How to Help a Kid Who's Having a Bad Day

Sometimes you'll have a kid show up at your children's ministry who is having a bad day.  It will be obvious by their attitude, actions and demeanor. 

Whether it's refusing to participate in an activity, sulking in a corner or not wanting to listen, they want nothing to do with you or the class.  And often it's a kid who doesn't normally display this type of behavior. 

When this happens, it's important to act instead of reacting.  Here's some steps you can take to help a kid who's having a bad day in your class.

Try to find out why.  It's as simple as saying, "You don't seem yourself today.  Are you having a bad day?"  This may be met with a frown, shoulder shrug or a verbal confirmation.  If they acknowledge it, go ahead and ask why.  It could be something as simple as an argument they had with their parents on the way to church, something another child said to them when they arrived or something that happened during the week. 

Or you could be seeing the symptoms of a deeper issue.  A family member who is very sick...bullying happening at school...parents who are arguing at home...abuse...
financial pressures felt from parents...anxiety over a life circumstance. 

Please...please...please don't jump past this first step.  If you don't take time to find out "why" the child is acting out, then you'll be tempted to go directly to discipline first.  And what the child needs most is the next step.

Give grace.  Grace triumphs over judgment.  This doesn't mean allowing bad behavior in the class, but it does mean extending grace to the child.  You want the child to look at you as someone who is in their corner rather than a stern disciplinarian. 

Adjust your expectations.  Don't try to force the child into the normal class expectations.  If the child is adamant about just observing during the game, don't demand that he or she participate.  If the child doesn't complete an activity sheet, be okay with it. 

Talk with the child's parents.  Sometimes the parents will convey the issue upfront when they drop the child off.  If they do not, follow up with them after class and privately find out how you can best minister to the child.  If the child shared some weighty information with you that needs attention, then it is important to partner with the parents in this situation. 

Send the child a note in the mail that week.  A simple note with words of encouragement and support will make a big difference in a child's life.  Sit down and write a handwritten note to the child expressing your belief in the child and commitment to being there for them.  Do this and the child will be impacted...I promise. 

I remember a few years ago when a kid walked into the classroom.  He was obviously having a very, very bad day.  He wanted nothing to do with the lesson or classroom activities that day.  I walked with him to the back of the room and sat down.  He shared with me the reason he was having a bad day.  There was strife and turmoil going on at home.  At that point, I decided that what the child needed that day was not the least not the one being shared in class.  The lesson he needed that day was simple for someone to sit and listen to him, talk with him and play a card game together.  And so that's what we did.  He didn't go home that day with a new list of Bible facts in his head, but he did go home knowing that when you're having a bad day, the church is a place where you can find empathy, encouragement and grace.