Author Topic: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy  (Read 3830 times)

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Offline Alveus Lacuna

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Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« on: May 23, 2012, 02:03:50 PM »
If this must be posted in the family forum, then a mod please move it there, but I am actually wondering about the most general practice and if this is a faith issue.

I think that it is beautiful that all ages are represented at the liturgy, from infant to elderly. Everyone is a full member.

But I am now on my second small child, and our parish in particular is full of young people in their twenties and thirties. Two years ago there were perhaps about four or so children in the church that were were infants or toddlers. Right now the parish is exploding and there are probably more like 15-20 in this category. But every Sunday for most of the liturgy it is total mayhem and nobody is praying; everyone is staring at the unruly kids. It's not for lack of discipline, it's just that for a two or three year old, two hours is a long time to not have a couple of meltdowns. Times that by about 15 and you get the picture.

I am spending most of my time in the narthex or upstairs in one of the Sunday school rooms just trying to keep my son and daughter corralled. This last week, my non-Orthodox wife actually refused to stay any longer after about an hour. She has a mild to zero level of receptivity to Orthodoxy, but even if she does want to come and explore, she's just trying to keep the kids under wraps with me the whole time. I know that "this is a different kind of prayer", etc., but I can't help but feel like as long as I am hanging out in the Sunday school room most of the time I might as well volunteer to watch other very small children at the same time (mainly infant to age 3 or so).

I am not suggesting that we exclude or remove anyone. I am not suggesting that this be mandatory! But it seems that for the toddlers especially, since there are so many of them, that maybe it would be better to have a room that parents can bring them to if they are really not being cooperative. Even if parents did want to "drop off" their children, they should still take them into the church first to venerate the icons, light some candles and say a few petitions. Also, the children should all come back toward the end of the liturgy to receive communion, etc.

I know this is taboo in many circles, especially to the thrice holy Netodox, but at our parish specifically the number of toddlers is truly a disruption. Imagine the Great Entrance being interrupted or stopping because there are blankets and toys in the way, or toddlers trying every ten minutes or so to run into the Beautiful Gates. Like I said, most of the parents do discipline, but there is also a danger in turning the child off to church if it becomes the place where they go to every week and get yelled at and spanked and told to be quiet. So the parents can't be overbearing.

I asked some parishioners from Serbia how children are handled in that cultural context, and the reply I got is that the children are left with Grandma if one of the parents wants to come to church, but that usually most people don't go every Sunday, and almost never bring small children for all or even most of the liturgy.

For most of us, this isn't an option and doesn't sound like a good one. Having a room only for the very small and energetic where they can song songs and learn about the faith through activities for small children sounds just fine to me, at least for a portion of the liturgy.

So here, after my huge long tirade, is my faith issues question:

What is the practice at your parish? For those of you who are ethnic from the old world or have a lot of experience with this, how are these things handled in the old world?

I'm honestly just curious, but also kind of on the ropes and just trying to come up with a solution. Our parish is very kid-friendly, but even this has started to become an issue for the wonderful and kind people at our parish.

All input is appreciated, but please try to be helpful and not condescending or idealistic. I know that some are hostile to this idea, but even if you are strongly opposed please express yourself in a helpful manner.

« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 02:04:30 PM by Alveus Lacuna »

Offline orthonorm

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2012, 02:16:44 PM »
My thoughts which don't necessarily go to your questions:

I am sorry to hear about the strain this puts on your wife's possible receptivity of the Church.

Last comment is the reason I am posting. In case you haven't thought of it, if you do volunteer to watch the kids, you will probably need another adult there. In fact, your parish's insurance might require it. At my parish there are very clear rules about the number of adults who must be present when in the company of children.

One adult with the children before, during, after the Liturgy is not enough. Usually it is only an issue AFTER, when folks are less thoughtful about such stuff. 

Just a thought.

Best to you and your growing family.

Offline TITL

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2012, 02:38:55 PM »
My own opinion is that it is better to have young children come in at the Gospel and be helped to engage in the worship for 45-50 minutes, than to expect them to be able to concentrate for 1.5 or 2 or more hours. As they get older and more engaged then they can come in with their parents earlier. But I would suggest that they not be somewhere else playing until they come in - so that the Liturgy appears boring and annoying, but that their mother or father arrive at Church for that time and they come in and engage in the worship for that time.

