Oh, my heart hurts today. I have found myself in tears a number of times and trying to fight back tears a lot of the day. I have felt physically sick. I feel a general grey, sadness as I learned about the shooting at the school in Connecticut. My soul is sad for the families dealing with the loss of their sweet children. The hurt, pain, and evil in this life is sometimes overwhelming. How do we handle talking to kids about tragedies?
I certainly don’t have all the answers. I certainly can’t bring relief to what happened. All I can do is pray and give my thoughts here. Oh, I’m glad I don’t have to navigate this with my own kids today. I will not be telling my five year old that a gunman just entered a classroom of kids her age and shot them. A Facebook friend of mine is a school counselor. Her advice was to not share this story with any child 3rd grade or younger. They may get the knowledge elsewhere, and you will definitely need to address it, but kids that young are not good at distinguishing between the story and their own reality. Their sense of security is important. She said that with 4th and 5th graders you will want to gauge the child. Again, if they haven’t heard, I’d tend to be more protective. For me, personally, I don’t think this is information that is helpful for them to sort through yet. There may be differing opinions out there, but that’s mine.
Talking to Kids About Tragedies
Here are some general thoughts on the topic:
- Turn off the TV news. These images can be ingrained in kids’ (anyone’s) head and can lead to nightmares and fears.
- Listen. Ask Questions. When in doubt, listen more.
- Be willing to cry with your kids. Demonstrating empathy is important.
- Remind kids that evil is from Satan. If you want to be angry at someone, he’s a good target.
- Remind kids of Romans 12:19 “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
- Let your kids experience and express real emotions. Don’t hinder this process. Remind them that dwelling in anger or hatred is not what God wants for them and will hurt them in the end.
- Teach them not to hate. We are all tempted to hate Adam Lanza, but it’s a good reminder that crimes like this come out of hatred. Hatred is not the solution. Remind them of Matthew 5:44, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
- Forgive. We are learning about forgiveness this week. I, in no way, can even come close to knowing what these families are experiencing. I say this not because I think forgiveness will be easy or immediate. However, as we have been teaching all week, choosing to not forgive leads to more pain, anger and sadness. As hard as it would be, forgiveness is a healer. I love this quote: “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Author Unknown
- Pray. We feel helpless in situations like this, but God is big. He alone can bring a peace that passes all understanding. I don’t understand it. I have heard of people amidst horrible tragedy experience it. I have witnessed this peace and healing that can come.
- Read Psalm 23 with your kids.
- Remind your kids that God hates evil, but he can always work things together for good. He can bring people together because of this tragedy. He can create a change in how we help people with mental illnesses. He can work through this in ways we can’t imagine.
- If kids can’t express their feelings in words, help them to communicate through art, writing or music.
- Try and help your kids feel safe and secure.
- Always make sure you are telling your kids how much you love them. Extra hugs don’t hurt.
- Here’s a good article to read at the Gospel Coalition.