Having raised 5 children in the Church, I know some of the difficulties of struggling through sacrament meeting with restless babies and toddlers. I got some things right, but not everything. In retrospect I can see where I could have done things better.
The Sabbath should be a happy, positive day, not a day of restrictions and lists of things we “are not allowed to do”. Parents’ attitudes to the Sabbath have a big impact on children.
1. During the week
Talk positively about Church. Tell your children why you enjoy attending the meetings.
3. A good start to the day
Start the Sabbath well. Play quiet, uplifting music in the home while everyone gets ready for Church. You can stream Tabernacle Choir music here.
Talk quietly – no shouting. Instead of shouting at children to get dressed, help them if they aren’t dressing, even if they can dress themselves. This will help Sunday feel special to them.
Eat breakfast together and have family prayer. If possible, read a scripture together. All of this might mean getting up a little earlier. Pray for the children that they will learn to be reverent. Pray that you will have patience.
4. Sacrament meeting
Arrive at Church a few minutes before the meeting starts. Encourage children to listen to the prelude music. Let them look at books, draw or colour in. Leave noisy toys at home.
If you can’t buy LDS children’s books, be creative and make your own. Cut out Church pictures from old Church magazines or manuals, and put them in a small photo album. Book of Mormon colouring books can be printed here. Staple the pages together for a Sabbath day book. Other LDS colouring pages and games to print can be found here and here.
Make Church a loving time when you smile approval at your children as they are reverent.
Set an example of reverent behaviour by putting your phone or tablet away, and don’t have conversations with friends in the chapel.
If necessary, ask someone to sit with you to help with the children. It could be family members, friends, visiting teachers, or anyone willing to help.
If a child is noisy and disturbing the meeting, take them out until they quieten down, then return to the chapel. If they are allowed to stay out and play, they won’t learn to be reverent but will want to go out each week.
5. After Church
Give lots of praise for reverent behaviour. If your child really wasn’t reverent at all, encourage him/her to do better next week. Be positive.
Don’t feel despondent if you have to spend a lot of time out of the chapel because of a noisy child. Being there each week is teaching your children that you attend Church every Sunday, and that is an important lesson to learn.
With patience, planning, preparation, and the Lord’s help, the Sabbath can be a delight to small children and their parents. He wants us to enjoy the Sabbath day and our meetings, and He will help us as we turn to Him.