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Author Topic: Child-care at Liturgy  (Read 1825 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: July 18, 2011, 12:37:26 PM »

I have been trying to get my wife to go to a Divine Liturgy with me.  We went to a Vespers service on Saturday night, and my children--4 and almost 2--lasted about 15 minutes.  The local Orthodox Church has no child-care available for the Liturgy and there is no way my kids would last 1.5 hours.

Is it normal for Orthodox Churches to have no childcare?  Thanks!

(My wife is full-on Protestant while I am more of a seeker-sort. . .)
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2011, 01:00:10 PM »

The best answer I can give you is to just go to a sunday morning liturgy (alone if you prefer) and just observe how the children there are cared for during the liturgy.
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« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2011, 01:01:54 PM »

I have gone and the children are cared for by their parents.

My children cannot stand/sit still for 90 minutes.
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2011, 01:08:07 PM »

Almost no child will stand or sit still for a long period of time, regardless of age, especially at first. Our two daughters drove us crazy, and they ordinarily had a generally quiet and reserved temperament. Generally you have to work at building up the time. We often had to take one or other of our daughters out into the hall in the middle of liturgy. Then they'd settle down, we'd take them back in... and 15 minutes later we'd remove them again. It makes for a frustrating experience, but what can be done?
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« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2011, 02:01:38 PM »

I've never been to an Orthodox Church that had child care in the sense that Protestant churches often have nurseries where parents can drop off their kids.

Why? The kids and babies take communion with everyone else, and so they also must be present for the service. Parents just do the best they can to keep their kids under control.

If the child starts screaming, it would be polite to go out until the child calms down. Often there is a cry room where they can go, or people just go out to the narthex. But if the kids are just restless, I think people are generally forgiving of that, unless they're just being really disruptive.

It is certainly irritating for parents, but most everyone has been there before and people are forgiving. In the Orthodox view, it is far more important that the children are able to participate in the service and not be dropped off to play than it is to maintain immaculate stillness.
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2011, 02:09:07 PM »

There typically isn't childcare, but to some extent the standard of "proper behavior" is different. We walk quietly to look at (and kiss) icons on the walls with them when they are younger. I let my kids bring one quiet toy or a book related to church to look at. Right now my 2 year old is the worse and my 4, 6 and 9 year olds are good. At our parish there are always people willing to hang out with the kids so our kids tend to stand with other people as much as us.
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2011, 03:15:41 PM »

I have gone and the children are cared for by their parents.

My children cannot stand/sit still for 90 minutes.

I've never seen anyone's child sit/stand still for that long. It's not uncommon, at least in my church, to see children running back and forth between their parents and Godparents, playing with a quiet toy, or coloring something. As long as they're not doing anything as disruptive as trying to run through the doors (in the iconostasis), interrupt one of the processions, ar talk louder than the rest of the church, they're fine. If they manage to make it through the liturgy, there's always coffee hour for them to get all the restlessness out with the other children.
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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2011, 03:33:13 PM »

I love seeing all the kids during Liturgy, even if they are a "distraction".  I think they are a complete joy.  And if a child is having a particularly bad day, as others have said, the parents just take them out into the narthex or to look at icons. 
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« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2011, 03:42:50 PM »

