December 8, 2012

Kids at Mass tips for a convert

This morning I got a great email from a woman who is joining the Church; Her name is Emily.

First - YIPPEEEEE!   Emily, I am so excited that you're becoming Catholic!  How beautiful, how joyful, how wonderful! 

Second - don't be overwhelmed, Emily.  ;)

Third, Emily is looking for some tips on who to get her 4 year old and 2 year old to be good during Mass.  I'll let you read a portion of her email:

My husband and I are in RCIA right now and we can't wait to be in full communion with the One True Church!! There is, however, the small (okay, medium) issue of bringing my almost 4 year old and 2 year old daughters to Mass.  [T]his Sunday we need to start coming to Mass (which we are excited about) and then have a little discussion about the homily or any questions we may have. Because we are both in the class and because we want to going to Mass to be a family thing (obviously), we will be bringing our daughters. And well, I am nervous about my girls' behavior. They are good girls, but they are little and loud. And ask millions of questions. 

I am just at a loss on what I should do or if I should bring anything to entertain them. Our instructor said we could bring toys/activities for when we are doing our discussions, but I'm not sure if that's appropriate for Mass. I think I am mostly freaking out because they haven't experienced anything like a Mass before. I guess I feel like cradle Catholic kids would be used to going and therefore, better behaved? I don't know. I'm just afraid my daughter will be asking me questions the. entire. time. loudly. Please help!! Did I mention because we're in RCIA we're suppose to sit in front? Um, yes, there's that also. Help!

I'll give my thoughts but I ask you to leave yours in the comment box.  Even if we have differing opinions I think it's important because what works for us may not work for Emily, but what works for you just may!

A) My kids do not always obey / sit silently / whisper quietly as needed / behave during Mass and they've been raised there.  

B) I think books are okay for Mass, especially for your 2 year old, but I wouldn't bring any other toy.  We do not do snacks during Mass but when our kids are 2 and under they do get a bottle, sippy cup, or they nurse.  We used to do toys and snacks and it just was NOT worth it.  I'm so glad we did away with those things - my kids behave so much better.

C) A little bit of noise is okay - noise can be some talking, laughing, singing in the wrong place, even some crying or fussing.  However, prolonged crying, fussing or screaming means our kids are taken out of the sanctuary.  They are reprimanded and then brought back into the pew - being able to run around in the back of church or outside is a reward not a punishment for our kids!

D) We always sit in front and the kids tend to do better because of it.  They can see what's happening at the alter, watch the bells ring, see the host be elevated, etc.  It helps them engage and my husband and I try to point things out and tell them what's about to happen or is happening.  "Father's going to read the Gospel so we're going to stand up to listen to Jesus' words."

E) Before we even go into Mass we tell them what we expect.  Your kids may not have ever been to a Mass before but I'm sure they've been places they've had to obey - doctor offices, weddings, nicer restaurants.

F) If you can take them to the church when no one else is there and show them how to genuflect, point out the statues and tabernacle, talk about what's going to happen.  Sit in the pew with them and show them how to kneel and make the sign of the cross.  Allow them to be comfortable in the hopes that there will be less questions during Mass.

Okay - so that's what I thought of.  I hope this helps, Emily!  God bless you, your husband, and your children as you continue your conversion process!


  1. I agree with all of your suggestions - that is what we do with our kids, except that we don't even bring any books. Also, I bring one sippy cup and if they want a drink I give them one and put the cup back in the diaper bag. I got tired of sippy cups being banged and dropped and rolling on the floor. I really think that the less stuff you bring the better they behave. We also sit close to the front so they can see what is going on. So far this has worked well for us. Our kids are 3, 18months and 8 months.

  2. Some parents have vey strong beliefs on bringing toys/food etc to mass and others don't. You should do what works best for you and your family regardless of what others think. It doesn't say anywhere in our faith that toys/bottles etc are a sin for infants and children so its up to you to decide what works for you. I have brought some things over the years and a lot of the times I didn't--whichever way, children are going to be challenging at mass.

    I don't think most people mind some chatter of children. Its normal. Especially if they know by your seating placement that you are new to the faith they should be understanding--I hope :)

    A pen and pencil on a small notebook might work...I have seen a lot of moms bring stickers, although I never did, but the moms that do their kids seem real quiet. Your purse is an endless source of entertainment. I have seen kids play with hair brushes and all sorts of stuff that are naturally in purses. ( But I think the consesus is that all electronic gadgets like cell phones/smart phones are kinda rude.)

    If you do choose food know that it will get spilled so keep that in mind...and nothing too crunchy or noisy. Cheerios crush all over the place etc. If I were to bring a drink, I find that water works best. You could always promise them a treat/drink afterwards if they behave.

    If you want to practice for Sundays then I would recommend going on a weekday at a less attended time. There is hardly anyone there and the masses are shorter. Then you practice things go.

    and welcome to the faith:)

  3. We have a 22 month old and here are some things that are working for us right now (and these could change at any moment)

    We don't expect her to stay in our laps or arms. We finally relented and let her play on the kneeler or in the pew between us and she is MUCH better than when we tried to contain her. She's very active so if she's moving, she's behaving. We just spread out a bit to give her room but are very firm about not letting go on the outside of us (she'll run out into the aisle in a heartbeat).

