Monday, January 2, 2012

Tackling Mass & Religion with Kids....

You always see families with perfect kids in church and you wonder to yourself "How did they get them to behave like that?" I must say every once in awhile we are THAT family but more times than not our kids have their issues with sitting through mass.
 
Taking your little ones to church was always something I was very nervous about before we had kids! I converted to being Catholic during my pregnancy with Vincent, so I was brand spanking new to the church, just as Vincent was. I was always nervous of what he would act like, or what I would do if they had a melt down in the middle of mass. It was very terrifying because you feel like ALL eyes are on you when you have kids, and I must say that once we had Vincent and got into the groove of things, it got easier. 

We have tried EVERYTHING to figure out the perfect plan of attack for all the scenarios of what can go wrong during the hour long mass. The meltdowns, the ants in their pants, trying to get them involved {as much as a toddler can}, how to handle feedings, dirty diapers and everything that can go wrong within that hour. It has all happened to us, every single scenario we have been through, but we made it through!:)

Here is what we have figured out in our almost 3 years of weekly mass with newborns and toddlers. 
Obviously these are tactics that have worked for us and our boys, you may have to find your own rhythm of what works for you and your family but here is our list:

1. {Try to}Take them EVERY week: I think this is a HUGE one! I, never in a million years thought that I could make it to church every week, let alone make it with my babies every week. Thankfully Jordan is the driving force and we have not missed a mass. The boys went seriously days after they were born. I think that has helped them to learn that mass is a quiet time, and it is "serious". I am shocked to see how much Vincent has learned about mass! He kneels, does the sign of the cross, stands and sits and folds his little hands just like the adults. It helps that they see everyone around them doing the same thing. Luke is slowly catching on! haha

2. Toys or NO Toys: Jordan and I totally butted heads for weeks and months on whether they should be allowed silent toys or books or nothing at all. Sometimes they would help but more times than others they caused more harm then good for our boys. Jordan was totally right that no toys or distractions is best for our little men. I am thankful to not have to pick up dropped toys or worry about them flinging something at someone haha! Every now and then they will find a random chapstick or something in my purse and play with that but that's all we're working with. I see a lot of families allow books and maybe in the future we will use books but for now it's more of a hassle for us.

3. Snacks and Drinks: After 2 years we have FINALLY found the perfect rhythm and timing for when to give them snacks and drinks, it has been working pretty darn well or the past few months! We would just give snacks whenever they wanted but then we would find ourselves out of ammo mid-service and trust me that is not fun! We now give them their milk right when we arrive {after a quick family prayer}, they drink that through all the readings, then when the homily begins {midpoint of service} we let them have their snacks and they munch on those through the homily. 

4. What to do during a Meltdown: My first instinct is always GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE and run like the wind, but that is not always the easiest. Jordan and I also butted heads on what to do in this situation. I would typically just take Vincent or Luke out to the hall and let them chill out and run around a little, but that was not working. Jordan's choice was to take them out and get them back in ASAP. I was very hesitant at first because I am ALWAYS so nervous of what others are thinking and I did not want to walk back in just for them to have another meltdown. At the end of the day Jordans approach worked {I swear he is always right...} but letting them run around or stay out in the hall was more of a reward than punishment. If and when they melt down we swiftly walk out and explain why they cant act that way {obviously Vincent knows right from wrong now} but then we get them back in ASAP and it has helped alleviate a lot of problems.

5. Something I always keep in mind is EVERYONE has been there: The best thing about churches are that they are a community and mostly everyone has, has had or knows children. I mean almost weekly people come up to us, either to sympathize with us if one of the boys was a bit off, to compliment them on being good and most of all to let us know that they have been in our shoes. I have never once encountered someone being mean or rude at mass towards us. People may look over when one of the children makes a noise but I do the same when I hear something in mass, and it is never judgmental, I think most of the time people are just curious where the noise came from so they look. It can be intimidating but you have to have thick skin and know that you are there for your family and to help them learn about God, the little hiccups do not matter. Also, if people have a problem with it, it is THEIR problem, not yours! Children make noise {obviously don't let them be crazy} but most understand that and are nice to you!

6. Where to sit: I have to say where to sit is also KEY! We have also tried it all in this case. At our old church we sat in the front corner, with easy access to the door for "those" moments! But when we moved and switched to a new church we had to slowly migrate in as the "new people". We started out in the back pews with easy access out the back doors, but it wasn't working, people chatted to much back there which was not good for the boys to see. If the boys see another kid acting crazy they will obviously think that is normal and want to do the same, so we try to limit that. We moved back up to the front corner and it is perfect. We get there early to ensure good seating, also it helps for the boys to be able to see what is going on at the alter during mass. We sit on the edge so in case of emergency we are not making others shuffle around.

7. Arriving early: I am horrible with being on time so Jordan makes sure we have extra time for my lateness built in the schedule. We arrive about 10-15 minutes before mass. It helps to get the boys all settled in to the pew and get the wiggles out vs walking into a crowded mass and being nervous. We also then have time to do our prayer and the boys can begin their milk and watch as everyone else settles into their seats. I think they like people watching {like their mama} 

8. DON'T GIVE UP! It is intimidating, you will feel judged at times, you might question yourself but at the end of the day you will feel better for trying! 

