Every weekend, we get to interact with lots of kids. And some of those kids are going through really difficult things….like broken relationships, personal pain or loss. We want Kids’ Club to be a safe place for them to share how they feel. But to create that space, it’s important for us to be prepared to talk to kids about hard topics.
Of course, if a kid begins to disclose something that indicates they may be in danger, tell a staff member immediately. Before you have any conversation with the kid. Staff will work with you to determine best next steps.
But if the kid wants to share something painful that doesn’t put them in immediate danger, first, get into the right environment. Remove any physical barriers, like tables or chairs, between you and the kid, and get on the same eye level. Find a place away from other kids, but, of course, not completely alone. Really, make sure another volunteer can see you at all times. And never promise to keep something a secret. If at any point you begin to believe the kid is unsafe, tell a staff member immediately.
Then listen patiently. Let kids share in their own way, even if it means sharing the information in bits and pieces rather than all at once. You can also offer to let a kid draw or act out what they’re trying to tell you if they seem to be struggling verbally. And if that means you don’t get to all the Small Group questions or cut short a Connect Time activity, that’s OK. Connection with kids really is an important part of Kids’ Club.
As you listen, consider your reaction. If you’re shocked or angry, try not to let your face show it. Projecting strong emotions may confuse or scare a kid. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you respond with love and hope.
Then, show empathy. Instead of telling kids everything will be OK or offering a solution, reflect back what you hear them saying, to show you understand. You might say, “That must be scary to get left alone” or “It sounds like you’re angry at yourself for making that choice.” Then they can confirm your statement–or clarify. And no matter how they feel, let them know that it’s OK to be scared, confused, sad, angry or any emotion.
Finally, if you feel comfortable, ask if you can pray with the kid. Or ask how they’d like you to pray for them. Remind them it’s OK to talk to God about all this stuff. In fact, he wants to carry our pain for us. In I Peter 5:7, the Bible tells us “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
Sometimes, reminding kids that God loves them and that you care about them is all the encouragement they need. Sometimes, they are dealing with ongoing struggles that have no simple resolution. Your consistent presence in Kids’ Club makes it a regular place for kids to share their pain, their struggles and ultimately their growth. Thanks for making that happen!
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