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When Tears Flow

by Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To understand how different emotions are expressed in tears.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need an onion, knife, chopping board and box of tissues for the introduction in the ‘Assembly’, Step 1, but see also the next point.
  • Material from this assembly could be adapted to respond to an item of national news or at a time of loss within the school community. In such cases, the introduction can be changed to refer to these events, with Step 1 omitted and so the materials above would not be needed. An image of a rainbow could be displayed.
  • It would be appropriate for Church schools to use this material during Lent, concluding with a reading of John 11.28–29 and 31–36. 


  1. Begin to peel and chop the onion. Observe that it’s not easy to prepare an onion without crying. A strong substance is released that causes the tear ducts in our eyes to water.

  2. Carefully wipe your eyes with the tissues and refer to the fact that strong emotions (or feelings) also cause tears. Explain that crying is sometimes considered babyish or silly, but, like laughter, tears simply reflect our inmost feelings. People of all ages cry. Some are moved to tears very easily. Others keep their feelings hidden,

  3. Reflect that tears flow as a result of a wide range of emotions. Illustrate this by reference to sport. 

    – Winning athletes on the podium are sometimes moved to tears as their national anthem is played. Why?  Establish that these are tears of happiness, pride and relief at their achievement, for themselves and their country.
    – Tears also flow when athletes are injured or defeated. Establish that these are tears of disappointment, pain and frustration.

  4. Gently explain that, as some of the children will know, tears are also shed when something sad has happened. Perhaps a friend or family member has moved away, is sick or has died. Tears arise not just from sadness but also from happy memories of friendship that has been shared together. Often tears and laughter mingle together – we can find something so funny we end up crying with laughter!

  5. Assure everyone that it’s all right to cry. Tears let out deep feelings and can, strangely, help us to feel better.

  6. Conclude by inviting the children to consider how to respond when tears flow. More than a tissue may be needed – although that can help! A friend could simply sit quietly beside someone who is upset. They may need to wait patiently if that person wants to be alone. A word of comfort or encouragement might help – or simply a reassuring touch. Someone who is upset is often helped if someone else will listen, not commenting or giving advice. Stress that if the children are ever worried someone is badly hurt or in danger they should tell an adult whom they can trust.   Friends share laughter, they share sadness – all times when tears flow.

Time for reflection

The Bible says that ‘Jesus wept’. His tears flowed after the brother of his friends, Martha and Mary, had died (John 11.35). He also shed tears of sorrow and frustration when people didn’t understand (Luke 19.41). Jesus knew the deep feelings that make tears flow.

Loving God,
You are with us  . . . 
in happiness and at times of sadness, too.
Thank you for the gift of tears and for the healing that they bring.
Help us to be friends who comfort, care and understand.


'Make me a channel of your peace' (Come and Praise, 147)
'He'll be there' (Songs for EVERY Assembly, Out of the Ark Music, 1999)

Publication date: March 2015   (Vol.17 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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