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Separation Anxiety at Church

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  • Separation Anxiety at Church

    My son just turned 2 years old and enjoys playing in the church nursery, but only if I stay in with him. Yesterday he thought I left and started crying bitterly. He's very attached to me. We've practiced AP since birth, and because I work from home, he rarely needs to stay with a babysitter other than Daddy. He's generally happy, very talkative, and confident (when he's around us).

    He is usually tolerant of being in the adult Sunday School class with me, and sits in the sanctuary with my husband and me through the song service, before becoming restless and saying interesting things in a loud voice. Lately I've spent most of the church service walking the halls with him. Not sure what else to do. This is our first child, so it's all new territory. What do the rest of you do? I'm considering going only for Sunday School, then going home. Will it make things worse not to expose him to at least sitting in church for a short time? I'm afraid that if I continue walking the halls with him, he will come to expect that and will never acclimate to the nursery. Maybe I'm asking too much of a 2-year-old?

    I volunteer in the nursery once every two months or so, and have seen other toddlers who cry and then are "OK" after their parents leave. By "OK" I mean they quiet down, but are usually subdued and sad the rest of the time. I am not comfortable doing that to my son.

    Thanks in advance for any ideas!

  • #2
    It sounds like you're able to recognize his needs & limitations very well. Your expectations about him being able to sit still during church sound reasonable...when he gets restless you go for a walk. And same for the expectations about going into the childcare...when he clearly wasn't comfortable with it, you didn't force it on him.

    You asked that if you continue this, will he expect to always walk around during church? I actually don't think that walking the halls will work forever. As he grows, his needs & behavior will of course change...he might get restless a lot sooner in church, or it may become too difficult to keep him occupied by just going for a walk (maybe what's becoming a longer & longer walk). So, no I don't think you're getting into any kind of "habit" by walking around during make sure things never stay the same!

    Would you like to eventually have the option of having him go to the child care there? If so, continue to introduce him to it. Maybe go play together in the nursery at a time when no one else is there for a few minutes before church. My guess is that if he continues to "experience" the nursery on a regular basis, with absolutely no pressure on him to like it, he'll eventually be OK with going there while you're in church.
    Last edited by Samantha; 04-08-2010, 12:29 AM.


    • #3
      Thanks Kelly for your advice and reassurance!

      Yes, I do hope to eventually be able to leave him in the nursery. I like your suggestion of continuing to allow him to experience the setting there without pressure to stay for now.

      Thanks again for your reply!


      • #4
        You're not alone


        I appreciated your post and wanted to reassure you that you are not alone...your sensitivity to your child and your desire to have him experience church in a positive way is a gift.

        We've taken a long-term view with our children and their involvement with childcare on Sundays. Kelly's suggestions are great. We've really made a point of spending time in the nursery before and after church and I've tried to connect with some of the other nursery workers outside of Sunday so that our children feel comfortable with them. I've also become a regular nursery worker which helps my children feel comfortable, and also gives me the ability to help influence the philosophy and care of the children in our church.

        Hang in there!


        • #5
          Thanks, LittleLady. I like your determination to help influence the care of the children at your church by helping in the nursery. I hope to do this, too.

          Since writing my original post, I've had second thoughts about leaving my child in the nursery at all. Several weeks ago I witnessed a nursery worker "lose it" and yell at a toddler for being loud. He wasn't being unduly loud - just "I'm happy and am playing" loud.

          Anyway, thanks for letting me know I'm not alone.