What should you say when a child asks, “Does my mommy love me?”


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If you are a pastor, kid’s minister, or teacher or you minister to children in any other way, someday you might be asked, “Do you think my mommy loves me?”

I used to answer this question with a resounding, “Of course, your mommy loves you!” I mean, what kind of mother wouldn’t love her children? As the years have passed, though, and I’ve worked with and ministered to hundreds of kids whose parents have divorced or separated, I’ve come to a different conclusion.

I know many of you will want to disagree with me. Some of you will automatically say, “Of course, we want children to know their mother loves them.” But that might not be good advice. I think you’ll understand when I explain why it might not be a good idea to quickly affirm to children their mother loves them.

Keep in mind that every situation is different. In today’s situation, let’s say it’s an elementary-age girl. She lives with her custodial dad. Mom lives in another town and has two other daughters. The daughter visits the mom every other weekend—well, when the mom doesn’t have other plans, that is.

Trust issues

If we tell this little girl her mother (or father, if that’s the case) loves her when we don’t know if the mother loves her, we might be setting the child up for trust issues. Later, when the child comes to the conclusion the mom doesn’t love her, she may come back angry that you lied to her. If you lied to her, she may feel she can’t trust you. If she can’t trust you, can she trust this Jesus you are always talking about?

Distorted view of love

A second issue is the little girl gets a distorted view of what a mother’s love looks like. If she sees her mom infrequently and rarely communicates with her or if the mom never works on deepening the relationship, this is what the child might perceive a mother’s love looks like. If the mom always puts the boyfriend first and ignores the little girl, how will this child understand how to treat her own children when she becomes a mother? The child may also begin to think it’s okay to treat other people this way. All of her relationships could be affected.

What if the mom’s love is conditional? Perhaps she only comes across as loving when the child behaves nicely. Maybe she only notices the child when she’s not drunk, on drugs, or with other people. Possibly the mom has mental issues and is hot and cold in her relationship with the little girl. This child will grow to think parental love is conditional. How will she understand God’s unconditional love?

What should we say?

Children rarely ask this question in a quiet moment. More than likely, you’ll get the question when you least expect it. You might be in the middle of a project in Sunday school. It might be asked when things are hectic, and everyone is rushing around. It is best to think through how you might want to respond in advance. In other words, be prepared.

Here is a sample conversation I have used many times.

Child: “Miss Linda, do you think my mom loves me?”

Adult: “Hmm, what do you think?”

Child: “Well, she doesn’t act like it. She doesn’t seem to want me around very much. I hardly ever see her, and when I’m at her home, she just ignores me.”

Adult: “You’ve asked me a very good question, and it’s one that only your mom can answer. Honestly, I don’t know if your mom loves you or not, but I know one thing for sure, and that’s the fact that I love you.”

If a child should say to the mother, “My teacher said she doesn’t know if you love me,” and the mother approaches you, be honest with the mom. Tell her the child asked, and you thought that it would be best for the two of them to discuss the issue. Be matter-of-fact and direct (yet gentle and not harsh) with your answer.

Many stepparents find themselves in this situation. If a stepmom, for instance, comes to you, then advise her to use the same conversation. She can add, “Both your dad and I love you very much. You will always be loved and part of our family.”

Not all moms

Please keep in mind there are many mothers who dearly love their children but don’t or can’t live with them for whatever reason. Perhaps these moms are in a place in life where it’s not possible to provide a good home for their children. It might be financial issues. It could be a parental alienation situation. The courts may have ordered the children to live with the dad or the grandparents. These mothers still love their children. It’s not up to those of us in ministry to judge any parent.

What you can do

  • Provide strong Christian female mentors.
  • Designate substitute moms. In one family I worked with, the therapists asked if I could be called her substitute mom. The little girl was in first grade, and the therapists explained to her that just like we have substitute teachers in school, she would have a substitute mom in me. For several years, my little friend called me her substitute mom. I loved that little girl like she was my own kid, and she could feel that love and trust in our relationship.
  • Tell stories about all the different kinds of families in the Bible, so children in single-parent homes or stepfamily situations can feel okay about their family.
  • Teach the child to minister to other children who don’t live with both birth parents. Think of it as creating a missionary within your own children’s ministry.
  • Offer training to grandparents or other relatives caring for a child. Share this article with them.
  • Give wise counsel and training for stepfamilies, especially stepmoms. This is a problem that causes great concern for many stepmoms. Without understanding, it can become a point of contention between the spouses. Some stepmoms struggle with anger issues at the birth mom, and this can affect the home environment.

If children ask you this question, it’s more than likely because they sense something’s not right, or they wouldn’t be asking. If we are honest with children, they will feel confident coming back to us for future discussions. If you have the opportunity to have follow-up discussions, explain to the child that many people have different ideas of what love is compared to what we see in the Bible. Ask the child what love should look like. Provide some biblical expressions of love, especially how much God loved us by giving His Son to die for our sins.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, emphasis added)


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4 thoughts on “What should you say when a child asks, “Does my mommy love me?”

  1. Linda, I completely agree with what you have written. I would ask the child the same questions you would (no surprise!), and work off that.

    It’s like when we tell people that God loves them. Because they may have a distorted view of love, it may not be something they want to believe or accept.

    Like I always say, “The more I listen, the more I learn, and the more affectively I can minister to them.”

    By the way, some mom’s have no clue how to love their child unconditionally or affectively because they weren’t loved well by their own mom. Never assume in this world today.

    Well done, Ms. Linda…as usual!!!

    • Thanks Robyn. I know with the “Chained No More” ministry you have, that you have witnessed the results of the answer to this one question. You deal with the mistrust and the distorted view of love they have. Together in ministry we march forward. 🙂

  2. Thank you Linda for this insight.As we dealt with the topic of anger, many of the Children we are dealing with are angry at their parents. Some of them feel so lonely and unloved by both their parents. We have quite a lot to face. We shall be sharing our experiences later.

    • Eunice, thank you so much for sharing. You are spot on when you say the kids feel lonely and unloved by both parents. Please share your experiences with us.

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