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When does taking children to church get easier?!

(43 Posts)
SESthebrave Sun 10-Feb-13 20:48:54

Just needing to offload really I suppose.

I have 3.8yo DS and 8mo DD. I normally take both to our family morning service and sit with the music group (I used to play in the music group pre-DC) and the others that are part of the group are supportive and try to help out. DH wants the children brought up going to church but normally only goes at Christmas and Easter so I muddle through each Sunday morning and take sticker books and colouring for DS and use the Happy Bags the church provide with books in. Each week I feel we cope but I end up focussed on the DC rather than the main reason for us going. I would love DH to come with us but don't want to pressurise him too much so that he becomes resentful.

Today for various reasons we weren't ready in time for the morning service so I suggested to DH that we all went to the 5.30 service. DS really misbehaved though - wanting to run round, slapping DH and pulling his glasses, pulling my hair and being noisy. There is a side chapel where some people with children sit but I'd rather not resort to that as at some point DS will have to learn and it detaches us even more from the reason to be there. I was grateful that DH was there and I didn't have to manage by myself but I fear DH has been put off coming! One not so helpful lady also afterwards came up to me holding DS and said to him "You need to be a good boy when you come to church" and gave me a knowing look that made me feel a completely useless mother.

I guess I'm sleep deprived on top of that thanks to DD waking and lack of lie in this weekend. Just needed to let that all out. If anyone is still reading and cares to say a quick prayer to help my feelings from today's experience pass, for DH to come and support at church a bit more and for it generally to get easier, I@d appreciate it!

Katisha Sun 10-Feb-13 20:53:00

WHy does he want them to go if he can't be arsed to go himself?
It's obviously not a good experience for you - and I would say no-one is gaining anything from it. I would feel inclined to go by yourself and leave them with DH. Plenty of time for them to come with you in future years when they can go to the Sunday school or whatever.

ThreeBeeOneGee Sun 10-Feb-13 21:02:03

I'm sorry it's so hard for you at the moment. I have been there, and had weeks when taking the children to church was the most stressful part of my week. I agree that it helps if you sit near helpful and understanding adults.

We have actually moved churches twice in the last ten years, both times to go somewhere that suited the stage our children were at.

Even now (children are 12, 10, 8 and 8) I am more likely to go to church on the weeks when there are children's groups rather than a family service.

They have been able to sit through a whole service without toys / colouring books since the age of about 6 or 7, and this last Christmas they all sat through a traditional service of nine lessons and carols (nearly two hours) so things do get better.

Once they can read, they can join in with the songs/hymns more easily, which helps.

I'm also part of the music group, after a long break I started taking part again once my youngest ones were 6. If DH isn't there, it can occasionally get a bit tricky if I'm singing at the front with a microphone and the twins choose that moment to have a disagreement, but it's something I feel called to do so it's worth it.

I hope you are able to find a solution that works for you and your DCs.

AdriftAndOutOfStardust Sun 10-Feb-13 21:30:16

Hmmm. Is it possible that what your DH atually wants is a nice quiet house for a sunday morning lie in?

If so, then perhaps you'd find it easier if he just admitted this and you took the kids somewhere more kid-friendly.

If not, then he has to pull his weight, and take his turn too.

If you live in a city, do a bit of googling and see if there's a "messy church" near you - often just once a month as they are a bit more effort to organise, this is a form of church designed to be child-focussed and it'll be less stressful for you.

MsMarple Sun 10-Feb-13 21:40:10

Not sure when they start behaving as mine aren't at that stage yet (similar ages to yours) but we are lucky in that our church runs young family services which are pitched at young children with things for them to help with and respond to in the service, only half an hour so great for little attention spans, and make extensive use of tambourines and shakers!

I'm sure other churches must do similar - could you have a shop around and see what other local churches offer? Or maybe chat to your vicar about trying something like this at your church?

cloutiedumpling Sun 10-Feb-13 21:44:11

I found it got easier once they went to school and were used to sitting and listening for longer periods. I don't know if this is an option for you, but my two DS usually behave better if they are sitting with older kids from the Sunday School when in church (all kids come into church for the first part of the service).

defineme Sun 10-Feb-13 21:48:26

You poor thing.
A vicar's wife I knew used to say that her time in church was for her and her 4 kids were in the creche until they could sit stil.
I Don't think your DH is being very kind tbh. You have lots of options: go on your own; find a messy church where you'll feel more relaxed; go as a family and go in the side chapel and so on.
You will have to compromise somewhere though because , although I appreciate church is a duty, it shouldn't be a trial and you can't continue as you are.

SESthebrave Sun 10-Feb-13 22:08:30

Thank you for your replies. DS will soon be old enough to go to Children's Liturgy on a Sunday morning and so I'm hanging on to this thought.
We are Catholic and out of the 3 churches in our parish, the Sunday morning one is best suited.
DH is an Irish cradle Catholic whereas I am a convert. I think DH knows that going to church means a lot for me and that I want the DC to go too so he is happy for me to take this on and, yes, it does give him a nice quiet Sunday morning. On Saturday mornings he takes DS to Rugbytots so I think we'll have to discuss lie ins as it is partly tiredness exacerbating things for me this evening.
I also think I will enlist the help of friends at church and look at DS going out to Children's Liturgy as soon as poss. Italy be that I have to accept a transitional period with thus and I will need to go with him the first few times.