    We stopped bringing in the diaper bag and my purse. She was constantly asking for food and we couldn't stop her. Now, she never asks. At first I didn't mind a few raisins at the end of Mass to get us through-but then she started asking the second we walked in the door and wouldn't give it up.

    We have a stack of holy cards that she can play with ONLY at Mass. My husband brings them in his pocket and we get them out when she's on the verge of misbehaving (before she misbehaves though, so it's not a reward). She loves to line them up on the pew, hide them in the books, hand them to us one at a time, etc. She actually squeals with delight when we get them out.

    We try to teach her to whisper instead of just telling her to be quiet. It works.....kinda. She's learning.

    We commentate the Mass parts for her so she kind of knows what's going on. She loves the Sign of Peace, so we can bribe her with that for a few minutes before it happens.

    We don't expect her to be silent, or even very still, but if she really acts up (hits us, starts yelling, etc) we take out and put her in time-out. At our parish, we have to go completely outside and into a separate building for this but it is worth it. I stand her in the corner and turn my back to keep her blocked in. She hates it so much that she's usually anxious to get back inside.

    Don't beat yourself up! Try your best! And just roll your eyes at anyone who tries to make you feel bad for bringing Jesus' children to Him in Mass!

  4. oh-and we always sit in the first or second pew! HUGE difference!

  5. Yeah Emily! Congrats! What a journey!
    You've gotten some great ideas from the others.
    I too am a convert. I have kids aged 0-13 and I have found that going to Mass often is the way to help them to learn to sit. Daily Mass is typically 30 minutes and might be a good intro for them.
    If you can begin to share the names of the things that they see, they will be more interested in looking around quietly while Mass is going on. Can you name the bells? The Chalice and Paten? The Chasibles?
    I highlight the songs at home that they will hear. Can you sing the "Alleluia" or the "Lamb of God" with them? Those are easy songs and they can then participate when they hear them.
    Recently this was in my parish bulletin. I think it applies here:
    Celebrating Children at St. _____ Parish
    To the Parents of our young children, may we suggest...
    Relax! God put the wiggle in children; don't feel you have to suppress it in God's house. All are welcome!
    Sit toward the front where it is easier for your little ones to see and to hear.
    Quietly explain the parts of the Mass.
    Sing the hymns, pray and voice ther esponses. Chidlren learn liturgical behavior by copying you.
    If you have to leave Mass with your child, feel free to do so, but PLEASE come back. As Jesus said "let the little children come to me".

    To the members of our parish
    The presence of children is a gift to our Church! They are the memebers of our community and a reminder that our Parish is growing.

    Remember, too, that the way we welcome children in church directly affects the way they respond to the Church, to God and to one another. Let them know that they are at home in this house of worship.
    Please welcome our children and give a smile of encouragement to their parents.

  6. I agree, you just have to find out what works for your family, and expect it to change. We have a 5 yr old, a 3 yr old and a 17 mo old.

    I've found that going to Mass more often does help. And usually, your kids aren't as loud as you think they are.

    That being said, what works for us:

    We briefly talk about expectations on the way to Mass. I say a prayer during my preparation for patience and charity ;)
    We have never brought food or drink into Mass (but nursed babies as needed). We always make sure they bring a couple books (usually a "holy" book). Quiet toys are good, my 5 yr old really likes lacing boards. And we also have some kids saint cards that they can bring in.

    I think it's great when kids ask questions during Mass (as long as they use their "holy" voice) -- that means they're trying to understand. If all else fails, I try to redirect my kids during the consecration, and whisper to them about the miracle they are witnessing, and that even though we can't see them, the room is filled with angels.

    Sometimes we make sure we get all our wiggles out before we enter church. And sometimes, bribery is helpful ;) like donuts after Mass.

    I'm sure they'll do great! Welcome home!!

  7. Emily,

    What a great thing you are doing for you and your family. The Catholic Church is rich with tradition and an amazing place to raise a family.
    Going to Mass is an adventure with kids. Sometimes we are amazed that we actually were sort of able to follow along and other days we feel like we should go to confession for all of "the looks" we were giving each other. We have 4 kids (2,4,6,& 8) and with each we have gotten more relaxed. Our job is not to distract our kids and keep them busy but to teach them and encourage them to participate. We do let the youngest bring Catholic books and Saint cards and our older girls can bring Mass books to follow along with the parts of Mass or a notebook to draw something they heard in a reading or saw in Church. We don't hesitate to take a noisy kid to the back of Church when needed, but we have also learned that they will make noise and move around. Most importantly we explain what is going on in Mass and answer their questions.
    You might want to look and see if there is a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in your area. It is a Montessori based program that teaches the students the parts of the Mass and all the things they will see. It is certainly something you could do at home as someone suggested. Also there is a website called Holy Heroes and they have very short videos before each Sunday Mass explaining the readings for kids.
    Just take it Mass by Mass and know you are doing a great job. You are teaching your kids to love Jesus and the Church and you just can't really go wrong with that (even if it is stressful at times).

