Many of us were raised to hide our emotions or to view our feelings as inconvenient. This is especially true given the historical relationship between Lutheranism and the cultures of Scandinavia and of Scandinavian Americans in the Midwestern US, cultures that are known for their stoicism. Lutherans simply don’t have a reputation for being an expressive bunch. Many of us have also come to realize that it is both healthy and imperative that we find ways to express what we feel, a lesson that some of us are trying to share with the children in our lives. The Kids Celebrate bulletins that accompany All Creation Sings seek to normalize emotions and give kids permission to feel whatever it is they feel.
On page 4 of Kids Celebrate: Hymns and Songs, an activity called “Songs Invite Us to Feel Our Feelings” describes the way that sacred music has always been a means of sharing our emotions with God. It lists over a dozen emotions and asks kids both to identify how they are feeling today and to see if they can find any of the listed feeling words in hymns that their congregation sings. All of the words on the list come from hymns in All Creation Sings.
The activity “God Sits with Us in Sadness and Grief,” found on page 10 of Kids Celebrate: Worship, names specific unhelpful things that adults sometimes say when kids are upset, like “Don’t cry,” “Everything will be just fine,” and “Being angry won’t fix anything.” The activity goes on to say that big feelings are okay to have, and that God sits with us when we experience them. It asks kids to write or draw things that make them experience sadness or grief, and then it directs kids to the section in All Creation Sings about lament. The activity closes with fill-in-the-blank spaces where kids can say things that they are lamenting.
It's important to validate children’s emotions, even if we can’t validate their resulting behavior, and even if we find their emotions draining to respond to. It’s also important for children to know that God will sit with them through whatever big feelings they are having and that they can bring all their feelings to God. We hope that these resources will help you teach the children around you that their feelings are valid and that God is with them in times of lament.