Orthodox Christian Mamas--Toddlers in Church! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 23 Old 01-20-2008, 09:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay, here's my situation: our liturgy is about 1.5 hours long and we have a few chairs lined up against the walls but most stand except during the homily. Dd will be 3 in April and it has become increasingly hard for her to be still and quiet during church. I have really struggled with this because it is so reasonable that it would be difficult for a toddler to conform to this at her age!

DD is the youngest in the parish and we are the only AP family in this tiny parish. We try to keep her in the church but sometimes dh will take her out if she is distracting people during a reading (i.e.)--but the rest of the time it is usually a struggle.

Sunday mornings are also a drama trying to get her ready when she just wants to play at home and then at church she wants to eat bread and play outside.

I am certain that our situation is not at all unique but how we as AP mamas deal with it probably is--and I would love some support and input, if possible.

Thanks a bundle!
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#2 of 23 Old 01-20-2008, 11:40 PM
 
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I don't have kids, but I can tell you what my friends have done (I'm Orthodox, too). They found that standing right up in front made a HUGE difference. These are really wiggle worm kids (they are now 6 and 4). When the old parish I used to go to ripped out the pews and evened out the floor, they put down carpet and NO PEWS - everyone's decision. Chairs around the edge.

My friends found it much easier handling the kids (they were 2.5 yo & 6 mos when the church went to no pews) standing up front. The kids could see what was going on (open iconostasis) and that helped a great deal. They were more interested and began to even sing some! Great kids - I stood right next to this family so I saw the change in behavior first hand. When the dad read the Epistle, the boy would stand right in front of his dad with his own little prayer book, even muttering a bit, imitating his dad! So cute!

If they had to take the kids out, even though they were in front, they just took them out. Lots of kids in this parish, so no one blinked an eye. Other folks stood in front with their toddlers too.

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#3 of 23 Old 01-21-2008, 08:55 AM
 
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teach her to sing along. (I have a great tape I could probably make a copy of which has all the response parts of the liturgy sang by children. ) but either way even a three year old can sing out Lord have mercy and Holy God Holy Mighty Holy Immortal without much learning. remind her to cross herself and help her hands do it. help her venerate the icons. let her light candles you have lots of time to do this so milk it, go slow.

work with her during the week teaching her the prayers and songs so she can participate more fully. Here are some great coloring pages you can use to prep for the upcoming week. (or to let her color during liturgy.)

have a liturgy guide and prayer book and some icon cards. bring them out only for church. this will give them something to keep them busy but still be relevant to why we go to church rather than staying home.

sit up front.

Enlist help. Is there an "Auntie" or "Grandma" that she would buy you some cooperation. babies get passed from he front to the back of our church several times during the service. Everyone really is on this together when it comes to kids at my church.

be glad you don't have pews. it is so much easier when you don't.

When we must leave (and we will at the first sign of real disruption) we don't go in the toy room, we don't get out our toys. we still participate. we just do it somewhere else until she has a little more self control - usually we stand right outside the doors (she is older now so now she does get the what for if we have to leave the service, and she goes into the cry room until she is done whining. i usually stand right outside the door and continue to worship). Being an attatchment parent doesn't mean that you don't teach your child to behave properly or never correct unwanted behavior. The more time you spend now actively investing in teaching the right behavior the sooner you will reap th rewards. My kids are 11, 7, and 5. My 5 year old is by far the best behaved in church (of my chidlren). most sundays she can make it through an hour of Orthos and and an hour and a half of liturgy with a good attitude. most sundays . . . .

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#4 of 23 Old 01-21-2008, 12:51 PM
 
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Honestly? We came late and left right after Communion. As did a lot of other parents. As the kids got older, we stayed longer.
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#5 of 23 Old 01-22-2008, 12:05 PM
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I'm Byzantine Catholic, so we follow the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. I give my DS1 as stack of icon prayer cards, which he plays with and reads throughout the Liturgy...the baby grabs them from him, LOL, so they both keep busy. My project for 2008 is to make a guide to the liturgy for children, illustrated with photos from our parish. I received permission from the priest to take as many photos as necessary during the liturgy. This will also keep my boys busy!

We have a reconciliation room in the back of the church where I take my sons when they are disturbing others. After exploring the little room, they are ready to return to our seats.

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#6 of 23 Old 01-22-2008, 12:09 PM
 
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we've struggled with this, too.

thankfully, the church we go to now has a big stack of puzzles in the back for kids to play with during the service. and, paper for them to color. they only provide nursery for under 4 years old and expect kids to come for communion.

we are new to this church though so imagine how i felt when right before communion, ezra wriggled out from the pew and ran down the aisle saying, "ready to eat the bread!". people are very kind to us so far though!

doula mama to my nov 05 and my feb 08 babes who wrap me in love.
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#7 of 23 Old 01-22-2008, 03:34 PM
 
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ezra wriggled out from the pew and ran down the aisle saying, "ready to eat the bread!".
:

thats so cute. if only everyone was so eager to receive

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#8 of 23 Old 01-22-2008, 08:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This has turned in to a great discussion and I really appreciate all of the comments and suggestions!

