As we plan our lessons for Mother’s Day, it is vital that we approach the day with wisdom. Some of the children in our classrooms may not have a mother present in the home due to death, abandonment, military service, incarceration, custody issues, or various other circumstances.
Parents can also be dealing with Mother’s Day grief, especially for those who have lost a child or their own mother recently. These feelings often will affect all the children in the family.
So how can we approach the day with compassion? That answer is going to look different for all of us in children’s ministry, but here are some thoughts to consider:
1. Know your students. Know their unique family dynamics. If a child has lost a mom due to illness, inform the other family members in advance about your plans for the day. Ask them for suggestions. Give them the freedom to celebrate and honor the mom on their terms.
If a child has a mom in the military, bombard her with letters and a care package. If the mom is in prison, keep the knowledge confidential, but still celebrate her as a person. Have the children draw pictures and write out their favorite verses for “someone who could use a little encouragement.” Noone else has to know where the letters are going.
In the event that the child never knew their real mom, invite them to honor and thank God for a special woman in their life – someone who has meant a lot to them.
2. Support the family. Communication is essential when a child is dealing with feelings of grief and/or loss. Get to know the other family members. Be available. Allow them to talk. Help in practical ways, with wisdom and discretion. Recommend resources such as pastoral services, counselors, books, retreats, CD’s, etc.
3. Encourage the child. Let the child know that you value them and everything that is important to them. Do not ignore the loss. Do not bombard the child with questions about their grief either. Allow the processing to be on their terms. Some children will express grief through talking. Others will communicate more through artwork, playing, humor, music, sports, or dance. Attend the events that mean a lot to them. Send a random funny postcard in the mail. Give a gift. Rally the church and classmates to encourage the child and their family also.
4. Be familiar with grief and loss. Research children’s developmental stages of grief. Ask for a counselor’s advice. Attend classes and seminars. Realize that children do not get over loss quickly. Sometimes they will display resilience, adapting to a new way of life quickly, but they may still be experiencing loss and its accompanying fears/anxieties. Their sense of loss is most likely to come and go. Sometimes they will revisit the loss and its devastating effects. Other times they will escape into a world of play and fantasy. Also be aware of any guilt or blame the child is placing on himself/herself because of the situation. Challenge those thoughts.
5. Make adaptations in your lessons. In some cases, the grief that a child is experiencing may be too recent. In this case, forgo a Mother’s Day Lesson altogether. Another option might be talking about “Women of Virtue or Godliness.” If a craft is involved, have the children make it for a “special lady in their lives,” such as a mom, aunt, grandmother, teacher, or neighbor.
6. Love for the long haul. Consistently encourage children, even years after a loss. Pray for them on Mother’s Day and throughout the year, as you see them or remember them. Let them know that you care. Celebrate big events in their lives as they mature. Be persistent in your compassion for them, whether they acknowledge your support or not.
7. Focus on Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for a broken world. It’s hope for children forging through life without a mom. Jesus redeems pain and somehow forges something beautiful from it. In your lessons and interactions with children and their families, focus on Christ by prizing His word. Invite students to say along with you, “Surely, God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)
As always, this is not an all-exhaustive list. Please share suggestions and/or comments at the bottom of this post. Whatever you end up doing for Mother’s Day, my prayer is that we will all show sensitivity, compassion, hope, and a spirit of gentleness to children who are hurting.
Need More Ideas? We also have a post about Father’s Day and Children who have lost their dad. Many of those suggestions are relevant for Mother’s Day too. You should also read our article “How to Comfort a Bereaved Child.”