Liturgical worship for children is not about "keeping still" or "staying quiet," but rather about experience and immersion. Liturgy is a physically and spiritually demanding participation sport. We don't just sit there, feel good, and absorb the vibes. I don't mean this as a criticism of your position, just as an illustration. The ethos of Orthodox worship is quite different from that of Protestantism or even modern Roman Catholicism. If you can find a church without pews, this may be easier. My godson, who is 5 and rarely does anything I tell him, will spend most of the service rolling around on the carpet like a lazy walrus. One thinks he's picking up nothing, but just as children hear and repeat stuff you say at home (however much you might not want them to), so they do the same at church. Practice and participation at church and at home are key. Don't think about "quality time," think about consistency, intention, repetition. The little lazy walrus is also capable of saying his prayers, lighting candles, and wanting to participate--but he participates at his level--the level of a five year old boy. Parents participate also at their level--the level of parents whose primary job is raising children. It's like a monastic obedience. Just as some monks have to cook while the others are in church praying, parents of small children often have to miss some of what goes on in the service because they're taking care of children. But, this is a good and blessed thing. Others are praying with them. In my church, others even have a rotation of picking up babies and carrying them around in church--in the back where it's not so distracting. We think that we become closer to God by some great mental/spiritual effort, but it is God who sanctifies, not we ourselves, and He is in the habit of doing great things for those who do "little" things, like take care of their children, even if they sacrifice listening to a reading, hymn, or sermon. They still keep God in their hearts and pray from their hearts as they are trying to calm down a whining child.
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« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2011, 03:43:58 PM »

I love seeing all the kids during Liturgy, even if they are a "distraction".  I think they are a complete joy.  And if a child is having a particularly bad day, as others have said, the parents just take them out into the narthex or to look at icons. 

Exactly. The presence of little children in church is a joy to everyone. I heard somewhere, when there are no crying children in church, the priest cries.
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« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2011, 03:59:12 PM »

Kids belong at the service, not left home or at some child care.  This may be hard at first, so, if you or your child can not stay the entire time, think about arriving late instead of leaving early.  This method seems to work better.  I don’t know why.
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« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2011, 04:06:32 PM »

I have been taking our kids to liturgy alone for so long that I hardly know what to do with myself when they aren't there. There are things that I appreciate more when I have to fight for focus. There are things I would take for granted that I see thru the eyes of my children. Incense, icons and candles can become mundane when seen thru adult eyes. Those things never cease to leave me awestruck thru the eyes of my children.

(But I will say that venerating with 3 kids that can't reach the icons is not always easy)
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« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2011, 04:28:18 PM »

I don't have children and asked my priest about the situation of restless children in Church and he told me that their behavior is more acceptable to God than ours.  I saw where he was going with this.  On another note, it helps when a child is explained certain things in Church, like the icons of the saints or taken aside to explain the reading in Liturgy - for older children (4 and up).  Just something to make a connection on their level.  Of course, a two year old is in his own world, but there can be some kind of connection made.  But, this should all start at home so that the child can understand that it's God's House.  

Also, it is nice for others in the Church to help out like taking the child for a time. We're suppose to see each other as one big family.  I think that's a wonderful example of an Orthodox community.  And I feel very sympathetic about the parents as they never have quiet time for themselves to worship.  

But, a Church daycare is more of a secular mentality.  It removes the children and care-giver from being part of the Liturgy.  Might as well stay home then.
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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2011, 04:36:37 PM »

Kids belong at the service, not left home or at some child care.  This may be hard at first, so, if you or your child can not stay the entire time, think about arriving late instead of leaving early.  This method seems to work better.  I don’t know why.

Yes, it is more important that they can kiss the Cross, at the end.  I think that is a great impression on them.  The beginning part means nothing to them, but the approach to the Cross and facing the priest is something they will remember.  I'm an adult convert, but it would be interesting to hear what cradle Orthodox remember about Church when they were children.
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« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2011, 05:01:36 PM »

Orthodox children attend the service, even if it's a slight distraction. Kids are managed as mentioned above. You'd be surprised how well-behaved a child can be once they've gotten used to it. They're much more capable than you'd imagine.

If they suddenly took all the kids away, I would be bereft; something very important would be missing.
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« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2011, 05:15:41 PM »

Children are not to be hushed away or put out of sight at Orthodox churches; most present are full members of the Church and just as entitled to be present as any adult. They are there to pray in their own way and to mysteriously receive the God of the universe into their bodies. There is no discrimination made between child or adult; all are children of God.
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« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2011, 05:34:29 PM »

There are things I would take for granted that I see thru the eyes of my children. Incense, icons and candles can become mundane when seen thru adult eyes. Those things never cease to leave me awestruck thru the eyes of my children.

