Latter-day Saint Life

Conference with kids doesn’t need to be perfect. 3 reminders to unleash more joy this weekend

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A family in Uruguay watches the Saturday morning session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, broadcast from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, October 2, 2021.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

With conference just around the corner, now is a great time to start thinking about how to you and your kids can listen and learn all weekend long.

Spring flowers poking through the dirt, droves of people wearing their Sunday best, and families watching almost 10 hours of television—the telltale signs of April general conference. While many of us look forward to this spiritual marathon of a weekend, when you have little ones at home, conference can feel a little like a never-ending sacrament meeting. Trying to be spiritually uplifted while keeping children busy, happy, and fed can feel nearly impossible!

As a mom of two young boys, here are a few ideas to help parents of young families enjoy conference weekend just a little bit more.

1. Set Realistic Expectations

My biggest conference mistake is always under-preparing. Conference tends to sneak up on me, and I find myself frantically gathering supplies the night before—trying to figure out how to keep my kids entertained and focused during the sessions.

Start by outlining realistic expectations. Make a goal for the weekend that makes sense for you. For instance, if you have very busy children who won’t be napping during a session, your realistic goal might be to write down one thing from each talk, listen to one entire talk each session, or even just have conference playing in the background.

It is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to focus and listen the entire time if you have young children who will need your attention, so don’t set yourself up for discouragement and failure by anticipating that you will. It might even be a good idea to talk about goals with your spouse so that you can help each other achieve them by taking turns helping the kids during specific talks or sessions.

If your kids are old enough, you can include them in explaining what to expect and helping them identify their own expectations. Some things that I’ve found helpful include:

  • Writing out a simple list of activities they can do during conference
  • Making a visual checklist of each session, such as opening and closing prayers, hymns, and talks
  • Reminding them of a special family conference tradition
  • Putting up pictures of the Apostles and General Officers around your house in the days leading up to conference to help them recognize speakers

Tip: There are lots of ideas and resources for helping kids stay busy and focused during conference. Find a few on the Church website, including “General Conference Activities for Children and Youth” under General Conference April 2024 and this digital-only article from the March 2024 Friend magazine: “General Conference Activities for Kids.

2. Practice Flexibility

The hardest part of adjusting to watching conference with children was learning not to feel guilty when I wasn’t able to give my undivided attention to every talk like I used to.

With distractions ranging from potty training, snack time, or nap time for the kids, often on top of lack of sleep, it can be a challenge to feel like conference is a time of spiritual nourishment. But as Douglas T. Parrish wrote:

“Today, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, we are blessed with so much communication technology and multiple ways to consume general conference. We can watch live video on broadcast television or over the internet. We can listen live on internet radio. We can read the printed words on a smartphone, on websites, and in printed magazines. Even those who live in areas of the world where live sessions are happening in the middle of the night can enjoy general conference at a later, more convenient time—over and over again.”

No matter how much uninterrupted time we have during actual conference weekend, we can find other ways to gather and learn from conference by having a question we are listening for, writing down a thought here and there, or re-listening and watching as we can in the weeks following. And that’s okay.

If your child just needs some playtime outside, took the entire two hours of conference to fall asleep, or just couldn’t sit still long enough for you to hear anything, you haven’t lost an opportunity to learn. You just get to find new ways to participate in conference for a season.

▶You may also like: 5 fun takes on cinnamon rolls for conference morning

3. Remember the Purpose

When it comes to conference and kids, it’s easy to wonder if it’s worth the effort to help them stay in the room quietly, let alone learn anything from it! But if we go back to the purpose, we can usually find that even a small effort is enough when they are little.

I have been a Primary music leader for the last three years as well as a mother of a preschooler with ADHD, and I have seen over and over again that no matter how distracted they might seem, kids pick up on more than we think they do.

While our children have not sat silently and listened to every conference talk, we make an effort to watch it with them in the room, encourage them to listen for specific words or write down their own notes (to the best of their writing or drawing abilities), and later read a conference talk as part of our family scripture study each week.

I’ve never had any indication that they even understand any of what they hear. However, this past week, as we were talking about our Savior, we asked our children how Christ helped them when they were having a hard time. To our surprise, our preschooler told us that Jesus helped him listen to conference when it was hard.

It was a touching reminder to me that constant, little efforts are enough. We can achieve and help even our youngest children achieve the purpose of conference: to “find peace, hope, and joy through Jesus Christ,” “learn how to strengthen our families as we follow Jesus Christ’s teachings,” and “[learn] how to receive personal guidance and inspiration from God” (General Conference April 2024 landing page).

May your conference weekend be full of patience, peace, answers, and love—for you and the entire family.

▶You may also like: 6 Book of Mormon verses every parent should know

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