It is certainly not all children who have this problem. I have had children of 2-4 be relatively quiet throughout the liturgy, and when they reach 7 they have become servers, if boys, and have been given lots to do.

As a priest I would much rather a family came relatively late to Church (not through laziness of course, but if they have a child who finds it very hard to concentrate or be still) and then were all able to engage to some degree, rather than that they came very early and spent the whole liturgy unable to concentrate and causing disruption to others. I never expect silence in any case. But quality is better than quantity - in this case. The priest should also pray for all the children and especially those who find quietness difficult.

For others there seems to be less excuse not to be in Church early.

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Offline TITL

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Offline mountainman

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2012, 02:42:55 PM »
I'm in the same boat-- have pretty much the exact same questions.

Offline Alveus Lacuna

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2012, 02:48:18 PM »
The problem with bringing the children late is that it engrains the expectation that to be Orthodox is to come whenever during the service. It is also impossible to time when the gospel and homily will be, as this varies every week. Sometime church is starting half an hour late because of confessions, or rite for catechumens being performed, or baptisms, or some other thing. Whenever I have tried this, we always miss the gospel and the homily or get there half an hour late and the service is just starting.

Regarding the children being "bothered" about coming into church, at this very young age I think that such an assessment is really not a worthwhile concern, as the would be some kind of a cut-off for when they could stop using this room. It's really just for the very little ones who struggle with the service length and the necessary volume level.

To orthonorm; I was thinking about having a meeting with all of the other parents of the small kids and seeing how they all felt about it without bringing it before the larger congregation. When I did that, I could suggest an alternating schedule on a monthly basis so that parents could go and pray 3 of the four weeks of the month, but give themselves over to the service of the children once a month. Of course everyone would still go receive communion at the end and we could have someone record the homily for them. Just thoughts.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 02:48:56 PM by Alveus Lacuna »

Offline TITL

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2012, 02:56:58 PM »
I'm sure if the situation was impossible for the parent, the priest may allow for an absolution to arrive late and still partake of communion.. even if it's after the Gospel. And as the kids progress, the parents can arrive a little earlier every time..etc.

I don't really like the idea of a daycare center in the Sunday School rooms during the Liturgy. If kids don't attend liturgies while they don't understand it, they probably won't once they grow up and understand it. Exposing them to the environment, even for a short period of time (30 minutes or so), is better than playing barbies with them and then rushing them to Communion.

Offline LizaSymonenko

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2012, 02:58:03 PM »
Our parish also has a good number of little people.  However, they are mostly well behaved.

I have to say that having "pews/benches" aids in this, as the parents block them in, and they can't run willy nilly all over the place.

Most of the parents with the unruly youngsters hang out towards the back, so, if there's a major meltdown they can quickly be scooped up and taken out to the church hall for a few minutes.

My sister, who has 4 kids, used to bring them a bit late to Liturgy so it wouldn't be so long for the little ones.  Her two boys are the older of the four, and I would pick them up and bring them with me, early to church, and she would arrive later with the girls.  We would also pack soft toys for them....such as cloth finger puppets, tiny stuffed animals and soft rubber, if the child banged it on something it would not make too much noise.  These "toys" were reserved for Sundays so the kid wouldn't get bored with them.  However, they were still instructed to stand, and kneel and cross themselves.  They toys were not a major distraction, just something to quiet them if they got too agitated.

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Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2012, 03:06:55 PM »
We have quite a few young ones in our parish, but the kids, while not perfect, are remarkably well-behaved.
We do have a nursery with a widescreen closed circuit tv when the kids need to take a break. This way the parents can keep up with where we are in the Liturgy.
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Offline PeaceSerenity

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2012, 03:26:45 PM »
I have been in churches where children spend most of the Liturgy in Sunday School or in a playroom and I don't know if it's a good idea. If children are removed from the liturgy when they're young, the transition of getting them to participate more in the service becomes difficult, plus they get left out of all the theology that is communicated in the service which kids do pick up on.

There are many young ones in my parish to (including several families with five children!). Many of the parents bring books or small toys for the children to play with. The children also participate in the singing and when they get older the boys serve in the altar. Maybe it would help if your parish had a stack of books in the back of the church which children could chose from and flip through them during the liturgy? That way they could stay in the church but also have something to do if they get fussy. Of course, it all depends on the parish, I hope everything works out for the best!

