Bringing children to a church, synagogue (temple) service can be a daunting, and let’s face it, exhausting task. We’re telling our children to come to this big place with lots of people (which already could be scary or overwhelming for kids). Then, we show them that the adults will speak in big words, maybe even in another language. And, THEN, we ask them to sit still and be quiet for an hour or several hours. How realistic is this?
Preparing your child about what to expect as well as what you expect from him will help.
Here are 8 ways to help prepare your child.
1) Show your child how the sanctuary will look
and let him know there will be lots of adults and kids there. We suggest showing him a picture from the church or synagogue’s website to familiarize the child with the setting. This helps him visualize where he will be. It may be comforting to let your child know if a particular friend will be there.
2) Tell the child that are there to pray and be thankful for what they already have.
Explain that this is serious, but can also be fun. Many churches and synagogues also offer an alternative children’s service. When they pray, they sometimes whisper to themselves their own personal prayers. Invite your child to think about what kinds of things she would like to pray for in her life and what makes her thankful.
3) Explain the expectation
It is expected that most people do not talk to each other during the service. But, if they DO need to talk, using a whisper voice is a better choice because it won’t disturb others who are trying to pray.
4) Show empathy
by letting your child know that you understand it could be hard for him to stay in his seat and use a quiet voice. Let your child know that you can bring some special books and toys to help him.
5) Bring quiet objects
to help young children pass the time. If you have more than one child, bring similar kinds of items, so children don’t want the toy their siblings have. Books, putty, candy, and fidgets can help.
6) Allow yourself to focus on the child and the service
by sitting in an inconspicuous location (near the back or an aisle) where you won’t be constantly thinking about how your child might be disturbing others. Chances are, your fellow service-goers have children of their own and are not nearly as disturbed by your children’s negative behavior as you are.
7) Prepare to take your child out for breaks
and prepare the child for when these may occur. Knowing that the child will only need to sit for 5 more minutes can also help him manage himself during the service. Try to be proactive and take the child out of the service before he becomes disruptive to ensure that you are not inadvertently rewarding the negative behavior.
8) Talk about or draw a picture
of the experience with your child when you return home. This will help your child prepare for the next time he joins you.