After a Parent Dies

Sad child

In May and June, we celebrate parenthood through Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. But what happens when a parent dies? What about preschoolers who have lost a parent to death? The holidays may make these children feel even more isolated as they see and hear the message that all the other children have a mother or father. The following suggestions will help you minister to these preschoolers and their families:

  • Give the gift of time. Offer the surviving parent a respite day. With your family, take the preschooler out for an ice cream cone or to a local park or zoo.
  • Make a visit. Schedule a time with the parent to come by and visit with the preschooler. Take a simple gift like a cupcake or a book. Stay a short while and talk with the preschooler. Let the preschooler talk without judgment. Don’t try to reason. Just listen. Remember that preschoolers may not be able to respond to “How does this make you feel?” but they will certainly respond to a hug!
  • Honor the deceased parent’s memory. Help your preschooler make a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day card that shares a special memory. Encourage the surviving parent to place the card in a special place.
  • Collect helpful coupons. Be on the lookout for and collect meal coupons, especially the “Free children’s meal with one adult meal” type, to give to the family. This may give the surviving parent an opportunity to take the child out for a special treat.
  • Take a meal to the family. Better yet, invite them to dinner. Encourage other families in your church to do the same.
  • When in doubt, ask. When offering help, try to avoid, “If you need something, call us.” Instead, say, “We would like to help you. How can we help you with your yard work? Automobile? Home repairs?” Be specific, and reassure the parent that you want to help.
  • Organize contacts. Ask other parents to check in when they are going to the grocery store to see if they can pick up something for the family. If you have 4 families who will do this, you can make at least 1 contact per week each month.
  • Pray regularly for the preschooler and his family. Ask God to guide your steps as you minister to this family.

As you minister to grieving preschoolers and their families, remember God’s promise that He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Be grateful for the opportunity to join Him in the process of caring for those who are hurting.

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