^ This.

I don't have children and asked my priest about the situation of restless children in Church and he told me that their behavior is more acceptable to God than ours.

^ And this.

"Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Kids should be in church because they often show us hard-hearted, sophisticated, learnèd adults how we should behave in church. (It's not always as romantic as that, but when it's true, it's true.)
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« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2011, 05:51:57 PM »

Plus, it is a process of "handing down the tradition." We don't hand it down once they become 12 or so; we hand it down every Sunday from the day they are born. By the time they are 12, it is too late.
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« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2011, 05:53:30 PM »

I don't go a liturgy without taking a walking tour of the Church with my two-year-old. I do my best to keep it quiet, and direct her attention to the icons, which she loves.
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« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2011, 06:48:50 PM »

Younger children can see the angels in Church.  If you pay close enough attention, you will see that sometimes they are looking at something invisible and responding to it (angel).  The angels love playing with children.  But, I find it's more with children that can't speak yet.  For some reason, they lose that connect by 3 years old.  Does anybody know why? I know sometimes there are situations where a 4 or 7 year old will see something, but it is rare.
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« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2011, 07:08:59 PM »

Younger children can see the angels in Church.  If you pay close enough attention, you will see that sometimes they are looking at something invisible and responding to it (angel).  
This kind of behavior happens outside of church as well.
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« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2011, 07:17:10 PM »

Younger children can see the angels in Church.  If you pay close enough attention, you will see that sometimes they are looking at something invisible and responding to it (angel).  
This kind of behavior happens outside of church as well.

Yes.  But, we are talking about being in Church.  I was focusing on that aspect.  But, of course, they can see their angels outside of Church too.
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« Reply #22 on: July 18, 2011, 09:14:33 PM »

Is it normal for Orthodox Churches to have no childcare?  Thanks!

you don't want to deprive anyone, regardless of age, of the Liturgy and the blessings from it.  But a lot of churches I have been to have cry rooms off to the side for fussy children. They are sound proof and have a window for viewing and the place is wired into the priest's microphone so everything can be heard and those in there may still participate. I wish more people would use our cry room especially when you consider the cost to design and build that place.
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« Reply #23 on: July 18, 2011, 09:17:57 PM »

- In the related topics under this thread is a Beard Care thread that's bugging me because of the incorrect information in it. I don't wanna revive a thread from 2003 so I'm going to momentarily hijack this one Grin

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« Reply #24 on: July 18, 2011, 10:10:41 PM »

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven........


Fr Alexander Schmemann called the rusting of the children "holy noise." Although it can be very disconcerting if you are used to Protestant or Catholic services, eventually you get used to it. As others have said, it is such a joy to see the children crossing themselves, kissing the icons, receiving the Eucharist and even sleeping and playing.
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« Reply #25 on: July 19, 2011, 08:08:14 AM »

Because it is long, I won't recount it here, but this is a blog post I wrote on this topic right after our Chrismation.  We were actually very happy with the "no child care" policy of the Church, for a lot of reasons.  Those reasons are spelled out in the post if anyone is interested:

http://forheisgoodandlovesmankind.blogspot.com/2010/12/let-little-children-come-to-me-and.html
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« Reply #26 on: July 19, 2011, 08:20:47 AM »

Because it is long, I won't recount it here, but this is a blog post I wrote on this topic right after our Chrismation.  We were actually very happy with the "no child care" policy of the Church, for a lot of reasons.  Those reasons are spelled out in the post if anyone is interested:

http://forheisgoodandlovesmankind.blogspot.com/2010/12/let-little-children-come-to-me-and.html

Our parish has a 'Cry Room' which is a glass enclosed sound proof section where parents can go if the children get too loud.  most priest discourage using it unless the kids are really out of control.