LynetteScavo Sun 10-Feb-13 22:18:14

What worked for me was giving the DC something to do -- or eat-- then trying to focus on the service rather than them. I made a point of not telling them off during mass. I wanted church to be place they liked going to, rather than where mummy told them to be quiet and got cross.

But it's easy for me to say this now my youngest is 7!

HouseOfTinsel Sun 10-Feb-13 22:30:07

Sorry - probably a bit of an outsiders point of view, but surely such young children have no hope of understanding what is going on, so what's the point of making yourselves miserable? Really? Give yourselves a break, it sounds like you need one.

steppemum Sun 10-Feb-13 22:42:01

we go to church. and the dcs are all out in creche or kids church.

Mine could sit quietly through a service from about 5 or 6, but hate it. On the other hand they love the kids church, and can't wait to go.

I think you need to rethink why they are there. Go to messy church, special services, christmas eve nativity service, etc and wait unitl they are 5 plus for regular services.

If dh wants them to go, he should go. Otherwise, you go and let him have dcs, or take turns

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Sun 10-Feb-13 22:48:09

I would leave them with your DH while you go, perhaps to the later service. The children are not getting much out of it at the moment and nor are you.

3birthdaybunnies Sun 10-Feb-13 23:00:53

Ours can go out from the age of 3 and to be honest before that it was a nightmare many weeks. DS has been going out since he was 3 and is fine with it, I imagine your ds is at preschool so if they pitch it appropriately should be fine. Our church divides into preschool, yrR/1 and yr2/3: Now that they can all go out they are more ameanable, and will sometimes sit happily through a family service with a few pens etc.

I would see if they would take your son, also whether there are any other parents in a similar position who might be willing to set up a creche with you, so you take it in turns. If you took children from 18 months -children litergy age then you could give them some toys, colouring paper etc.

I'm not Catholic but dh and our church is and I still don't really understand why the most disruptive ages are left in the mass - I'm not saying that children shouldn't be allowed in there if parents want them there, but it is so stressful for the parents, meaning that many don't go much as a family in those early years. In my tradition the youngest (probably preschool) were sent out to a creche with some parents and teenage helpers. Sunday school was before church, then from probably 5 upwards I would go into the church service afterwards. If you had a creche the volunteers could attend the Sat pm Mass when they were 'on duty'.

Gingerdodger Mon 11-Feb-13 09:03:16

It is hard but it helps, in my experience, to find a mass where a bit of noise from children is expected. Children's liturgy in our church doesn't have any age limits but parents also go out with the pre-schoolers usually. This works well (and I learnt loads at children's liturgy when mine were this age) perhaps your church would be happy with a similar arrangement.

Other than that lots of colouring books, finding a tolerant section of the church and not worrying too much about it are probably the best way forward. I also found it helped when the kids could see what was going on so maybe think about where you sit. Most churches are really happy to see young families and (apart from the odd grumpy one) are probably really pleased to see you.

I think it helps to take them young, it just becomes part of family life and they soon find a circle of friends. Hope it gets easier soon. Try not to get stressed by it as I am sure other people aren't even noticing.

School helps as if a faith school they get used to sitting and joining in prayers and hymns etc and, if not they still get accustomed to sitting and listening for a while.

Also, if you can, you could try and get to mass by yourself once in a while. I always get loads out of doing this even though I only get there once every blue moon.

Will be thinking of you.

3birthdaybunnies Mon 11-Feb-13 20:14:06

Schools without a faith affiliation still have assemblies with prayers and hymns etc, all state schools in the UK have to have an act of worship, generally Christian. It is different at school though as it is targeted at them as a children's liturgy. It is harder though when they are expected to listen to someone aiming at an adult audience. Although ds is considered old enough to be out on his own, I often stay with him if he seems uncertain, it's never a problem having an extra pair of hands to pass around the crayons.

DandyDan Mon 11-Feb-13 20:33:25

I think it gets easier when they begin to read (or pretend to read), so maybe 3+. When I had my last child, I had four children under the age of 6 in the pew with me every week - somehow it seemed manageable, even though it was hard at times. I guess there was judicious use of raisins, books, colouring, and as soon as they were old enough, junior church or creche.

I agree that not worrying too much is key - find a location in the church where you won't feel totally visible if you have to stand up and wander around a bit following a toddler or showing a lively baby various things at the back. Gradually children get used to what being in church is like, even before they are used to the formality of sitting still at nursery or school, and know when to stand up and pretend to sing, and when to move about.

And usually congregations are very pleased to see young families and aren't worried about a bit of noise. If my children got to being really disruptive, I would go out into the porch/foyer and wander about a bit before coming back in to a seat near the back.

