When Kids Hate Church Nursery: 4 Pointers for Parents

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Child crying
You love attending church but dread the nursery tug-of-war with your toddler. She likes going to daycare and even likes the occasional Mom’s Day Out program; however, come Sunday, she’s not a happy camper.
Who knows why but this phenomena happens at churches every week. Teary-eyed Moms and Dads (been there guys, I understand) hope for the best but experience the worst, often leaving a screaming child behind only to be paged in 10 to 20 minutes. So what do you do when your kids hate nursery class?
1. Remember that adjustment times vary.
I have two boys who are as different as night and day. When my oldest son was a toddler, an empty box could entertain him for hours. He was peaceful, easy to please and didn’t mind nursery one bit. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t wait to say, “Bye, Mommy. Now go!” Not the youngest. He cried about everything for the first five years of his life. If I had to take a restroom break, it better be when Dad was around. Nursery was the pits, but over time, he adjusted. With one child, nursery was never a challenge, the other child ran to the door and held on to my leg every time I tried to leave. No matter how loving and patient you are, leaving kids in the nursery can tax your nerves. You have to be willing to go the long haul.
2. Nursery is a personal decision.
Not every parent wants to leave their kids in nursery class–and that’s okay! Naturally, as the children’s ministry director at my church I would love to see your child there but if you decide this isn’t for you or your children, that’s perfectly alright. Unless you are committed to it, nursery won’t be much more than a stressful interruption.
3. Consistency works best.
You’ve met with the nursery coordinator and the staff and feel like nursery is the right choice for your child. The next step is consistency. Your child needs to get in to the routine of attending church. Missing just one week can make it more difficult for the child and can extend the adjustment period. Try to be there every week. (I know it’s tough at times but do try!)
4. Coordinate paging criteria.
In our nursery, kids are not left to cry for an extended period of time. It’s just unfair for the other children and the crying child. However, we will work with parents on a specific paging criteria. You can send someone else, as long as they are pre approved by the nursery coordinator or in extreme cases, you can stay in the nursery for short periods of time. This only occurs at the beginning of the nursery class and you have to leave after a few minutes. Parents can help a child bond with a nursery worker but then must leave. The idea is to stay five minutes the first week, four the next, three the following and so on.
Depending on your church’s size and policy, you could also swap rooms, volunteer in the nursery or hang out in the hall. I suggest giving nursery a chance. Make sure your child doesn’t have a hungry tummy is wearing comfortable clothing and you have filled out the Likes and Dislikes page your nursery will likely offer you. I’ve never met a child who didn’t end up loving nursery ministry!
Read more from Mimi at her blog Encouragement for Christians.

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