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« Reply #27 on: July 19, 2011, 11:19:04 AM »

Our parish has a 'Cry Room' which is a glass enclosed sound proof section where parents can go if the children get too loud.  most priest discourage using it unless the kids are really out of control.

Orthodoc

We have one too, though it is not soundproof.  Most folks seem to take their kids out for a few minutes and then bring them back in, which I think is the more prudent approach.
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« Reply #28 on: July 19, 2011, 11:41:11 AM »

I asked some of the young mothers at our parish, and they said, even though it can get a bit fraught at times, they cherish the chance to worship with their children and bring them up in the faith. We have a nursery downstairs with a closed circuit tv.
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« Reply #29 on: July 19, 2011, 12:07:24 PM »

Our parish has a 'Cry Room' which is a glass enclosed sound proof section where parents can go if the children get too loud.  most priest discourage using it unless the kids are really out of control.

Orthodoc

We have one too, though it is not soundproof.  Most folks seem to take their kids out for a few minutes and then bring them back in, which I think is the more prudent approach.

That seems to be what most do in our parish too!
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« Reply #30 on: July 19, 2011, 05:56:17 PM »

We don't have any "crying room".  Parents either take their child out into the hall or downstairs to the fellowship hall and then bring them back in when they have calmed down.  Babies and small children cry and get noisy and we adults need to accept that. 
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« Reply #31 on: July 20, 2011, 09:45:33 AM »

We don't have any "crying room".  Parents either take their child out into the hall or downstairs to the fellowship hall and then bring them back in when they have calmed down.  Babies and small children cry and get noisy and we adults need to accept that. 

Generally I am amazed at how well the children do - it seems that children who are regularly brought to church learn very early how to behave, even toddlers. Possibly because they are not confined to pews sitting in one place, or because there's so much going on - movement, candles, incense, singing - that they are interested?
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« Reply #32 on: July 20, 2011, 11:01:17 AM »

Kids belong at the service, not left home or at some child care.  This may be hard at first, so, if you or your child can not stay the entire time, think about arriving late instead of leaving early.  This method seems to work better.  I don’t know why.

Yes, it is more important that they can kiss the Cross, at the end.  I think that is a great impression on them.  The beginning part means nothing to them, but the approach to the Cross and facing the priest is something they will remember.  I'm an adult convert, but it would be interesting to hear what cradle Orthodox remember about Church when they were children.

I was born in 1951 and raised in an Ortodox church. I think there is a generational thing here. I have an older brother and younger sister. My parents were smart enough to keep us separated. In other words child, parent, child , parent, child. We were expected to behave because we were in church. I was also raised in a family where when we were visiting grandparents we were reminded to speak when spoken to, and children were to be seen and not heard. That is all gone by the wayside today.  We always went to church in a suit. Everything is casual today, including behavior.

I spent some time in a variety of Protestant churches. They will have children's church during services, or a play room, or nursery for the babies and toddlers. One thing I didn't understand was the kids in the pews during service with toys, coloring books, and reading books. But the whole concept of church service is different for Protestants.

In my church, which is Orthodox, there is an interesting contrast between two families. One family has 4 children, two sets of twins actually. The mother and her parents are with the children during Liturgy. The children have always been well behaved and they are in the pew without toys, etc. The other family sits in front of me. The girls are both 7 and they are all over the pew, and getting down and sitting on the kneeler, sometimes stretching out their legs and kicking my kneeler down. There is always toys, coloring books, and reading books for the girls. The parents know the girls can't be together, but sure enough every Sunday they are together until the antics usually get to the point where they are finally separated.

Good parenting is needed. Personally I think the idea of letting kids have toys to play with, and coloring books, only teaches them that church is just another place to play. A reading book is OK, but I would have the ones with Bible stories for children. But if you know that the kids can't sit together without poking each other or constantly talking or arguing over crayons or pictures, then separate them before liturgy starts. It all comes down to good parenting, and that the parents should be aware of not letting their kids behave in a manner that is distracting and annoying to others.
 