Fortunately, dd is familiar with the liturgy (both in Spanish and English) and sings throughout the week. We also have several "church books" which she brings in her bag just for church.

I think I will try scooting our family up front this week--remember this is a very small chapel with mostly youth and 3 families (including us!), so the challenge is those "helping hands" that really "get it" (i.e. other moms ).

It encourages me to hear how you other mamas are doing and I feel hopeful that this is a stage she will grow through (not just out of!).

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#9 of 23 Old 01-22-2008, 08:39 PM
 
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wow! you are not kidding when you say small!!

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#10 of 23 Old 03-09-2008, 07:27 PM
 
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I am dragging this thread back out in order to wish all the Orthodox mamas a good fast.

Lenten recipe exchange, anyone?
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#11 of 23 Old 03-11-2008, 12:35 AM
 
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I am dragging this thread back out in order to wish all the Orthodox mamas a good fast.

Lenten recipe exchange, anyone?
Maybe later! We're all in church every night this week (or as often as possible if you have little kids).

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#12 of 23 Old 03-11-2008, 01:29 AM
 
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hi

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#13 of 23 Old 03-11-2008, 08:54 PM
 
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I should be in church right now : but we stayed home because DH is chanting and it's too difficult for me to manage all the kids without him.

To the OP, our church has pews which make it very difficult to manage little ones. I agree with just taking them right up to the front, there are fewer distractions that way. Right now I spend most of my time wandering the halls with my two smallest girls because my DH is a chanter and I don't have anyone to help. I'm just trying to hang in there until they are a little older. Sorry that doesn't really help, does it?

I'd be interested in a recipe exchange! I'll admit I'm not feeling very inspired right now, it looks like we're going to eat a lot of pasta this week.

Keri, wife to Tony, mom to five DDs: M ('96), S('01), E('04), A('07) and J('10);
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#14 of 23 Old 03-11-2008, 11:20 PM
 
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Keri, just got home from church. I recently transferred from an Antiochian to an OCA parish, and my new priest specifically asked me if I wanted to join the choir...so now I'm learning lots of new Russian melodies (although the Antiochian parish did a lot of Russiah music) - and I don't read music!

Different way to do pasta:

Boil as much spaghetti as needed for your family. Halfway through cooking time, throw in whatever frozen veggies you like. I really like this with green peas and pearl onions. Drain all when done. Toss with margarine and salt and pepper. Maybe lemon pepper or some herbs would be good too! One pot only!

I'm addicted to this!

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#15 of 23 Old 03-12-2008, 08:09 PM
 
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I am really struggling with the toddler-in-church thing right now. I have 5 children so you'd think I would have this figured out by now.

My youngest is 19 months old and he only wants to play outside when we go to church. So, if we are inside he is only happy tearing up liturgy books or lighting candles. That only lasts so long. Then he says "side.. side.. side" incessantly until I take him out.

Thankfully, my other kids are pretty well behaved so I can leave them in the service (as long as I have someone to send my 3 yr old to..)

Speaking of fasting. What do your children do? My kids fast pretty much like adults after age 5 or so. Although I do give them fish sometimes and fix my husband and I something else. I sometimes worry they are not getting enough protein or calcium.
And also how do your children fast before communion, and especially before presanctified liturgies (at night)?
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#16 of 23 Old 03-13-2008, 12:33 AM
 
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Why do you take him outside every time he whines? it would be my guess that if you quit giving in every time he whined he would stop whining. do you have a cry room? can you stand in the narthex or would it be too loud? if you consistently send the message that we will stay in church (or be in there as much as possible) and that this is not the time to go outside he will eventually get it. . . . or wait . . .do you mean just outside the nave? obviously if he is making a fuss you have to take him out. I was thinking outside to play. when i do have to take my children out of church they were not allowed to take their toys with them. the toys stayed in the sanctuary (when mine were littles we were still protestant). inside fun. outside boring. they are not allowed to run around and play either. we would stand still until they calmed down and then we went back in where they were allowed to move around and play with their quiet toys. but if we had to go out mama was very serious and very boring and baby still had to stay on my lap or in my arms. it didn't take long for them to realize church was more fun than standing outside the door to church.

fasting - my kids are 5-11 and they fast almost the same as I do. the strictness of our fasting is gradually increasing (we are fairly new to this). i still allow and encourage the children to have dairy but not as much as usual. (we switch to soy milk and margerine). they also are allowed to eat meat at their grandparents house (actually I prefer they not mention fasting there at all) and when they are with their dad (he is not at all into Orthodoxy but is into vegetarian/vegan stuff so can help them choose fasting friendly stuff. but we don't really discuss it). Sooo all this to say they get at least a serving or two a day of dairy and meat once or twice a week.

they are old enough so that skipping breakfast won't be an issue (we cannot receive communion yet so right now it is a non issue) and I really have no idea how to handle pre-sanctified liturgies. I was just wondering what people do about that today because ours are at night.

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#17 of 23 Old 03-13-2008, 08:23 AM
 
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For Presanctifieds, adults (unless they have health issues such as diabetes), generally fast from after their midday meal. Ask your priest about the kids, because this would generally mean 8-9 hours without food/drink for them.