Offline Big Chris

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2012, 03:27:02 PM »
I don't know what to think about the kids in my parish.  Some of them wander around from parent to parent; some bring coloring books; some play board games; others just seem to have a free-for-all.  Not being a father myself, I have no idea how to grade levels of "well-behaved" but, depending on where you're standing in relation to these youngest of parishioners, it's not a huge distraction.  I try not to be too critical - though, I cringe when the youngest ones scream and am inwardly annoyed when I can't hear the priest.  Of course, I made a huge mistake this past weekend of standing/sitting at the very back so that I could sit during certain intervals to save my lower back which I'm going to the chiropractor for - well, this happened to be where all the kids were, and I might as well have been a Fisher-Price playhouse.   >:(
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Offline biro

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2012, 04:35:30 PM »
The little kids in my parish make noise sometimes, but usually not so badly that they make anyone pause in doing the service. Every once in a while, a kid will wander up to the altar area, and Father will turn and smile at them, and their Mom will come up and get them.  :laugh:
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Offline JamesR

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2012, 04:41:45 PM »
For the most part the children at my parish seem semi-well behaved. Yeah there are moments like with every child where the parent needs to step in every once in a while and tell them to behave, but they usually are not unbearable. Unfortunately, I do not think there is an easy solution here. The kids need to be exposed to the Liturgy and parents have to try and watch the kids while participating in the Liturgy. Tough work, but that's why it is called a personal Cross. That is just the way it is I guess. I'm not a parent but I'm the oldest sibling in my household so I'm constantly playing the role of second parent for my parents when they make me babysit my younger siblings all the time. Many times I wish I had more leisure time to spend working on homework or reading without interruptions but I don't because of my siblings. Nothing I can do about it except adapt and get used to it. That's the way it is buddy.

I know that when I grow up I really do not want to have children. I've experienced the real thing having younger siblings and I do not like it.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 04:43:42 PM by JamesR »

Offline yeshuaisiam

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2012, 07:16:56 PM »
Children should be present during liturgy, and through all the tradition of the Orthodox faith, I have never heard of any type of "keep the kids out", daycare, etc.

You could lightly suggest what happened to me when I was 3-4 in the Orthodox church.  If my brother and I started cutting up, our mother would quietly exit us out the back, lead us into the bathroom, and severely spank us.

When we came back we were very still, and gave 100% attention to the service.  (whether we understood everything or not)
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Offline Thankful

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2012, 01:47:55 AM »
Gosh, I wonder if the priest can have a parent-training time of sorts (outside of divine services of course).  Maybe encourage the parents to practice sitting still for Liturgy at home. Introduce some tools (using a service book and whispering to the kids what's happening, pointing out things as they happen and telling them why, having icon books they can quietly thumb through, saying the prayers that they can begin memorizing, etc.). At home, one can start working on having the kids sit still for 5 minutes, then 10, then 20, then 45 up and up, playacting a Divine Liturgy or some other service.  It is pretty crazy to think little kids will automatically be still for these services, but they can start to pick up on it. 

I write this as a mother of seven with our youngest being 4 and 6. We've been Orthodox for 2.5 years. Our two youngest can make it through a liturgy, not without moving around, or without talking, but I'm known to whisper, "Don't be distracting to others" frequently.  That's a biggie to me -- think about others, don't distract them from their prayers.  We let them move between sitting and standing, going from one sibling to another, looking at children's bibles or Christian books, icon books, etc. They can whisper questions.  There's no coloring, no games, no toys, no moving out of our area.  This is how we do it, and how most the parents in our parish do it. I think the priest, in your situation, may need to be enlisted somehow.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2012, 01:49:40 AM by Thankful »

Offline Knee V

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Re: Orthodoxy and Child Care during Liturgy
« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2012, 07:50:06 PM »
Kids misbehave everywhere they go, and they need to spanked everywhere they they misbehave. Church is no exception, and they will not get a bad taste in their mouths, so long as the discipline is consistent no matter where they misbehave.

If people have a problem with kids making some noise, they just need to get over themselves. Children must be a part of the life of the Church, and everyone needs to recognize that. If they don't like it, that's their problem.

Not every look given toward a loud kid is necessarily a bad look. I like the noise of kids during the liturgy, and I'll look at a noisy kid out of curiousity to see who is making the noise. But by no means do I resent the kid for the noise.

Toys and blankets near the iconostasis?

Kids must always be present for the whole liturgy every time they go. Otherwise they will grow to think that it is optional.