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.

Seeing Sparkle and Choosing Joy by Mary Carver

photo-1453654166571-88b6571a59a3

Sara Frankl was a friend and fellow blogger who suffered from an autoimmune disease and several complications. As I worked on the book that tells Sara’s story and shares her message of hope and joy, I was amazed and moved to read about the incredible strength Sara drew from her faith. That inner strength allowed her to withstand immeasurable pain both physical and emotional — and to choose joy through it all.

I invite you to read an excerpt of our book today, where Sara shared a story from her childhood and gave us a glimpse of where she learned to choose joy.

——————-

Listening to the sound of the wind whistling around the building as the windows shook and the snow whipped into tiny volcanoes in and of themselves, I found myself suddenly nostalgic for our farm house back on the acreage.

The blizzard here was just starting to get its footing. The winds were reaching their 50 miles per hour and the chill of the outside could be felt in my inside bones. And then, for a moment, there was quiet. So I grabbed my camera and looked outside, knowing what I would see: sparkly snow, right outside my window.

It was always my favorite part of the storm, watching from the window with my mom. I can remember the night, being in the family room, watching television with the family and suddenly noticing Mom was gone. I walked into the laundry room, knowing that’s where I would find her. But there was no sloshing of a washer or tumbling of a dryer. It was quiet. Dark. And the only sound was that familiar whipping of the wind as she sat on a stool by the window, watching it swirl.

Her moment of silence in the peace of the white sparkly snow.

As an adult, I now recognize the quiet moment she was grabbing. A husband and six kids content in another room. Dishes done. The house vacuumed. No pressing for homework to be done or school clothes to be ready, because she knew the snow was only starting and our rural roads wouldn’t be fit for the buses to pass.

She would sit quietly at the window and rest in the sound of the new fallen snow. The peace in the wild whipping of the wind. I, of course, would break her silence, but only by my presence. I liked the quiet, too.

She would show me the light we were trying to see in the distance – the one a quarter mile away that lit up Dad’s hog buildings. She was making sure the power was still on so the livestock were warm and fed and safe. But then she would take her eyes away from the light to make sure I saw the diamonds in the snow. She said they were the little gift that God gives in the middle of a storm.

And I would curl up with her on her stool and think about how she sparkled right along with them, in the quiet of the snow. There is no doubt that those little lessons then, about sparkly gifts in the middle of storms, help me to see the sparkle in my life now. Quietly content to watch the storms brew outside my windows – but only letting the sparkle rest inside.

——————-

Frankl. Sara. Carver. Mary. CHOOSE JOY. Final cover. 050515.(1)

If you enjoyed this excerpt from Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts, you can learn more about the book and its authors at TheChooseJoyBook.com.

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life, at www.givinguponperfect.com. Mary is the co-author of a new book called, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. Released by the Hachette Book Group in 2016, CHOOSE JOY is a must-have for those searching for meaning and beauty in a world full of tragedy. Sara’s words breathe with vitality and life, and her stories will inspire smiles, tears, and the desire to choose joy. To learn more about CHOOSE JOY, visit TheChooseJoyBook.com.

Weekend Links

Enjoy these links as you start the new week! 

Always on the Sunny Side

BV - Romans 8 28
source: nlcwood via Flickr

I was laying face-down on the table at my chiropractor’s the other day when I listened to one of the most depressing conversations I’ve ever heard between my chiro, Dr. C, and the person on the other table. No, she wasn’t telling about people dying, mortal peril, or sickness. It was just … sad. It went something like this.

Dr. C: What do you do for Labor Day?

Her: I think I slept through part of it. And then sat there.

Dr. C: Oh. You didn’t do anything with the so-and-so’s?

Her: They all went camping. I didn’t go. Too much chance of rain.

The woman complained about the way Dr. C was doing her adjustment, how she had to wait, about her pain level, her family and more. Everything she said was in an Eeyore-tone, pessimist to the core.

I’ll admit that I fall on the side of optimist. Recently my best friend contacted me to tell me she had a mass in her colon. They were doing a biopsy. And I was sure that it wouldn’t be cancerous. Just positive! She is 33, after all, like me.

It was cancer.