  8. WOW! I am overwhelmed by your responses, thank you SO much! Today was our first time bringing the girls to Mass. My sponsor and my husband's sponsor (they are husband & wife) sat with us. After Mass people kept telling us they did really well, but it sure did not feel like it!!! I had not brought anything with me, but my sponsor let them hold her Rosaries and they enjoyed looking through the Missal. We when go back tomorrow I am going to bring a couple books and a pencil and pad for the homily. It's great to know that every family experiences something similar and that we can all relate. I love that Bonnie's and another commenter mentioned that leaving Mass was not a treat, but a punishment. That is a great thing for me to keep in mind. I love the holy card idea as well!! I want to explain what is going on during the Mass, but honestly, I am just learning myself and so I think that will take a while. We can learn with them I guess!! Thank you again!!

  9. These are such good comments! I wanted to add a quick suggestion (that I've found works for me) is to take them to the church during the week. Not necessarily for daily Mass - because sometimes we can't get out of the door that early (!)...but to let them go in with me and sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament...and stare. We usually say a quick prayer for the people we love and then I start pointing things out to them. Asking them what things are. Letting them ask me questions. Sometimes (even though I've been a Catholic my whole life) I tell them that I don't know, but I bet we can find out together.

    Being in awe of the mystery of our faith can be childlike for the 2 y.o and the 31 y.o I've found :) I love letting them experience sitting quietly and taking in the presence of the Lord, even if it is for a few minutes/seconds/miloseconds (does that word exist?) From there, I do suggest daily Mass (IF you can do it, like I said, I have the hardest time with this by myself) and/or taking moments the night before Sunday Mass to either read the reading or "pump" them up for seeing their friend Jesus the next day.

    Also, ditto on sitting close to the front. I also say don't be afraid to kneel real close to your littles during the consecration and ask them to watch what Father is doing. Ask them to play it out...or blow a kiss to Jesus. All these actions have helped so much outside of just asking my children to "be quiet" or "sit still." They have no idea why unless they develop wonder in themselves! That takes time, of course. I am still learning ;) Overall, I think you coming into the Church provides such depth and wonder to their own little learning hearts. What a wonderful thing for all of you to learn together!

    Ok, I'm done. As always, my comments get entirely toooooo long! Blessings to you Emily!

  10. I second taking them to a daily mass to get them used to what goes one. There's generally fewer people there as well.

    I've read about having special "mass bags" with stuff in them you only get to have at mass. For example, kid's picture missal etc. but nothing that clicks or clanks or makes noise!

    Resign yourself to the fact that there will always be sour people who give dirty looks or complain. Pray for them, and continue to be sweet to them. Who knows, your child may remind them of someone they've lost or something they don't have.

    If you're lucky, your priest will let (the whiners about children chattering during mass) them have it from the pulpit, like ours did.

    Stay patient and firm. Remember they are still learning. When all else fails, repeat to yourself "this too shall pass."

    Before you know it you'll have your 10 yr old attempt to punch your 8 yr old for making a face at him during consecration as the altar boys giggle.

    Oh, wait, you have girls, so you probably won't have that particular problem.

    Good luck, and welcome home.

  11. Thank you again everyone! Because we are in RCIA, we are actually dismissed by our Priest before the concentration. My eldest daughter stayed with my sponsor (and was very well behaved and even went up with her to receive a blessing from Father!) and our youngest came with us to the library with the rest of our class. We are still figuring it out, but everyone's suggestions have helped a lot! I may start a blog to document our family's journey and will email a link to Bonnie once I get that up. Thanks again!


  12. First I want to say that I am so happy for your family! I understand your fear with the little ones during mass. I am a cradle Catholic but I am just now really thirsting for the understanding of it. I use to sit hidden in the balcony until I had children who begged to sit up front. I did it for them but I was so afraid of what people would think. Now I have 3 boys (6,5 and 9 months)that I take by myself because my husband is not Catholic. Some days will be better than others but my advice is just stick with it. Make sure you get what you came for...the Eucharist! If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable, pray for them and remember that Jesus said "let the little children come to me." I have honestly been surprised by the encouragement I have received rather than the evil stares I thought I would get. I do try to stay put with some fussing but sometimes I will take the baby to back to bounce him if it gets to be too much. I did find that trying to involve my kids is very helpful. A simple way is to start by just teaching them some of the prayers such as the Our Father or responding with Lord hear our prayer or making the cross on your forehead, lips and heart. Whatever little thing that they can do to feel like they are participating. A friend of mine also recently gave me a mass set that she used with her 7 kids to help them understand the mass. It was in a treasure box and contained items to play mass at home. I don't let the kids have things to play with during mass either because I found it to be more of a distraction than anything. They end up fighting over something or dropping it. It will take a little getting use to it but they will sooner than you think if you continue to take them every week. I just said a prayer for a warm welcome and strong encouragement from your parish! Good luck and God Bless!