My husband and I love to attend church to renew and prepare ourselves for the week. We believe that a belief in something greater than ourselves has helped us raise the children we have been given. Therefore, it has been important that we attend church to seek guidance and worship as we believe. So each Sunday our family attends 3 hours of worship services. The first hour is for everyone and we listen to people speak about the gospel of Christ.
|Ready for church. Obviously this is a before shot.|
We talked with our son’s teachers too about how they could allow him some time to move. Often times they would allow him frequent trips to the drinking fountain. Other teachers had the whole class involved and would start with some dancing, jumping jacks, or other activities that involved movement. Other teachers had all members of the class walk around the church before the lesson started. Each solution was a bit different, but each helped our son get the movement he needed.
We never punished for meltdowns or bad behavior in church. I didn’t want to associate church with negativity. So instead we set up a reward system with ice cream. And who doesn’t love ice cream? Each Sunday we all started off with the promise of 3 scoops of ice cream and all the toppings. If the children were able to maintain good behavior they got the reward immediately upon returning home. (I know, not the healthiest lunch, but I needed to attend church for me, and this worked.)
If they had to be reminded 3 times to sit quietly or stop fighting, etc, they would be penalized 1 scoop of ice cream. I don’t think anyone every lost all 3 scoops of ice cream because … well ice cream.
We did have to cut out any other ice cream moments during the week so that Sunday was special. And we had to maintain a pretty good ice cream supply in the refrigerator. My kiddos responded great to this reward system.
Think of what your family loves. Reward them for being able to sit through church. It may be that in the beginning you reward simply for going to church. Then a reward for sitting for part of the sermon. Baby steps are the key. Rewards do motivate and helped us improve our Sunday sanity.
Sitting in the Same Place
One of our sons is autistic and he craves routine. He liked to sit in the same place at church each week. Think Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.
Now we never kicked anyone out of “OUR” pew if we arrived too late, but we started arriving early enough to claim “Sheldon’s Spot” each week. We often had to get there 30 minutes early to do this, but it helped our son be comfortable.
Sitting in the Foyer
Sit near Support Groups
Ask friends to sit near you and explain what you might need in certain situations. Help them understand when you might need help and when you would be able to handle the situation. They may come up with some ideas that you haven’t thought of.
Activities and Gum
During church we allowed the children to color and play quietly with toys. When my sister sat with us she taught me to massage my children’s hands. This deep pressure helps calm a child and the bonding nature of touch helps create a positive experience. Another deep pressure activity is simple: gum! I have a friend who brings multiple packs of flavored gum and the children can chew one piece at a time, but have as many pieces of gum as they want to have. Now with this idea, supervision is necessary so the gum doesn’t end up under pews, on the floor, or in hair. But chewing gum is a deep pressure activity that can help keep kids calm.
Think outside the box
I asked to be relieved of my church responsibilities of singing with the little children during hours two and three. This allowed me to go home with our son while my husband stayed with our other children.
Our one hour of church went better after this. It wasn’t perfect. But our son knew that he didn’t have to endure 3 hours of church and that made it more manageable for him. We continued to work with him to process what he was experiencing. Things slowly improved.
After a few months of this we hired a respite worker for Sundays. He came with us to worship services and if our son felt like staying for all 3 hours, they would stay. If he felt like he needed to go home after one hour, they could. This allowed my husband and I to attend our meeting and feel renewed. And this allowed our son the ability to go home if church was too much for him.
Some Sunday’s he stayed, but most Sunday’s he went home. This continued for years. And it wasn’t until his mid-teen years that our son was able to consistently attend all of church.
Be patient. Pray. Ask for guidance.
We still have rough Sunday’s when I wonder why I am doing this. I would love to hear what you do. If you have kids that struggle with church services, what have you done to make church easier for them?
|After church, Sam and Grace have had enough!|