After the events of Sunday. Here are some thoughts from Pastor Lisa Holliday about helping our kids through tragedy.
The news this week out of our beloved city is tragic and devastating. People are asking, “Why?” We are wondering, “If this can happen to them, can it happen to us, too?” We are questioning safety and security in all sorts of ways. We may be questioning our faith.
We are also grieving. We are grieving for the families impacted by the death of a loved one. We are grieving for the Jewish community and our church community. We are grieving for the sense of our own loss of safety and security. We are grieving for our children and the effects this kind of tragedy has on their lives and the world in which they are living.
As we ask many unanswerable questions and experience grief, it is important for us to remember that if our children have heard the story, they have questions and are possibly grieving as well. As Christians, we will want to respond to our children in faith and with a deep sense of love and respect for all people. Below you will find ways to connect with your child and help him or her work through thoughts and feelings surrounding the tragedy.
If your children want to express themselves by speaking, let them use their own words. As they voice their thoughts, they may be able to bring some order to what they are thinking and feeling. You may also become aware of misinterpretations or false information.
Listen first so you have a sense of what the child is feeling, then pray. Pray for the families, the emergency workers, our Jewish friends, the teachers and the students. Pray for our own community. Pray to be a person of peace. Pray to be one who shares Christ’s love and compassion with others.
As much as possible, stick with your family routine. Let your child know if the routine needs to change.
Your children may be sad, mad, guilty, nervous or angry. Acknowledge that these experiences cause us to feel many different ways and God loves us no matter how we are feeling. As God accepts our feelings, it is important we accept the feelings of our children as well. (Many children may not express these until weeks or even months later.) If your child seems happy, accept that, too.
Offer and accept affection
Your children may want to snuggle or hug more often. They may want you next to them while they fall asleep.
Be truthful and real
Children know when we are being authentic. They need to be able to trust what you say. When they ask a difficult question to which you don’t know the answer, let them know you don’t know. Tell them many questions don’t have answers and that is hard for everyone. Tell them you are working on this, too. You can pray for God to help you all.
Remember your reactions are yours
Children pick up words, actions, body language, facial expressions and emotions very easily. Be cautious with what you say and how you say it, as well as what you do.
Assure them you will help keep them safe.
Mention a few ways you work to stay safe as a family. If appropriate, let your child know the safety procedures in school and at church. Remind them God is always with them wherever they are. Be very careful about promising you always will be. Though we certainly hope we will always be present for our children, the reality is that none of us truly know.
Remind your children this was NOT from God
Bad things happen in the world. People choose to do bad things. God did not want this to happen. God is with each person who is sad and grieving. Because we have God, we can have hope. The worst thing is never the last thing.
Children who are repeatedly exposed to a tragic event on the news actually believe the tragedy continues to occur over and over again. They often learn much more information than what is age-appropriate. Images can also cause nightmares and extreme anxiety.
Offer creative ways of expression
Often children cannot express their thoughts and feelings in words. Instead they play, color, draw, or write. They use sand and playdough. Keep these materials available to them.
When your child asks a question, respond in a simple way. Answer the question without giving extensive additional information.
Share a gift
Often kids need to do something tangible to help others as they deal with their grief. Your child might want to make a card or bake some treats to share with a neighbor. Encourage your child to share the love and compassion of Christ with those at school, in their neighborhood, in sports/dance teams and other places they go.
This Easter season, we are reminded that Christ is Light of the World and the darkness has not and will not ever, ever overcome it. May we all be assured of God’s love for each of us and for the world. Our hope is now and forevermore in Him. No matter what our age, we need to hear that good news!
If you have further questions, or you are particularly concerned about how your child is handling the news of this or any difficulty, please feel free to contact Rev. Lisa Holliday, Minister of Children and Their Families at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of our KiDS COR staff listed at kidscor.org. We are here to support you through prayer, resources and personal connections. We wish you and your family the peace, comfort and hope of Christ this season and always.