Kids in Ceremonies

A baby naming ceremony to remember

Last weekend’s baby naming ceremony, for baby Jonathan, was a wonderful experience on a number of levels. I love these ceremonies. So much joy, and hope fills the room.This was my second time with this family. Two years ago, I celebrated the naming of their first son, Matthew. Saturday’s ceremony was also a celebration of Matthew’s new status as big brother and their cousin Alex’s status as godbrother.When including children of any age in a ceremony, it’s best to be open to the possibility that things will not go as planned. Children can get nervous. They might misinterpret instructions or forget what they are supposed to do. I always tell clients that if we’re okay with whatever the kids do, everyone else will be too.
Gifts for Baby Jonathan
©Cristina Kollet 2011
Of course, kids can also bring something very special to the ceremony, which is what happened on Saturday…This ceremony involved a gift exchange between the older boys, Matthew and Alex, and baby Jonathan. Such an exchange is symbolic of the gifts the older child(ren) will share with the younger sibling and the rewards of being a big brother or sister or a godbrother or sister. Primarily though, it’s a way to show the older siblings that they are important and appreciated for their place in the family.With younger children, the easiest gift to the baby is a piece of artwork. Matthew made a lovely finger painting. Alex’s painting was shaped like a fish. In setting up the ceremony, the gifts were placed on a table along with other ceremony props.
Alex’s “Murf”
©Cristina Kollet 2011
Truth be told, I did not notice the Smurf till Alex’s mother pointed it out to me.You see, when Alex learned he would be giving his cousin/godbrother a gift, he decided to give Jonathan something he, himself, loved. Alex had been talking about giving the baby his ‘Murf for weeks. Such a simple and beautiful gesture from one so young.When the boys presented their gifts, it was a beautiful moment. We ended the gift exchange with applause for Matthew and Alex—a simple way to show them how proud we all were of them.We also included the rest of the kids—cousins and friends in the ceremony by giving them noisemakers (horns and clappers) to play when we officially introduced baby Jonathan at the end of the ceremony.
In the end it was a beautiful ceremony. I hope to be a part of future celebrations with this family.

©Cristina Kollet 2011


Tips for including kids in ceremonies

Here are a few simple tips to help make including kids in ceremonies a pleasant and rewarding experience for everyone:
  • Have realistic expectations and be prepared for the child to have other ideas.
  • Involve children in ways that are simple and can be worked around—giving and receiving gifts can be spoken about if the child becomes shy or distracted.
  • Even very young children can be included in rituals like candle lighting. Have them stand with or be held by an adult who will do the honors for them.
  • Have one or more adults who the child is comfortable with on hand to take care of the child if he/she gets nervous or fidgety and needs a change of venue.
  • Remember that the event being celebrated is a milestone for the child too. They will have their own feelings about the milestone and the ceremony. Ask how they feel so you can respond and plan accordingly.
  • Don’t expect the child to make pledges, promises, or vows—this is especially important in weddings where families are being combined because children may feel pressure to please but may not be ready to make those promises. Adults can make vows to the child, but even they should be offered with no expectations on the child’s part.
Remember that no matter what happens including your child in these family celebrations is a memory your family can share for years.

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