Want children free of stress and oozing kindness?



Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every little kid who had divorcing parents or had experienced trauma of some sort showed up in your class stress free? Imagine a group where

  • There is no fighting, arguing, or yelling.
  • All the kids want to be involved.
  • They want to form community.
  • They care for one another.
  • The group oozes kindness.

Impossible, you say? I beg to differ. Many children who live in divorcing and stressed-out families don’t know how not to be stressed. It is their way of life, and as we’ve said before, they bring that chaos and stress with them. It is what they have lived, and we must model something different for them.

There are several things we can do to alleviate some of their stress. Let me share some strategies I have learned over the years:

  • Always, and I mean every time, have someone at the door to greet each child and do so with a hello ritual. That might be a high five, fist bump, hug, handshake, elbow bump, or just a “Hello (insert child’s name). So glad you are joining us today.”
  • It might mean telling the child who was new the week before, “I’m so glad you decided to come back and see us again.”
  • Help children feel like they belong. Don’t ignore the first misbehavior because if you ignore it, they will try again until they get your attention and your direction.
  • Put on your most joyful face. Joy is contagious, so feel free to share your joy. There is always more where it came from.
  • If you don’t have a joyful face—fake it. Even faking joyful and happy feelings will help a child with a neuron-to-neuron connection. This phenomenon is called mirror neurons.
  • Be prepared in advance, and have everything you will need laid out in the room in an orderly fashion. When you leave the room, the children think you are leaving them for something more important. Nothing is more important than the children.

Now the most important tip: place a basket (you could also use a jar or a simple gift bag) on a table close to the entrance to the room. Put strips of paper, some pencils, colorful pens, or glitter pens (kids love glitter pens) next to the basket. On the outside of this bag write,

“Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for You.” (1 Pet. 5:7)

As the children enter the room, share with them that you want them to write down anything they are worried about or stressed out about on a piece of paper. Tell them to fold their note, and place it in the basket. Explain that they are leaving their “cares” at the door because you want them to not worry about anything while they are in your class.

I used this one Sunday with the single parents at my church. They joked about letting go of their worries. One person said he wouldn’t know how to act without all of the worries in his brain. Not once did anyone bring up any worrisome issues during the class. Yes, it worked even with stressed adults.

Help children understand God can take care of any worry or stress they are carrying around with them. In time, they will come to know and believe this is possible.

As children begin to understand this concept,

  • They will be ready to be part of the group.
  • They will want to be part of a community that cares for and takes care of each other.
  • They will begin to see that being kind to one another helps them feel better under their skin and in their heart.
  • Being stress free, even if only for an hour once a week, helps children know what it feels like to let go of worries.

Feeling kind means not wanting to yell, argue, and fight with others. It means helping others. Feeling kind means wanting to be part of something larger and reaching out to others.

In the DC4K family at our church, we have several jobs children can sign up for when they walk in the door. One of those jobs is “kindness reporter.” At the end of our class, this person reports on acts of kindness he noticed during the session. We don’t give out treats, stars, or candy for acts of kindness. It is simply public recognition of the kind acts in our group.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on March 11, 2015.

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