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« Reply #33 on: July 21, 2011, 09:52:58 AM »

In my parish we initially had a paid child sitter during liturgy  officially for  inquirers and newly converted. Once our Parish Council discovered that they were not using it, but rather old time members were occassionally using it (some Sundays no one brought the children in) the council stopped it as a money saving principal and offers it to parents who need to take older kids out. We have always had a soundproof baby room for infants and nursing mothers. The Nursery room and kitchen are both wired for sound so one can follow the service and continue worshipping while they are giving the children a break. When I watch my granchikldren as little ones, they began to ppay attentiin, crossing themselves and repeating the ektanias, and Lord's prayer---now we only take them out a few times ever month rather than every Sunday ----several times.

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« Reply #34 on: July 21, 2011, 10:20:03 AM »

In my experience, it is easier on both the child and the parents if there are no pews. The child does not feel penned up and the adults (including non-parents) can more easily handle a child who is not in the best of moods.
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« Reply #35 on: July 21, 2011, 11:32:18 AM »

In my experience, it is easier on both the child and the parents if there are no pews. The child does not feel penned up and the adults (including non-parents) can more easily handle a child who is not in the best of moods.

Yes, I'm delighted to hold/entertain your little one for you; however I will hand them back if they need a diaper change!
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« Reply #36 on: July 22, 2011, 02:35:57 AM »

I have been trying to get my wife to go to a Divine Liturgy with me.  We went to a Vespers service on Saturday night, and my children--4 and almost 2--lasted about 15 minutes.  The local Orthodox Church has no child-care available for the Liturgy and there is no way my kids would last 1.5 hours.

Is it normal for Orthodox Churches to have no childcare?  Thanks!

(My wife is full-on Protestant while I am more of a seeker-sort. . .)


smack them then they will learn to sit still and shut up when there told. that seems to be the answer allot of parents give. Wink
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« Reply #37 on: July 26, 2011, 02:01:03 PM »

It can be hard and distracting to a parents' experience of Liturgy to take their child out of the service, but over time, they learn how to be still.  Much like they eventually learn how to act in school---they will learn how to act in church. It takes time and development and providing them with child-level interactions during the services. We're ok with using children's bibles and religious books during services, possibly coloring books too. But we also can walk around and look at icons, the choir, and head to the front to point out what is happening and what the clergy is doing.  It's quite hard when you're an inquirer who is trying to learn those things yourself.

I have an 18m/o and we've fallen into a bit of a routine. She wants to go running all over the church, which I dont want as a long term behavior, so even though it's harmless and unintentional on her part now, I don't allow her to leave the area by my feet---which necessitates taking her into the Narthex for a chunk of time several times during the Liturgy. I consider it a good day if we make it through the beginning of church through the Gospel, then head out during the sermon (and possibly eat something in the hall, where I put her in a chair and dont let her play with toys.) Then we stay out til the Great Entrance, then try to make it through the Anaphora and Communion, then often head out into the Narthex until the end of church. Over time, we will reduce the time spent in the Narthex, and as she is old enough to understand her actions and consequences, if she acts up and we need to leave the Nave, we will always and only go stand on the church's front steps, no matter what the weather.
The point is to make church more interesting and fun than not being in church.

Also, if children are expected to behave differently in church than everywhere else they go, it's hard to get them to change their behavior for just 2 hours a week. I see this in how my daughter likes to walk everywhere--she's allowed to go all over the place at home and she's very social and fearless, so why shouldn't she want to run in and out of the church teh whole time? This is why it is important to cultivate a quiet prayer time every day for a child at home. Being still for a bible reading and saying the Lord's Prayer together after dinner or something might be a good way for you to introduce being still for worship to your little ones.
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