Sunday is Mother’s Day, and in churches all across the land children will be potting flowers in Styrofoam cups, pastors will be asking mothers to stand to be recognized, and dads will be suddenly deciding to surprise their wives by taking the family to a restaurant for lunch. Other families will be happily gathering around the dinner table for a big meal because all Mom really wanted was for the family to be together. Mother’s Day is indeed a time of celebrating the role that moms play in each of our lives, and it is a day that many folks look forward to each year.
Unfortunately, there are probably just as many that do not.
The reality is that for many people Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of a broken relationship. Perhaps Mom is grieving the loss of a child. Perhaps Mom is struggling with the pain that comes with seeing their child make poor choice after poor choice. There will be no phone call, no Hallmark card in the mail, no visit with the grandkids for them.
I’m guessing that there will be more than one mom worshipping with you this Sunday who will be feeling lonely despite being surrounded by people. They’ll put on a brave face, but inside they are feeling devastated. I would encourage you to seek them out, to give them a hug, to encourage them, to show them that you care.
You may want to do each of those things, but are worried that you’ll say the wrong thing. Here are some thoughts that you may find helpful (I’ve posted this before, but think it’s worth reposting). I would highly recommend Lauren Briggs’ book “The Art of Helping”, which is where many of these suggestions come from.
What to Say
- “How’s (child’s name) doing?” Parents still appreciate your interest and concern. They don’t want people to act like the child doesn’t exist.
- “This must be a difficult time.” Just acknowledging that the situation is tough can be really helpful.
- “I know how much you love them and care for them.” Parents who have drawn a line with a child need to know that people realize that they are doing it out of love.
What to Understand
- A wayward or rebellious child is not the direct result of “bad” parenting.
- Parents of wayward children feel a deep rejection. It is a pain that others cannot understand.
- Just seeing intact families interacting with each other can be painful. Be sensitive to that.
- These parents need tons of support and encouragement. Unfortunately, the church often doesn’t do a great job of providing it.
- If you went through something similar with your child, remember that you don’t understand what your friends are going through. You understand what you went through. The situations may be similar, but they are definitely not the same.
How to Help
- Visit. Call. Email. Make sure they feel as connected as possible to the group. Too often people avoid parents of rebellious kids because they don’t know what to say or don’t want to say the wrong thing.
- Be extra supportive on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Let them know you are thinking about them and praying for them.
- Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling. Don’t give quick advice, that isn’t what they want.
- Pray, Pray, Pray. Pray with them and pray for them. Some prayer suggestions:
- Acknowledge that God knows the pain that your friend is in.
- Acknowledge that God is much bigger than the child’s rebellion.
- Acknowledge that God knows what it is like to deal with wayward children.
- Ask that God provide strength, mercy and comfort for the parent.
- Ask that God would lead the child back to his/her family.
- Pray for the child’s protection.
Parents of wayward children don’t need our pity, they need our friendship. They need us to step up and be there for them. They need us to listen. They need us to help them have fun. They need us to help them laugh, and feel joy. None of these things require special training or skills. They just require us to give our time.