Helping Families by Tearing Down Walls

Faith Breakthroughs

Talking to Kids About Tragedy

December 15, 2015

 


Newton, Connecticut. Boston, Massachusetts.  West, Texas.  Moore, Oklahoma. Recent tragedies have  broken our hearts as so many others before, but some of these have been different. They invaded the lives of young children – little ones that looked a lot like our little ones. And because there were children involved, our kids are going to be asking a lot of questions in the next few days.

As parents, one of our primary roles is to be constantly teaching. When it comes to “Life 101,” class is always in session. This doesn’t change in the midst of tragedy, as awkward as the role may be. Most kids are asking the same innocent question that we all ask – “Why?” – and our ability to respond correctly can help turn a terrible situation into an opportunity to talk about some tough-but-necessary topics.

As a father of three and a pastor and author who has dedicated two decades to helping parents, I am still left wanting for the right words to say in such an awful situation. Still, I’ve learned a few things along the way, and hopefully these ideas will help you navigate this difficult road with your children:

• Remind them that they can trust God – even in tough times. Consider saying, “Sometimes things happen that we can’t completely understand. We know that bad things happen in this world because there are bad people. But it doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about those little children. In fact, that’s why Jesus came – so He could rescue us from evil and be with Him some day in a perfect place!”

• Pray for everyone involved.  We do this, most importantly, because God hears our prayers and answers them. But prayer also does something else: it reminds us that God is with us, and that He can help in ways that no one else can.

• Don’t act like you have all the answers.  They won’t believe you anyway if you start making stuff up. It’s okay to say, “You know what? That’s a good question, but a hard one. I’ve wondered that too.” But follow it up by sharing something that you DO know. You don’t have to pretend to be certain about everything if you can demonstrate that they can be certain about many things: your love for them, God’s love for them, the fact that you will do everything you can to protect them, that their schools are safe – and will be even safer – after this, etc.

• Listen and don’t ignore questions or inquiries.  Pay attention to even the most passing comments. If your child knows anything about what happened, you can count on the fact that he’s thinking about it, and you want to be ready to talk when he is.

• Keep life normal and routine.  Young children always fare better when life is as stable as possible.

• Sharply limit media exposure in young children, and be there to explain what is seen.  The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that “overexposure to the media can be traumatizing. It’s unwise to let children or adolescents view footage of traumatic events over and over. Children and adolescents should not watch these events alone.” Kids may have a hard time discerning that only one gunman went into only one school, for example, when they see reports for hours on end on different channels as they’re looking over your shoulder.

After you take those initial steps, you have an opportunity to proactively use a tough situation as a teachable moment. Point out the good things that can happen:

• Place emphasis on the heroes of the events –  emergency personnel, teachers, and other students. Perhaps write a letter of encouragement to people who worked to help from the area police departments.

• Seek out stories about the people who are working to help the families who have been hurt by tragedy – churches, doctors, and even school personnel. Talk about how wonderful it is that people are willing to help others.

• Share the ways that your local schools have announced they are working to improve security.  Almost every school district made some sort of statement about the tragedy. You can find most of these statements online at your school’s or school district’s website.

• Help kids find ways to help –  let them come up with creative ways!

•  Finally, look for any signs that might indicate high levels of anxiety in your child.  Remember: what we see as replay footage or something horrific that happened in another town, our children may interpret as something that keeps happening very close to home. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology points to the following symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in kids:

o Refusal to return to school and “clinging” behavior
o Persistent fears related to the catastrophe
o Sleep disturbances such as nightmares, screaming during sleep and bedwetting.
o Abnormal behavior problems.
o Withdrawal from family and friends.

If you start to see any of these behaviors in the following week, it might be worth a call to your doctor, pastor, or school counselor to inquire about some additional help.

It is almost overwhelming to take in the magnitude of the tragedy that has taken place in multiple locations over the past few months. It’s even more challenging when children hear that it involved children just like them. It makes me angry that such conversations have to take place. As a Christian, I’m grateful for the promises of something better – because Christ has overcome the evil in the world and will one day eradicate evil, sin, sickness, war, and death from this earth. In the meantime, God has put moms, dads, grandparents, and mentors like you in their path to remind them everything will be okay.

 


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The spiritual barriers people face are countless, but they can be categorized into Eight Primary Walls. These walls correlate with the 8 primary breakthroughs that everyone needs.
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1 of 48
I feel there is a disconnect between who I really am and how I act in front of other people.
2 of 48
I think God cares about the details of my life.
3 of 48
When bad things happen, I wonder if God can make things better.
4 of 48
When bad things happen, I feel like I am getting what I deserve.
5 of 48
I believe God is willing and able to answer my prayers.
6 of 48
My faith practices are more about routine than relationship.
7 of 48
When looking back on my life, I tend to focus on all of the things I did wrong.
8 of 48
I have too many of my own problems to deal with the problems of others.
9 of 48
The possibility of gaining a good friend is worth the risk.
10 of 48
I worry that God is angry with me.
11 of 48
I find myself drawn to things I know are bad for me.
12 of 48
I believe God wants what is best for me.
13 of 48
I don't believe anyone can ever know what is absolutely true.
14 of 48
I spend too much of my energy pursuing material things.
15 of 48
I believe truth is the same for everyone.
16 of 48
I believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing God.
17 of 48
I worry about the problems that the future holds.
18 of 48
I look forward to good things in my future.
19 of 48
I believe God is loving and kind.
20 of 48
I am so busy that I find myself ignoring the most important things in my life.
21 of 48
I am willing to serve others for nothing in return.
22 of 48
I am amazed at God's power.
23 of 48
It troubles me that God has not answered my prayers.
24 of 48
I feel compelled to make the world around me better.
25 of 48
I feel strong relationships are hard, but worth it.
26 of 48
I have a hard time trusting people.
27 of 48
I believe God loves me in spite of who I am.
28 of 48
People who have hurt me in the past cause me to avoid some relationships today.
29 of 48
I find myself more focused on the things I don't have but wish I did.
30 of 48
I feel with God's help, I can face any situation.
31 of 48
I have witnessed things that make me wonder if God is in control.
32 of 48
I am confident God has forgiven me for my past.
33 of 48
People would describe me as a giving person.
34 of 48
I think that God will meet all my needs.
35 of 48
I try to avoid temptations that would bring me harm.
36 of 48
I observe things that make me wonder if I should believe the Bible.
37 of 48
I have to guard against judging people when I learn they are dealing with tough circumstances.
38 of 48
I know a lot of people, but don't feel very close to many people.
39 of 48
I am intentionally seeking to grow in my relationships with others.
40 of 48
I have been wronged in the past in a way I cannot get over.
41 of 48
When I am facing a difficult situation, I feel like I can solve problems on my own.
42 of 48
I am willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for something better down the road.
43 of 48
I tend to expect the worst to happen.
44 of 48
I feel I can turn to God for direction.
45 of 48
I am grateful for the things I have been given.
46 of 48
I believe the Bible has answers for today's circumstances.
47 of 48
I question why God allowed certain things to happen in my life.
48 of 48
It humbles me to think I can know God.
Great you have finished the evaluation.
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