Sunday morning can be a stressful experience for parents of small children. Between getting everyone out of bed, and the kids dressed and fed, teeth brushed, shoes on, and buckled in the car, many families find themselves rushing out the door and sneaking into the back of Church a few minutes late. Then when you arrive, it can be difficult to keep your kids quiet and engaged for an hour or more during Mass.
“It is a challenge,” says mother and blogger Mary Deturris Poust. “It also depends on their mood, and if they’ve got a temper tantrum or if they’re cranky or overtired. I think one thing is knowing your kids, and if they’re cranky in the afternoon, let’s not do the Saturday 4 o’clock Mass! You can make things easier on yourself that way. Find the time that works better for you and plan things out.”
Sometimes it’s helpful to lower your expectations on Sunday morning. It’s great to want your family to be dressed in their Sunday best and on their best behavior, but there are times when that just isn’t going to happen. “Some days it may just be that they’re going to have to wear the comfortable outfit that they aren’t going to fight you over,” says Poust.
Giving your young children something special to look forward to on Sunday can also help them to be excited about going to Mass. “We used to have the saint board book and the Mass board book in their little bag that they would bring to church,” says Poust. These were special things that they only got out on Sundays. You could also have a big breakfast after Mass, or go out for brunch, something that your kids will want to get out of bed to do.
“With our young children, we used to sit in the back because we figured we didn’t want to bother people when they made noise. And then you realize that for a little tiny toddler, that means they’re looking at the backs of everyone else and seeing nothing. So we totally flipped that and sat in the front row from then on. That helped make a difference because they could see what was happening and they were curious and could ask questions,” says Poust. This made Mass more interesting and engaging for her small kids.
It can also be helpful to set the groundwork for Mass. Add in some extra prayer time or go through the scriptures with your kids prior to Mass. “Talk about, especially if they’re little kids, the stories they are going to hear, because so often the kids can’t understand what they’re hearing at Church,” says Poust. If you talk about it beforehand, they know what’s coming when they get there.