Just yesterday, I'm on the verge of getting ill as many in my office already are. I had a ery scratchy throat. I emailed my priest in the morning and asked him if I had his blessing to keep drinking all afternoon due to my throat, which he said OK to.

For Lenten fasting for kids, many of my friends, have their kids go no meat about age 7. They will still have dairy, but they will have one fasting meal a day, usually dinner (eating with parents). This no meat means no beef, hamburgers, chicken, etc. Fish is still OK. Dairy will be stopped sometime in the teenage years.

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#18 of 23 Old 03-13-2008, 11:12 AM
 
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Why do you take him outside every time he whines? it would be my guess that if you quit giving in every time he whined he would stop whining. do you have a cry room? can you stand in the narthex or would it be too loud? if you consistently send the message that we will stay in church (or be in there as much as possible) and that this is not the time to go outside he will eventually get it. . . . or wait . . .do you mean just outside the nave?
Well, maybe I am sending the wrong message by taking him outside, but we have a very small congregation and no naive or cryroom (old protestant church).. so when he starts being loud, I give him a minute or two and try to distract him but then if that doesn't work I take him out.

Of course one needs to consult their spiritual father in regards to fasting.. I was just curious what other's children do.
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#19 of 23 Old 03-13-2008, 02:06 PM
 
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My youngest is 19 months old and he only wants to play outside when we go to church. So, if we are inside he is only happy tearing up liturgy books or lighting candles. That only lasts so long.
You need to get your child the "Guardian Angel Prayer Book" - it's for littles, with thick pages. I surely hope you are not letting your child destroy your parish's liturgy books.

My old parish had a stash of books in the back of the nave for kids. Lots of Orthodox books.

Something I did for my goddaughter, that she only sees in church:

Take a small (like 4"x6") inexpensive photo album. Put in it wallet-sized icon cards you might have, or cut from an Orthodox catalog, etc. Completely tape the side of the page that's open for photo insertion. This way the icons can't fall out if the book is turned upside down.

My goddaughter loves it and her mom thought it was a very nifty idea.

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#20 of 23 Old 03-13-2008, 02:37 PM
 
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You need to get your child the "Guardian Angel Prayer Book" - it's for littles, with thick pages. I surely hope you are not letting your child destroy your parish's liturgy books.

My old parish had a stash of books in the back of the nave for kids. Lots of Orthodox books.

Something I did for my goddaughter, that she only sees in church:

Take a small (like 4"x6") inexpensive photo album. Put in it wallet-sized icon cards you might have, or cut from an Orthodox catalog, etc. Completely tape the side of the page that's open for photo insertion. This way the icons can't fall out if the book is turned upside down.

My goddaughter loves it and her mom thought it was a very nifty idea.
Actually there are a few old liturgy books that we give to the children to use. They are pretty beaten up and are there for that purpose.

Yes, I have that prayer book. I have several prayer books. He doesn't have a very long attention span for things like that.
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#21 of 23 Old 03-13-2008, 02:51 PM
 
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Actually there are a few old liturgy books that we give to the children to use. They are pretty beaten up and are there for that purpose.
That just jumped out at me. I've seen way too many parents let their children destroy perfectly good service books (not ratty ones kept aside for the kids to go at) "for something to do." Not at all saying you were doing that, just that's been what I've seen much too often.

My goddaughter was given the kid's prayer book at 18 months and she spends a lot of time with it. Other friends of mine have found that keeping special books/soft toys just for church (the kids don't see these things at home, for example) in a special bag kept in the car has really helped.

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#22 of 23 Old 03-13-2008, 03:59 PM
 
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I haven't had much success bringing books or other distractions into church. My 7 and 3 yo DDs will fight over them (yes, they broke out in a brawl over a book right during the gospel one Sunday) so we had to say all toys stay in the car, or the Sunday School room.

I consistently take my 3yo and my 1yo out of the church when they fuss, and I know they expect to go out because of it, but I really don't know what else to do. With my older 2 they just reached a point age-wise where they will stay relatively still and quiet when I ask them to. I really do believe if you just stay as long as you can, then walk around a bit, then try again they will get it when they're old enough to get it.

As far as fasting, the kids all fast with us, it's too much temptation for me to fix them meat or dairy, I just don't have any in the house right now. When the baby was nursing exclusively I was still eating eggs and drinking milk and the kids were too, but we're back to the real fast this time. I'm not feeling very motivated right now, I think it's going to be a long 6 weeks.

Keri, wife to Tony, mom to five DDs: M ('96), S('01), E('04), A('07) and J('10);
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#23 of 23 Old 03-13-2008, 05:39 PM
 
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Well, maybe I am sending the wrong message by taking him outside, but we have a very small congregation and no naive or cryroom (old protestant church).. so when he starts being loud, I give him a minute or two and try to distract him but then if that doesn't work I take him out.
well. .. that stinks. that doesn't leave a lot of options. I would still keep it pretty boring outside. no -playing, no running around, heading back inside at the first possible moment. and hang in there. all your other children seem to have gotten it, he will too. .

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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