By Erica Patino
It can be hard to stay focused during religious services. And it’s even harder for kids who have attention or impulsivity issues. Follow these tips to help make the most of the service.
For younger kids, bring quiet activities to keep your child from getting bored during the service. Coloring books, crayons and sticker books (you can get these with or without religious themes) as well as a pad of paper and markers can buy you some time before your child gets restless.
Create a routine where your child gets a drink of water and stretches her legs at the same point in the service each week. Knowing that she’s going to get a break (or two) may help her behave better the rest of the time. Develop a hand signal or quiet way that she can let you know if she needs to go to the bathroom in between planned breaks.
Sitting in the back so you can make a quick exit without being disruptive is a tried-and-true strategy. But your child may have a better view and stay more engaged if you sit right up in front, where all the action is taking place.
Don’t stress if your older child isn’t focused on the service. Even if she doesn’t seem to be paying attention to the prayers or readings, she may be absorbing more than you think. Just like adults, it’s helpful for kids to have a quiet time each week to pause, reflect and just let their thoughts wander. It’s also OK if you leave the service early because your child has had her fill.
Look for ways to involve your child. If you volunteer to host coffee hour after the service, your child could set out the muffins. Some houses of worship have greeters to welcome people as they come in. This can be fun to do as a family, especially if your child is outgoing. Activities like these break up the routine. They also help your child feel like she’s part of the community. That sense of belonging can be one of the greatest benefits of attending religious services.
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Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.
Molly Algermissen, Ph.D., is an associate professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and clinical director of PROMISE.
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