When I was pregnant with our son, I knew that we would always take him to Church with us on Sunday but I was nervous thinking of how he would behave as he got older. Thankfully, he is usually well behaved during Mass and has even started to follow along with praying, singing, doing the sign of peace, kneeling and even attempting to make the sign of the cross.
Despite the fact that he is so well behaved, I still get a bit anxious when he starts to act up. I understand that his occasional naughty behavior is completely normal given that he is a toddler. As most toddlers, he is full of enough energy to power a small aircraft for a trip to visit our family in Toronto and sometimes, it can be difficult to be quite and sit for any amount of time that isn't three seconds. (Sometimes it is difficult for me as well.)
I have previously shared my Catholic Mass Survival Kit and I hope that it has helped. There are some additional tips that may also make going to Mass stress free:
1. Full Belly, Happy Children.
Have you've heard the term 'hangry' before? (Hungry and angry, angry because of hunger.) We've all been there, right? Our son is wild, cranky and the definition of 'hangry' when he is hungry. That combination mixed with a quiet, long Mass can be torture. So, to prevent this hangry outburst from happening, we make sure that our toddler has eaten more than enough at breakfast before morning Mass. If we are going to Saturday night Mass, we make sure that dinner or at least a large snack happens beforehand.
When I am brave enough to bring my son to Mass alone and I think that he hasn't eaten enough, I feed him extra. At the rate that he is growing, I have even let him eat a banana in the car right before going in. Of course, you can also bring in food like cereal, Larabars, banana, apple slices, or other mess free snacks with you to Mass. As he has gotten older, it has been easier for us to gradually stop bringing food and drinks in to Mass and just keep them in the car for after.
2. Make Mass Fun.
My husband and I love going to Mass. I even get a leap of joy in my heart when we are driving to Church and I think of how I am going to soon be in the presence of Jesus Christ and get to receive Him through the Eucharist. Literally, it is like butterflies in my chest each time I remember what we are going there to do. It is important to make Mass a priority. More so, it is important for our son to see the joy we feel before going to Mass.
If we were to show him that we don't really want to go to Church, then how will he ever want to? Sure, there are times when it is really, bone-chilling cold outside and I would much rather stay in my warm bed than do anything at all, but I don't let him see that. Instead, I will say something like, "we are so blessed to be able to worship God in a warm Church." This approach has worked for other situations like going to the doctor's office or the grocery store, except I definitely don't get bursts of joy when food shopping!
“The earth could exist more easily without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” ~Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
3. Monkey See Monkey Do.
To expand on the previous tip, it is important for us to model good behavior, especially at Mass. No phones, no loud talking, paying attention to the order of Mass, etc... While our son is not a monkey (even when he is literally climbing the furniture to get to his markers!) he does imitate almost everything that we do. He sees that daddy drinks espresso, he wants an espresso cup too (with milk, though), he sees that mama works on the computer, he wants to work on the computer.
He sees that mommy and daddy genuflect (kneel) before getting into the pew and before the Altar, he genuflects now. (My heart EXPLODED the first time he did this!)
Our little monkey, I mean son, has even genuflected when we've forgotten to. (Sorry, Jesus!!) It was an immediate reminder and we fixed our error.
A reminder not just for going to Mass, but in all aspects of life: our children watch and imitate everything.
4. Sit Wherever You Want.
I love when I see other families with children at Mass. As Catholics, we want our faith to continue and thrive. One important way to do this is by bringing ourselves and our children to Mass.
When you are there, sit wherever you want. The Church is God's house, He doesn't care where you sit as long as you are present. We sit in the same exact spot that we sat before having our son. Of course, if you feel more comfortable in the back, sit there. Just please don't feel pressured to sit in the back or in the crying room. The wonderful Priest that married my husband and me said that a Church filled with young children is a thriving Church. When I asked him about children making noise during Mass, he told us that he loves to hear children during Mass as it reminds him of what Jesus said:
"Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Mt. 19:13-15)
5. Grin and Bear It
Speaking of the wonderful Priest that married us, he gave us some advice when I was pregnant. He said to try to avoid taking our child to the back of the church, or outside, or anywhere else when he fussed. He said that children can actually train their parents and if we constantly removed him from the Mass each time he fussed, it would almost be like a reward. Our son would soon realize that 'all I have to do to get mommy or daddy up and moving is to make a scene.'
Instead, our Priest suggested, we should try to calm, bounce, shush or feed (or all the above) right there in the pew. This has worked wonders for us and I highly suggest it to other parents. Of course, there are situations when children will not calm down and they have to be brought out as to not disrupt the Mass and so that they can settle down as well.
What tips do you have for keeping children happy and calm at Mass? Please share any helpful tips or tricks with us on Facebook.
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!