By His Grace, Paul, Bishop of Chicago and the Diocese of the Midwest (from the OCA website)
Here are some suggestions.
Sit up front when you come to Church
When you sit up front, it enables a child to see more clearly what is going on in the service. For young kids between two and five we have books in the pew to describe what is going on during worship.
Read that with your child as the service is going on and point out how what they see in the book is actually going on in church. For older children (eight to twelve) have Divine Liturgy books for youth that they can follow which do an excellent job of explaining the liturgy with words and images.
Feel free to move around in the Church
Instead of removing a child from church because they are noisy, walk around with them in the nave and show them the church. This is a very good thing you can do with children between six to eighteen months old. I have no problem with parents roaming in the space of worship and showing their children the icons on the iconostasis and on the walls of the church. Young children will drink this up and love it. This is not avoidance; this is encounter.
Let them see, let them touch the icon, kiss the icon yourself, and eventually your child will kiss it. Tell them these are holy people in our church who followed Jesus. Remind your young child who has been baptized that Jesus lives inside him or her.
Appropriate items to bring with you to Church
I am OK with parents bringing in a coloring book with biblical or liturgical themes in it. As a child is coloring it quiets his or her soul and it allows one to listen to what is happening on another level.
Whatever items you bring they should be relevant to worship and have a Christian theme to it. However the coloring or other diversion should not go on the entire service.
There are certain times that children need to stop and focus on the service. Have them pay attention to the Little Entrance, the Scripture readings, the Sermon, the Great Entrance, the reciting of the Creed, the consecration of the Bread and Wine, and the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer.
Encourage your child to sing along with the choir responses to the service. Be an example and sing along with the choir as well! Remind them when they should be making the sign of the Cross during the service.
As your children get older, have them get involved in being a greeter and passing out the bulletin, passing the collection tray, or to go up to the choir loft and to sing with the choir. As the boys get older they may desire to serve in the altar.
Finally as children do get older, the expectations for their attention to the service itself should be higher.
Is it OK for young children to have food?
Our understanding of preparation to receive Communion on Sunday is that we fast from midnight on (except for health reasons).
This rule applies to those who are developmentally capable of doing this. I see no reason why children seven and older cannot observe this rule.
For children under 18 months old, I have no problem with parents having a small zip lock bag of cheerios to feed them during the course of the service and for them to still come to communion. But as they do get older they do need to be weaned from this.
Is there a time when it is appropriate to remove a child from the service?
This should always be a last resort when all other attempts that I have suggested above don’t seem to be helping.
The noise and the disruption of the child need to be of such a magnitude that it is clearly rebellious in nature and mean spirited. Most parents will know when that point has come.
When a child needs to be removed they need to know they are being disciplined for their behavior in church. I don’t think they need to be spanked, but neither should their time in the narthex be a time for fun and amusement.
If you want to put him or her on time out on the stairs (if they are developmentally able use this as a learning experience) and explain to your child they must sit there until they can tell mom or dad they will be good in church, this seems to be a good thing to do.
You may need to tell them what being good means by describing how they need to behave. I would also encourage people in our church who don’t have to deal with kids to be tolerant and merciful in their attitude when children become disruptive at times.