Helping Your Child Respond to Tragedy

By Dixie Walker

Think of the most recent tragic event that’s made headline news. What was your initial response to it? Did it create fear in you? What about uncertainty for your future? Did it make you feel afraid to continue your normal daily routines, wondering if something bad would happen to you or your family?

Times of upheaval are difficult for everyone. We all want to think our world and the environments we live in are safe, secure, and happy. However, when unexpected disasters occur, we’re often left without understanding or reasons behind the chaos. And for children, these difficulties are especially upsetting.

Adversities come in a variety of ways. We may encounter natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes. We see video and photos of the ways weather can destroy individuals’ lives, homes, and belongings. Other times we may face what appears to be an untimely accident or death of a loved one. And, sadly, there are also senseless catastrophes caused by the evildoing of mean-hearted people.

It is reassuring to know that none of these situations are a surprise to God. In fact, our Heavenly Father gives us words of comfort for such times. In John 16:33 we read, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. You will have sufferings in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

As parents, you wish to protect your children from the grim circumstances that are happening in our world. However, kids often hear of these events from their friends, in classroom discussions, or through the media before you know they’re aware of the situation. Although there is the desire to explain these difficult conditions to your child, be careful to temper details according to his age and level of understanding.

Here are a few guidelines that can make these frightening situations easier to get through with your children:

  • Keep daily schedules intact. Children find security in routine. As much as possible, continue your child’s normal procedures with school, home, church, and friends. Doing this will show your child that God helps us deal with everything that comes along in our lives and that we can move forward.
  • Discuss tragedies appropriately. It’s not healthy to offer unnecessary traumatic information to children. But if your child asks you questions related to the event, answer her questions as simply as possible — giving enough information to satisfy but not so much as to bring about more distress.
  • Explain events on your child’s level of understanding. Even preschool-aged children realize the concept of good and bad choices. You can relate information, even that of evil behavior, in terms of people making bad choices. Remind your child that God loves all people, and that He wants us to make good and right choices in relationship with Him and to others in society.
  • Offer comforting words from the Bible. Place a bookmark in your child’s own Bible where he can easily read promises that bring assurance to him when he feels unsettled about the unusual events that are happening. If he is unable to read on his own, then you can be ready to read the verses to him as well as explain what they mean. A few comforting passages of Scripture include:
    • “Casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
    • “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
    • “I will not leave you as orphans, I am coming to you” (John 14:18).

The next time you encounter tragedy, trust that God will help you as you seek to bring about understanding and give comfort to your children. Most often, kids find peace in homes where parents rely on God for their strength. Pray, alongside your children, for God to take care of families who are affected by tragedy and to protect your family as well.

Dixie Walker is a freelance writer of Christian family ministry resources. She and her family reside in Nashville, Tenn.

This article appears in full on pages 8-10 of the March 2018 issue of ParentLife. To order the current issue, click here. To subscribe, click here.

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