I can remember being at a birthday party with my three-year-old and feeling like the worst mom ever. We arrived at the bouncy house place with a smile and a fun gift for the birthday boy. We left an hour and a half later in tears and with a raging fever. Did I know she was on the verge of a virus? Of course not! I never would have taken her to a public place with TONS of kids to infect.
The same can happen on a Sunday morning. Mom and Dad drop little Suzy off with a hug and a kiss and a smile. Thirty minutes later, Suzy is curled up in your lap lethargic and complaining of a tummy ache. If she can articulate what’s wrong at all. That’s the thing with preschoolers. They can’t always tell you what’s hurting.
As a small group leader, part of your role may be to comfort a child that is not feeling well. For physical ailments, make sure you know your church’s policies for contacting a parent during service. If a child shows signs of actually losing her breakfast or a feels feverish, remove them from the other children as quickly as possible. This may mean sitting with you out in the hall while you tell her a true story from the Bible (this is where knowing the lesson before you arrive is helpful) or singing a quiet song of praise. Here’s a tip: Once you’ve held a sick child, wash your hands and arms thoroughly and change clothes as soon as possible. You don’t want to spread the germs into your own home!
Sometimes a child may complain of not feeling well, but there are no signs of a physical ailment. A hurting heart can cause pain as well. I once had a little girl who had a “tummy ache” that was really bothering her. However, her color was good and she was still eating her Goldfish®. We went walking in the hall, and I started asking some questions. “What are you doing today after church?” can usually get the conversation started. I found out that Daddy had moved to a new place recently. And, she was going to Daddy’s not Mommy’s after church. She was anxious. Not sick. However, she still needed some TLC. We prayed and asked God to be with her wherever she went. Then I made sure to connect with mom at pick up.
To a preschooler, “my tummy hurts,” is the explanation for everything that bothers them. It’s our job as Small Group Leaders to determine where the actual pain is and respond accordingly. Always start with showing God’s love.