Going to Mass with our young children can be a challenge. Whatever we can do to make it more enjoyable for all of us means we will be able to pay closer attention to Mass and leave church feeling filled spiritually rather than feeling tired physically and frustrated emotionally.
To continue from last week’s post, here are some more tips for going to Mass with young children. To read part one, you can find it here: “Tips for Going To Mass with Young Children.”
Teach children about the Mass.
Mass can last from forty-five minutes to over one hour. That can seem like a looooong time to a child. Children typically do not stay in one place for very long. They play and move go from one thing to another and one place to another at home with rapid speed. Staying in one pew for the duration of Mass can be challenging, especially when they have no idea what is going on at the altar or why it is happening.
Explaining the parts of the Mass to children will help them to learn about the Mass and hopefully be more interested in what is going on.
A Mass book for children with colorful pictures showing the different parts of the Mass may help them to be more focused on the Mass and learn more about it. They can bring the book into church and follow along during Mass.
They might start asking questions during Mass. We did encounter one challenge with this idea: our son would hold up the book and ask, “Is this where we are at?” frequently during Mass.
Know that your children will not be complete quiet during Mass.
When we have the understanding that our children will probably be fidgety, try to talk to us, or make noise during Mass, we have a realistic expectation.
When we expect complete silence and perfect behavior, we are setting ourselves up for frustration, since this is not usually how our children are during Mass.
Have realistic expectations.
Have a plan.
Before Mass my husband and I would talk about what we would allow or not during Mass. We would think about how our kids acted at the previous Mass and decide how we would handle things during the next Mass. We determined which of us would handle which child and what we would do if they began to be too loud or distracting.
Set the expectation before Mass.
Before Mass, we tell our children that we are going to Mass and remind them what behavior is expected of them.
When our kids know where we are going and what is expected of them, they are better prepared. Mass goes a lot smoother for all of us than the times when we got to church and heard a wail of, “Oh no–we’re at church again!?”
Bring a children’s Bible and religious books.
Rather than toys that the kids will make noise with (we learned our lesson on that one!), we started to bring religious books and children’s Bibles with us for our kids to look at during Mass.
Sometimes they we engrossed in the books for five minutes, other times for a longer period of time. If we brought a few books, our kids had a variety to choose from to hold their attention longer. (We would let them each choose a book ahead of time to minimize fighting over them during Mass.) As they got older, they could follow the parts of the Mass rather than just look through the book.
Give them time to move around after Mass.
After Mass, we give them time to run around outside. Our parish has a large courtyard in front of the church and a grassy area beside the church. As long as there is not an event going on, there is a lot of room for the kids to run around and play after Mass. This is something they look forward to, especially when their friends are at the same Mass and they can play together.
Looking forward to having time to play after Mass helps them to behave better during Mass.
Packing a change of clothes for the kids and going to a park after Mass so they can play for a while is another idea.
Sometimes giving them time to run around and play before Mass is helpful, too. Other times it has made their behavior in Mass worse since they don’t want to be in church for Mass, but playing outside.
Help as a family.
When we attend a parish event, we often stay to the end and help clean up and put away the folding chairs and tables. As our kids have got older, they are able to handle the chairs and tables by themselves. When they were very young they would help us with the chairs. Yes, it takes a little longer for two of us to carry one chair, but it is important for our younger kids to help, too. They wants to be involved, just as their older siblings are.
Our children gain satisfaction from helping at church. They also get to know other parishioners and they feel more a part of the church community.
We can set the example of service for our children and work together to help at church.
We learn as we go.
It is up to my husband and I to help our children to grow in understanding our faith and the Mass. One Mass at a time we can do this.
What do you find helpful to do to get through Mass more peacefully with young children?