I used to be a bit upset that I never got to hear a full sermon or prayers because I would be distracted by the children or busy tending to them, to ensure they were quietly occupied - but in the end I realised (and was told by someone wise) that even if for a year or two, I missed even 90% of what was happening in church, just being there was communion with God, just managing to get there with the children, and giving it 10% of my attention was as good as 100% as far as God was concerned. That our intention is as full a prayer and gift as managing to concentrate for every single second on everything said or done. I've never forgotten that - and yes, for a year or two, week after week, I didn't take huge amounts in, but I still got "something" from going, and my children grew up week by week in a church that loved them and that they loved back.

Now they are all pretty much in their late teens/early twenties, they still like to draw little pictures on the pew-sheet when they have an "idle" moment smile

seeker Mon 11-Feb-13 20:39:24

Why are you taking them if your dh wants them to go? Leave them at hiome with him and you go by yourself. They are far too little for church.

cloutiedumpling Mon 11-Feb-13 20:41:20

Just an aside, but not all schools in the UK have an act of daily worship. In Scotland most schools don't.

3birthdaybunnies Mon 11-Feb-13 22:15:55

I stand corrected cloutie, in England they all do, it annoys me when FIL, who knows nothing about non-denominatinal schools, goes on about our dc not being at a faith school, when it was never a realistic choice. Our community school has daily acts of worship, they learn loads about Christianity, and they are expected to pray and sing hymns on a daily basis. It is hardly an athiestic environment or hotbed of pagan activity.

SilentMammoth Mon 11-Feb-13 22:29:30

Hi op. Ok, I feel for you, I have four dc aged two, three, five and seven and know exactly what you mean.

First off, sounds like you have been doing a stellar job. So dont beat yourself up.

Second, I agree with what another poster said in that it sounds as if your dh is being a bit cheeky and needs to pull his weight.

Third, what some others said, have you considered either trying another church or picking off more appropriate services?

I had a eureka moment last year when I realised only one out of six if us got anything out of family service: the seven year old. Dh spent it in car,listening to radio, I spent it looking as if I had a mild tic as my head flicked around tring to keep an eye on where dd4 had got to, then escorting dd3 out when she got too disruptive at which point dd2 would get upset and run after me. Recipe for stress.

We now skip family service and attend a messy church service on that sunday.

I do hope you find a solution that works for your family.

cloutiedumpling Mon 11-Feb-13 22:51:40

Thanks 3birthdaybunnies.

SilentMammoth - your post made me laugh. And I thought three kids was bad enough. I know that "mild tic" feeling well. DS2 used to escape under the pews when I wasn't looking.

sashh Tue 12-Feb-13 05:45:07


Mass means more to you at the moment than your children. Why not go yourself every week but take the children and dh once a month.

That way they get regular attendance and you also get to go to mass for yourself.

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 05:52:51

"about our dc not being at a faith school, when it was never a realistic choice. Our community school has daily acts of worship, they learn loads about Christianity, and they are expected to pray and sing hymns on a daily basis. It is hardly an athiestic environment or hotbed of pagan activity."

I can't resist a brief aside here- spare a though if you will for those of us who are atheists- or even pagans!. It's our community school too- how do you think it feels for us?

noviceoftheday Tue 12-Feb-13 06:26:18

Your dh has a bit of a cheek doesn't he?!

I have 2dcs, 4 and 1 and I take them to the children's service each week, because it means more to me than dh. He knows he gets the house to himself for a couple of hours so it balances out sometime in the weekend. Both dcs have gone to church since tey were about a week old so it is part of their routine. The worst stage is between 8 months (when mine learned to crawl) and 3. So for the last year, most people see running after ds at some point. Dd is at the point now where a colouring book keeps her amused and she joins in with all the songs. Ds is just stressful.

Our routine is this.....the kids all go out for children's liturgy between the Gloria and the offering. It means. 10 mins in church then just as they're bored we move to the hall. Dd really takes part in the liturgy as its age appropriate from age 3. I run around after ds. We then get back ino church, out come the colouring books and crayons, during the Eucharist I give them a small snack to share (one that is quiet and doesn't leave crumbs). We get up for the our father which they both love because it is sung, then 5 mins later we are on the move up for communion. Colouring books come out again when we get back and 5 mins later we are done!

I now realise that the point of going to church before dcs is so ou know everything off by heart including about 90% of the hymns as I haven't opened any books in almost 4 years!! It's not about me worshipping anymore its about introducing church to the dcs in a fun way. We don't go if we miss the children's service because there everyone is in the same boat. At the later services you get people, especially oaps who have long forgotten what it's like to have young dcs and so are not understanding.

Hope that helps. Lower your expectations, don't go to a stressful service, go armed with distractions and either h should go or you should get some time off later in the day for as a quid pro quo!

SESthebrave Tue 12-Feb-13 07:02:36

DH does have a bit of a cheek as I don't often get any DC free time or lie ins. That's a conversation we need to have!

However going to mass is just more important to me. When we sit with the music group, that works best as he can see what is happening and there are regular, friendly people around us. I will start taking him to Children's Liturgy though and I will look at going once a month on my own or with just DD.

I think this week was just wrong service and I was tired from having been up with DD. I was also pleased that DH was coming with us and hoped that would be repeated. I don't think it will but at least he won't think it's an easy couple of hours for me!

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