The game in this week’s Home Lesson presents many ways we can keep the Lord’s Day holy, but the one that stands out among them all is simply going to Mass. With a few exceptions, all Catholics of the age of reason* are required to attend Mass each Sunday. But what of those children who are not yet at the age of reason? Perhaps some of these ideas from other Family Formation parents will help your squirmy little ones:
- Dress up! This shows that Mass is important and will give them greater incentive to act appropriately. If kids are wearing “play clothes” they will most likely play.
- Realize that kids are going to be squirmy to a certain extent, but give them “pew parameters” that they are not allowed to cross. My wife and I used to station ourselves at each end of the family as boundaries.
- Make sure children go to the bathroom just before you sit down, and make sure they understand you will not leave the nave unless it’s an absolute emergency. (Of course, very young children who are potty training do not have the judgment or control to gauge this well, so the standards are a little different for them.) If you find your child has to go to the bathroom each Sunday during the homily, it’s probably more of a habit than a need.
- It seems obvious, but make your morning as stress-free as possible by choosing clothes and finding shoes the night before.
- Gather a small tote bag of Jesus-themed books that are only for use during the Liturgy of the Word. Put them away for the Liturgy of the Eucharist and focus on this part of the Mass in a different way.
- If a child gets upset, leave as discretely (and quickly) as possible, and settle him/her down. Then bring the child back into Mass. We’ve found that staying out tends to have the effect of rewarding bad behavior.
- Be persistent! It’s hard work for a little one to stay in one place for an hour. Try to see things from their perspective, and encourage any sings of good behavior.
We’d love to hear ideas that have worked for you! Feel free to share them in the comments box.