Mother’s or Father’s Day in the Classroom with a Bereaved Child

Originally published May 2010.

When a Mother or Father dies the subject of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day often becomes a taboo. Teachers and other school professionals may feel conflicted about having classroom activities focusing on the holiday.

Bereaved children feel that they no longer have a Mom or Dad because they died. It is important to validate the child’s feeling, but at the same time gently remind them that they will ALWAYS have a Mom or Dad even if they have died.

Overall, schools can have activities that focus more on the role of Mothers and Fathers than on the actual person. Children may not have a biological mother or father in their life (for a variety of reasons, death being only one), but someone else that fits that role. So if the activity focuses on the “role” rather than the person, you will help the child identify positive role models in their life.

For younger children, activities in which they can draw or write about their favorite activities or memories are often useful. For children that have experienced a loss, it can help them feel connected to their loved one, as well as document precious memories that may become less vivid in later years. Younger children also love animals, so any activity in which you have them identify “parent” and “kid” animals can be fun and educational. The activity can focus on how animals take care of their babies.

Middle school children also may be interested in some of the activities mentioned above. They can be modified to include more details and levels of discussion.

Older children may or may not be into doing any “activities.” I would recommend that discussions or projects focus on the “role” of the parent rather than a specific individual. Teens can identify what traits of their mother or father role model they have, would like to develop, and even want to change.

For Families
For families unsure of how to handle the day, any of the above activities or discussions can take place in the home. It will be helpful to talk with your child(ren) to involve them in the process of deciding how to recognize the day.

Children will often not talk to their family about these things because they are afraid of upsetting others, and even themselves.  It may be helpful to realize that each year (especially as the child(ren) grows up), the topic should be revisited as how they want to, or even if they want to, celebrate the day. Their thoughts and feelings around these special days are likely to change with time, as should traditions.


  1. Cheryl said on June 1, 2010 at 11:59 am ... #

    I agree with this. My grandson faced the first Mother’s Day without his mom(my daughter) this year. They were making Mother’s Day cards in the classroom. He made one for his mom, too. Then he took it home to show his dad. In his heart she is still his mom. I thought the classroom teacher handled this really well, and did just like it says here.

  2. Matt Mahan said on August 22, 2010 at 8:21 pm ... #

    I really thought about this story and it occured to me that in my healing circle group with Pete Schrock and someone mentioned that on father’s day at school they have to write a whole page essay about some baseball team or something and they get really depressed that they dont get the day off and instead have to write a stupid essay but they feel like they should not have to write the essay sense his dad has passed. He thinks that his teacher should let him off the hook on that project, and to be honest, I agree with him very very much. I think he should not have to do it.

  3. Jennifer Simpson said on May 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm ... #

    Mother’s day is always hard for me… even 30 years later:

  4. Lori said on May 8, 2013 at 10:57 am ... #

    After my husband died, my sons teachers also let him make a special project to honor his father. One year it was a memory box which he decorated and now puts special things of his dad in. Another year it was a beautiful framed picture of him, dad and his brother take on the beach. On the outside of the frame he put shells and sand. They did this for him so that he would not feel left out when making those cards and gifts. I thank them so much for this. It has helped along the way.

  5. Sarah said on May 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm ... #

    I am so thankful to see this article. My mom passed away when I was 11 and in grade 6, my sister was much younger and in grade 1. We are from a small town and our school wasn’t large, we were the only ones at the time who were motherless. I remember Mother’s Day being awful, what was I supposed to do with the cards and gifts we were making in class? In grade 7 the novel study our class did featured a protagonist whose mother died. Imagine having to read that in the year after your mother just died?? I am glad there are articles like this to help guide teachers along. I understand these are unique situations but its hard enough growing up, let alone growing up while grieving. Bless all the “helpers” out there. xo

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