What Am I Doing At Liturgy (Children)

Jesus proclaimed that the little children should come to him since the kingdom of heaven belongs to those like them (Mt 19:14).  Children, then, are most welcome at liturgy, even as they need preparation for it because their attention spans are much different than most adults.  That said, children are able to understand ritual and they can learn to follow the example of their parents, once they sense the importance and reverence that parents demonstrate during liturgy.  Children will eventually learn that liturgical time is special, holy time apart from normal, everyday activity.

One of the greatest challenges parents face is how to engage their children at liturgy when it competes with more entertaining uses of time, such as television, videos or other electronic devices and games.  Here is where the power of repetition can be useful.  The more frequently children attend Mass, the sooner they are going to get that liturgy is a prayer ritual with repetitious actions.  Appreciation will grow with understanding and frequency will definitely help children prepare for what the liturgy is asking of all of us.  So the best advice for parents is to not only attend Mass as often as possible but to train children (of a suitable age) at home to understand appropriate conduct at different activities.  Children need to be trained that liturgy time requires a hushed voice and is not time for games, eating or bathroom use (barring an emergency and children should never enter a public bathroom alone).  The gathering space or outside are great areas to calm unsettled children yet unless a child has special needs, they are not the place to remain during liturgy.

I do not claim to be an expert on raising children but only offer the examples I was given by my parents and those of my siblings, one of whom is raising an autistic child and who started a group in her parish for all children with special needs, teaching them how to behave and participate at the liturgy.