7. Don't be afraid to leave church for a little while for a break (though you should check with your priest about the best times to do so). Sometimes a little walk around the building helps to relax children... try to remain in a prayerful mindset though (i.e. no running, screaming, jumping, etc.). It will distract the people praying in the church and it will make it difficult to calm your child down when it is time to return to the sanctuary.

8. Point things out to a wiggly child. There are often many things happening in church that will capture a child's attention: the priest censing, icons on the wall, singing Lord Have Mercy, lighting a candle, etc.

9. Consider a very small toy, book, or coloring page to keep your little one occupied for a few minutes. Icon coloring pages are widely available on the Internet, the Orthodox publishing world has been doing a great job of getting new Orthodox children's books printed, and Anna has been sharing a lot of information on Felt Saints and Holy Week Learning Boxes. You can also purchase learning boxes for church through Orthodox Christian Craft Supply. Please just remember that you want these items to be as quiet as possible.

What are your suggestions for surviving evening services with little ones?


Kiernan said...

Great tips! I'm not a parent, but I have lots of friends in church who are. This will be so helpful for them. :-)

Blessed Holy Wednesday!

priest's wife - S.T./ Anne Boyd said...

very good, if parishioners didn't talk to my kids during the service...

Elissa Bjeletich said...

Great tips. For older kids (who can read) I think it's invaluable to have a copy of the service they can follow. That really settles my older kids.

With my little ones, I find that moving around the church throughout the service (stand in the front, now quietly move to the back of the church, now over by the window) helps. We like to walk from icon to icon, venerating each one. A little change of scenery (and perhaps a strategic move away from someone who keeps waving and making faces and getting them worked up!) can be like a reset button.

Deb said...

When our children were about 5 years old, we had them bring a notebook and pencil to church. They would draw a line down the center of the page and label one side "Lord" and the other side "Jesus". They would then make a check in the appropriate column every time Pastor said "Lord" or
"Jesus". When we got home, they would add up the checkmarks and see which word had been said more often. This led the choldren to really pay attention to the service.

Orthodox Education said...

Thanks for this post- My husband and I were just encouraging one another to do exactly as you have suggested. It is hard and it is work. But we believe it is very important to do the "right" thing and not the "easy" thing.

At our parish, it seems much easier for parents to let their kids run wild. Big kids want to play with our little ones, and
older parishioners want to hold and enjoy the babies. In America there are often "cry" rooms or nurseries as well....all of which we try hard to avoid..for they are nothing more than distractions from the actual services. Don't get me wrong, often we need breaks like you said, to step outside for some fresh air.

My approach has been to simply smile and say to others "we can play after Church, ok?"

I'll never forget a story of the Mother of God literally picking up these boys and repositioning them outside her home, the Church, because of their behavior!

Much strength to you to continue!

Kalo Pascha,

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