Small child

A child in a church - who is the problem for?


Parents of young children often feel anxious about having to go to church with their children. The problem seems to be a trip with a baby, as well as a year-old or two-year-old. The older the child, the easier it is in theory. Preparing to participate in religious life over the years can be simpler. Still, there is anxiety: will we be able to control the energetic child, or will we not meet with unpleasant comments from other people who are in the church ...

Going with the baby to the church

Theoretically, this is not the case when an infant sleeps the whole mass sweetly, but there are children who are clearly out in the church they activate. This is how Dorota, our author, describes it: "My daughter was already pregnant, she woke up in her belly in the church, moved, kicked, did not sleep mass. Little has changed after birth. The first weeks actually "hung on the chest." She didn't want a teat and we didn't give the bottle. The result was that in extreme situations only her breast calmed her down. Meanwhile, in the church to feed a child somehow does not fall ... Although I know from the stories that young mothers discreetly gave a breast in the church, I probably could not do it. There is also another way: going to the mass after feeding ... However, in our case it could not be planned. My daughter has always eaten properly at different times. That is why putting her to her breast before mass was not a guarantee that she would eat and not be hungry during mass ... Therefore, the moments of going to church were always a great unknown for us. When we could, we went for a change. "

Breastfeeding in the church

The day of baptism raises the most emotions. You can read a lot of doubts on forum threads devoted to this topic. Some women emphasize that even the Virgin Mary is portrayed with Jesus at her breast, therefore there is nothing to be outraged at the discreet breastfeeding in the church. On the other hand, there are also voices that although it is a natural activity, it is not appropriate to feed in the church, that it is better to go out with the child into the sacristy or to protect oneself when the toddler is small, coming by car and feeding there when necessary .

If the child accepts the bottle, the best solution, because it does not cause controversy, is to express the milk and feed it with a bottle in the church when the need arises. However, if a child demands a breast and cries desperately, which can also happen, you can always go to the sacristy.

In this way, you will avoid being asked to leave the church. This happened in Camden County, United States in February 2012, when a young mother was asked to leave the church to punish her for feeding her child. The pastor criticized the woman for immoral behavior and ordered him to leave the temple.

A small child in a church

Another questionable moment is the period when the child begins to walk. Parents are worried that the toddler will not get out of the wheelchair. Another breakthrough is the time when a child finds joy in running, then begins a kind of marathon between the altar and the church entrance. Many parents, not wanting to fight the toddler's natural needs, prefer to go out with the child in front of the church. They also motivate their way out in front of the temple that in this way they will not disturb anyone, but often in this way the child's energy is often even more stimulated. Many mothers have noticed that two-year-olds can be helpful in:

  • coming to the church when the temple is empty and explaining calmly where to go and how to behave in this place (even a few times, so that going to the church becomes more natural for the toddler and does not connect with the "unusual" event ).
  • approach to the altar so that the child can see what is happening and become more interested in it.
  • depending on the child's temperament: going to a "normal mass", thanks to which the child will not be distracted by other toddlers or just going to mass for children who are shorter and theoretically prepared for the youngest. It is worth trying out each of the options.
  • showing the child a television broadcast of the mass and explaining how to behave in the church.
  • if a child breaks the rules, it is worth taking them out in front of the church and remind them of how to behave, and then return to the temple. If we repeat this pattern several times as required, we can almost be sure that the child will learn how to behave in church.

And what principles did you introduce? Do you go to church with your child? What are you letting your toddler do?

Answers to questions: Barbara Surma, PhD in the humanities, religious educator, catechizes using the Good Shepherd Catechesis method, co-author of the textbook "I am a Good Shepherd. Methodological Guide to the Good Shepherd Catechesis for children from 3 to 6 years old ", Palatum, Łódź 2011.

Should the child attend mass with parents from the beginning, or should it be better to wait until the toddler is able to understand the meaning of the liturgy in a basic way?
The child should attend mass. from the beginning, as well as participates in other family rites. It is the property of a child up to 3 years old to unwittingly absorb any stimuli from the environment. It is important, therefore, that they participate in the atmosphere of prayer and celebration of the parents' meeting with God. When they grow up, they should be introduced to conscious participation in the liturgy by entering the church at times when there is no Holy Mass. You can show your child how to pray, how to behave, introduce the atmosphere of the uniqueness of this place, show the altar, candles and talk about Jesus, who wants to meet the child and us. Participation in mass it does not require participation of consciousness and understanding, because it is a meeting and establishing a relationship with God.

What if the child is only breastfed (WHO recommends doing so until the age of 6 months), it is permissible
feeding a toddler discreetly in a church?
I think that public feeding is embarrassing, first of all, for the mother and especially in the church even in a discreet way, after all, you can choose the time of the mass so that the child is fed and during the mass you can give him a bottle of water if you need it and practice it.

Can a one-year-old child eat in church: e.g. crisps or cakes?
Absolutely children should not eat in church. Some parents follow this and others don't. If the child sees that this rule is violated, it causes a feeling of injustice. In addition, the rules of feeding children are based on the fact that children do not snack between meals.

How much to let the child: what about running, walking around the church?
It depends on the child, if he has to walk, walking, but not running at the altar and around the church is acceptable. The child must be under parental control. It is important, however, to try to sit with the child on the bench and teach him that this place is not running because it disturbs others. This is a unique place and that's why you don't speak out loud, don't eat or run.

What can be advised to parents who are unable to control / explain to the two-year-old / three-year-old that in the church it is not allowed
to run?
It is a matter of raising home and implementing rules that are not broken, if we give a child a rule and then break it, we are not consistent.

Often parents are with small children behind the church, and in summer even outside the church: is this a good way? Is it better to bring a toddler under the altar so that he can watch everything?
I am for the child to be as close to the altar as possible. Then he sees the celebrant, who makes various gestures, sees what is happening on the altar. He learns the reality in which he participates. And what does he see in the back? Legs and backs (butts) of adults. Is this introducing the atmosphere of an important, solemn meeting? If we teach a child that one goes to church to stand outside, then it will be difficult to get them inside later. You have to think about why we go to church for mass and what we bring up. Outside the Church, the child also does not see people receiving Holy Communion, it does not arouse in him curiosity and desire to receive it in the future.

What about bringing toys to the church?
I would depend on the child's age and abilities. If it is a cuddly (quiet) I think that does not bother anyone, there are such children who must have something in their hands. If he doesn't make noise, everything that helps him focus his attention is acceptable (I would even be willing to give my child a note and a pencil to draw something for Mr Jesus).

Thank you for the conversation.