- To help children consider that some things that go wrong can’t be put right.
- To help them understand the importance of knowing someone is with you when things are hard.
1 Ask the children to imagine they are on a car journey.
You have a breakdown. What do you do? Can you see what’s wrong? Can you fix it yourself? If you can’t, what will you do next? (Answer: phone for help on an emergency phone or your mobile.) Point out that you need to tell someone about the problem.
The AA (or equivalent) come. What will the AA mechanic do? (Answer: he’ll try to fix the problem.) If the problem is simple, the AA person can fix it and you can continue your journey. If it’s a big problem, so that the breakdown mechanic can’t do anything, what then? Either you can have your car towed to a garage to be mended, or you might choose to have it towed back home.
The car owner needs to think and make a decision. Do you want it fixed? Is it worth it?
The passengers have to be thought about too. The breakdown and the breakdown services affect them too. Perhaps the driver will try to blame them (‘I told you to put some water in…’), even though the car and driving it is the driver’s responsibility. How might the passengers be feeling? This could depend on the relationships. For example, are the passengers family members? Or friends being given a lift to the airport? Can the passengers do anything about the problem? (Answer: ‘No’.)
2 Now make the comparison with family breakdown.
Sometimes things go wrong in families and there are arguments (eg adult/adult; adult/child; child/child). Sometimes there’s a ‘breakdown’. Sometimes we can fix things easily by saying sorry, talking about the problem and trying to put things right. Sometimes we can’t. It’s a big problem. Then we need help (refer back to the emergency phone call). We need to talk to someone about our problem who knows how to help us get it fixed.
The people involved in the breakdown have to make a decision. Do I want to get this fixed? Sometimes the answer is ‘No’ and that will mean that things are going to change.
Like the passengers in the car, everyone in the family will be affected. Like the driver, adults sometimes try to blame the children. Make the point that it is not the children’s fault It is the grown-ups’ responsibility.
Point out that, no matter what your faith, sometimes things go wrong for you and your family.
- Read Psalm 23. Then talk about the role of the shepherd. Explain that to keep his sheep from straying, the shepherd would sometimes even break a sheep’s leg. It was the shepherd’s role to protect his sheep. But there is no promise in the psalm that a sheep will never get lost. This psalm is for everyone. It promises that God will be with you in the bad times.
- Sometimes a friend can give you the support you need to go through a difficult time. It may be that you will be able to see God’s love through your friend.
- Often when there’s a big breakdown, we can’t know how things will turn out. We just have to be patient and wait.
- Ask the children to sit quietly for a few moments. Ask them to think about people they know (it might be them) who are going through difficult times in their families. Perhaps some people will be going home after school to difficult situations which make them unhappy or afraid.
- Ask the children to think about people who have got difficult family situations and are being helped at the moment (eg by social workers, counsellors, friends).
- If you feel it is appropriate, you could end the assembly with this prayer:
Dear God, please help… (ask the children to choose someone they know) who is going through a very difficult time in their family. Please help them to be ready to accept help and to know that you are with them and want to take care of them. Amen.
NB Be very sensitive to the difficult family situations children in the assembly may be in. Remember that this assembly may raise issues that the children will want to talk about. If appropriate, you could talk with the head teacher about how to provide opportunities for children to do this.