Okay, so I don’t actually have any funny punch line for this joke. So swiftly moving onto what I actually want to talk about.
This past Sunday we had 376 children age 3 months to 5th grade join us in nurseries and Sunday school. It was a-mazing! But being in a full, bustling classroom can be intimidating to some of our children (regardless of age!). We like to dream that our weekend mornings will be all sunshine and rainbows, but some mornings getting your child ready for church and into the classroom can be more like a hail storm. (Anyone? No? Just my family?)
Children suffer from separation anxiety. It’s not a lame excuse, it’s a fact. But try to see it from your child’s perspective: it can be hard to enter a classroom that you go to only once a week and only for an hour. Especially on those busy or stormy days. And just because your child has never had an issue doesn’t mean they never will. Separation anxiety can kick in at any point in their lives.
To help you on those stormy days, here are a few tricks that have worked for us personally or that we have heard other parents successfully implement:
- Promise donuts (or another reward) after church. If your kid is goal-orientated, the promise of a small reward will motivate them. I’m sure you’ve heard before that if you do something for 30 days straight it becomes a habit. You most likely come to your Sunday school classroom only once a week so it might take longer, but give it a try.
- A pep talk goes a long way. Talk about it. Read about it. I am a big fan of finding books to prep my kids about any small or big out of the ordinary adventure that’s ahead of them. And I have often called on The Berenstain Bears for such help. You can see my prior blog post for more thoughts on this.
- Sticker chart. Every time a child goes to their Sunday School class without [your child’s choice of resistant behavior] they get a sticker. After they collect a specific number of stickers they collect a previously agreed upon prize. Easy – peasy.
- Mark their hand. Draw a little heart or stamp their hand. Every time they feel anxious they can look at it to remind them that their parents love them and give them extra magical powers and a reminder that parents will be back in less than an hour. Have you heard about The Kissing Hand book? It’s a teacher favorite.
- Trust your ministry team and teachers. I know it is really, really, really hard to leave your crying child. But the swifter an exit a parent makes the better.
- I went through six months of prying my daughter’s death grip off of me and handing her screaming to her teacher. (God bless her!) Every time within 5 minutes I got a picture of my daughter happily building blocks or tending to some baby dolls. At pick up, I had to drag her OUT of the classroom, because she didn’t want to leave.
- At some point in his life my son decided he didn’t prefer 11 o’clock Sunday school. He has no reason. We try to bring him for 9:30, but when it’s 11:00 he will pout and try to strike a bargain every time. Nope. I slap the name sticker on and with an apology to his teachers not to take it personally, I shove my 1st grader into the classroom. When we pick him up he gushes over the lesson, the fun games and yet another super-creative art project.
- So trust your ministry team, teachers and volunteers. We will take care of your child like they are our own. And we never let a child cry for longer than 10 minutes. We’d call you, promise.
- Don’t be discouraged. I know it can be so hard to come in knowing there are tears ahead. We are here to help you and work with you and/or your child on any individual needs.