9. Church continues in daily life: It is very hard to expect children to be perfect for one hour one day a week and I also think this is another HUGE thing that has helped our boys. We incorporate church into our everyday life with prayers at every meal, night prayers & bible stories and rosary{with Vincent}. It may sound like a lot but once you get into the rhythm of it, it all meshes together well, it also gives Jordan and I time to reflect on our own prayer life. I want to do an entire seperate post about what we actually do and how we do it daily. It's literally only an extra 20 minutes a day and I love the bonding {and snuggles} with the boys

We are not perfect, our children are not perfect but we really try do the best we can by taking them every week and it has paid off. Just watching what they have learned thus far is BEYOND rewarding! One of my goals this year is to help others to come closer to God {whatever religion you are} and help to bond with your family in His teachings. I feel like it is always intimidating for families with young kids so I want to let you know, IT is possible {not always the most fun dealing with a crabby baby in mass} but the rewards are worth it. I never had a "religious" life as a child or teen and I totally hate that, I refuse to let my kids down in the religion department! It is my job as their mom that they learn to their FULL capacity all that they can. 

I do not want to be overbearing or pushy in my blog about religion but I do want to share some of the helpful things I have learned. Let me know if that interests you guys!!!

Is this also one of your goals for 2012? If so, let's rock it out! :)
xoxo

12 comments:

  1. What a cute post...those are GREAT tips!

    I love your blog btw! Mama power :)

    Jenna
    www.thelifeofthewife.blogspot.com

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  2. I love this post! We are struggling right now with W because he's so active. I know you get that with your two boys. We usually bring a couple of books but haven't really done toys, although there is a buckle that he likes to play with that we brought a few times. It bought us tons of time! But there was the whole dropping it thing. Is 18 months too young to get that he has to sit there and be quiet/still? My husband thinks we shouldn't bring anything with us and he'll learn that it's not a time for him to do things or play. We also attend such a big church so it seems hard for him to focus. We like to sit up front a bit so he can see, but it's still tough!

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  3. These are excellent tips Allie. I agree, sometimes our first instinct when children start acting like, well, children, is to head for the nearest exit. But it is important to have them stay. They deserve to be there just as much as any other parishioner (even those few that stare, I always feel sorry for those people, life is much more enjoyable when you build each other up, not down) and children are beautiful reminders of Gods love. I would definitely be interested in reading more about your family’s religious rituals.
    Happy New Year!

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  4. I love this! Where we go to church most of the kids go to children's church or nursery, but Mike & I would want to keep our kids in with us.Great example!

    That husband of yours... he's so smart! Haha!

    Happy New Year Allie!

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  5. This is great... you guys are doing amazing things for your children by showing them the importance of knowing Jesus from such a young age. Going to church on Easter and Christmas isn't enough... consistency is key!
    I'm surprised that Catholic churches don't have childcare. You are one brave woman. We go to a non-denominational Christian church that has unbelievable childcare... and the kids are singing, praying and learning about Jesus, so I feel good about it.
    And, I could totally identify with you on how Jordan is always right... Mauricio is too... who the heck made them so smart?! haha

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  6. Loving this blog. We're Episcopalian, so I totally understand the getting up and down, kneeling, standing, Eucharist. It's constant movement. I've always wondered how parents do it, I know how mine did it...pretty much the way you handle your boys in church.

    Have a great week

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  7. Anna was soo good at mass when she was a baby, but once she started talking....we had to move to the cry-room . She gets all hyped up with the singing and doesn't stop when everyone else does haha. Your church doesn't have a cry room?

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  9. Great post and tips!

    I was actually the opposite. I was raised devout Roman Catholic all my life and Im now christian ....but the principles are the same and when my daughter was 1 1/2 we actually stopped going to church because it had become a nightmare with her....now we seem to have found a rythm and its getting easier with 2 kids.

    But in our church having a nursery for the little ones is KEY. My daughter starts off at her Sunday School Class ...my son goes to the nursery......we go to the adult sunday school class.

    Then after sunday school the kids go to another area for "kids church" while we can enjoy the service for the adults (gives us a bit of a breather too)

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  10. This is such a great post. I am Catholic too and I've struggled with whether or not to take my kids with me to mass. I've decided to start bringing Landon, although Hannah will stay with her Dad at home (Ryan doesn't go to church much). Plus Landon's almost old enough for Junior Liturgy. I wish I had begun from day 1 like your family has always done! I noticed at mass a family lets their children bring children's books that tell various stories from the bible. I think I would let my kids bring those.

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  11. I have an eight year old and we went through the same thing with him. I keep a toy in my purse and it is just for Mass. It's a little transformer and he only plays with it during Mass and not EVERY mass. We usually reserve it for a long service with many readings or an especially long homily. As he got older, he enjoyed the Mass cards. He likes to follow along and I bought him his own Holy Mass book. I was going to keep it until Easter and give it to him for first communion, but he needs it now. Good luck and I am sure God is fine when your kids are rambunctious. =) He's just glad they are there.

    Carly
    www.loppysided.com

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Thanks for your comments, If I do not respond to you, feel free to yell at me! I really love you all~!