Separation anxiety. A sore thumb. Being told they couldn’t stop for a donut. Family stress.
All of these are reasons children walk into Sunday school feeling sad or maybe even in tears.
And in the busyness of rounding up our students and getting to the lesson, it can be easy to forget that dealing with the needs of each child can make a big impact!
Nothing transforms a life more effectively than relationship. And when you take a moment to acknowledge a child’s feelings, you build that relationship and demonstrate God’s love.
Here Are Simple Ways to Calm Sad or Upset Children and Make Them Feel Cared For:
Make Eye Contact
Get on the child’s eye level and use the child’s name. Let the child know you are glad she is there and that you care about her.
Some problems are easy to see. But if not, ask the child to tell you what the problem is—just be careful not to alienate him by pushing for an answer.
If he can’t (or won’t) speak, offer choices or point to items that might be the answer.
Look for Easy Wins
Solve the easy problems when you can. A bandage may “cure” the sore thumb. The promise of a healthy snack later might help with the missed donut opportunity.
Share Your Own Problem
Showing the child a stain on your shirt or your own sore finger can shift a child’s focus. Let here help you find a solution to your problem.
Or tell a story about a time something happened to you when you were younger. Be sure it’s not too heavy—and end your story on a happy note!
If the cause of the sadness is more complicated or hard to discern, a distraction can be helpful. Bubbles are great to have on hand as a diversion. For older children, take time to start an activity with them.
It helps even more if the activity is “special”—not something they get to do every week. That might be stickers, or coloring with special markers, or writing on the board.
Share a Job
It sounds funny to give a distressed child work, but this might be the perfect solution. Giving a child a special job can make him feel valued and pull his focus away from what upset him.
Let him help you take attendance, put away toys, hand out papers, or hold up props. Even just sitting beside the teacher or another adult calms some children.
As we use each student’s name, talk to, and encourage each one, they begin to experience what God’s love looks like, sounds like, and feels like.
They begin to feel loved and respected. And they begin to know that church is a place where they are safe and cared for.
Questions for Your Team to Think About
- What are some problems that come up for your children every week?
- How could you help parents head off those problems before the kids get to your class?
- What are some other distraction tools you might like to add to your classrooms?