It’s been a number of years since I’ve been to Mass on a regular basis without my kids. When Alison and I just had the one, and he was an infant, it was a great experience. We even had to work out a schedule for who got to hold him during Mass. As he got older, and our family grew, things became more complicated.
All parents struggle to get their family to Mass. Young families struggle to maintain order, while older families struggle to get the kids out of bed. Regardless, all kids belong in Church.
From my perspective, as the father of a young family, it’s challenging for my children to keep quiet and to sit still for an entire hour. Over time, we’ve worked out a solution that generally works. My son is separated from the girls and he plays and listens quietly. The girls stay between Alison and I, and we take care of them as needed.
Every week, some crisis needs to be averted, but proactive, quiet parenting usually can head off full meltdowns. If one of the kids needs to be removed, we do it quickly and quietly.
With all of that motion, I’m seldom solely focused on the Mass. That’s okay, because what’s important is that we’re there as a family. And it works. My son increasingly is sharing theological thoughts with me, and my middle daughter knows her prayers.
If you’re struggling to summon the energy (and courage) to bring your family to Mass together each week, there are a few things that you can do.
- Sit up front. Let your kids see what’s going on and listen. They’re quiet observers and repeating that habit weekly will pay dividends in their development.
- Model good behavior. Be active, quiet, and attentive. Expect an age-appropriate level from your children as well.
- Mind the seating arrangement. If two siblings are quarreling, separate them.
- Bring a quiet bag. Have a few toys and books for the kids to work on.
- Repeat weekly.
If I can’t focus, and if my kids aren’t sitting still, why bring them to Mass at all? Isn’t it rude to distract everyone else? Our previous parish gave the vibe that kids were an unwelcome distraction, and that’s a mistake. Alison and I work very hard to bring our children to Mass as a family because that’s where we belong. The Mass is not a meeting or a transaction, it’s who we are.