I felt silly that I had been so optimistic about it. I simply can’t bear to let myself think of worst-possible-scenarios when it comes to others. Maybe it’s too many years of struggling with depression, but I just cannot let my brain go there. I have to stay on the sunny side, or I will drift off into insanity.

And really, what good comes from pessimism? This Bible says, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, ESV). We know Who is going to win in the end. We have confidence in the hope of heaven. I believe Christians should be living with one foot in heaven, focused not on each worldly nuisance but on the larger scope.

Yes, God lives in our day-to-day. For that, we can give great thanks! And because we have great hope, we can rise above negativity with the power of His Spirit.

I never want to miss out on what God has for me in terms of relationships or service or anything because there’s “too much chance of rain.” I don’t act happy when I’m not or put on a show for people. But I do truly believe, deep-down, that everything is in His hands and will work out for good. That is the joy of Christ!

And for that reason, I will never be a pessimist.

How about you?

Jessie WeaverJessie Weaver is the mom of three little ones (6, 4, and 2) in Chattanooga, TN. She is a freelance writer and editor and manager of the ParentLife Online community.

Friday Links

Have a wonderful, blessed weekend!

Resolution Baby Steps by Jessie Weaver

Resolution Baby Steps

source: Emily Price

I went to see my chiropractor today. He asked me how I was feeling, I guess wanting to gauge how things have been and where to start.

“I actually feel great, ” I told him. “No lower back pain at all.”

For me to be able to say that is enormous. Over the last 4 years, I have struggled through immense pain; numerous episodes of my back being thrown out, spasming, and being unable to get out of bed; and who knows how many chiro, doctor, physical therapy, and spine specialist appointments. During my last pregnancy, my disc herniated, leaving me with sciatica that didn’t dissipate after the baby was born. (So a newborn and constant pain in the calf – woohoo!)

As I talked to my doctor, I realized the baby steps I’ve made toward healthier living and taking care of my back and myself. I started with physical therapy exercises. In September, I joined the YMCA and have been going faithfully to work on the elliptical or take water aerobics or Zumba classes. And then last week, I decided it was time to tackle diet. I made a fairly drastic change in my diet, but have taken so many baby steps toward healthier eating in the last few years that I know what to do and how to eat for health. I just haven’t always done it.

It’s not how most resolutions work, is it? We like to jump in, erase the drawing board, get results as fast as we can get a Big Mac at McDonald’s (which of course we would never do anymore … until January 20 or so rolls around, and we are hungry and tired of salads).

Whatever your resolution this year, may I suggest you take the whole year to establish it? Break it down into 12 baby steps to implement over the year. It may not be as fun or drastic. But I am guessing it will be a whole lot more feasible for you. And yes, parents, this may involve taking time for yourself. I know it’s hard! But we want our kids to see us as people … not just as their mom or dad, who gives them whatever they want and caters to their every demand.

Read a chapter of the Bible … exercise for 10 minutes … drink one glass of water. Just do something! And gradually, change will come.

 

When the Game Stands Tall: A Conversation by Kelly Mize

Last week, I had an opportunity to speak with Bob Ladouceur and Terry Eidson, the coaches portrayed in the new movie, When the Game Stands Tall, starring Jim Caviezel and Laura Dern. It’s the story of an impressive high school football team that held twelve consecutive undefeated seasons, setting a national record winning streak of 151 consecutive wins. I spoke with the movie-inspiring coaches about faith, family, and football.

gamestandstall

What advice could you share with parents of young children who want their kids to be involved in sports?

BL: Go ahead and get them involved in sports early, as they want to be involved, if they ask to, and then back off. Let them do what they can do. I think it’s a great learning experience no matter what happens, whether they’re doing well, or even if they can’t hack it. However, when parents get involved trying to micro-manage, it just turns into a mess. It doesn’t do the kids any good to have their parents fighting battles for them. They’re going to have to learn how to lose and be disappointed. That’s a part of life.

I love the way that this movie uses Bible passages to subtly illustrate, without being “preachy.” What role did/does your faith play in your coaching, and in your life?

BL: It’s infused in every part of your life if you call yourself a Christian. If you try your faith on like a shirt, take it on and off in different situations, that’s pretty lame, not being true to your faith.

TE: One of my favorite professors in seminary said, “Once you understand Scripture, there’s only one way you can act.” That’s always behind the curtain of everything I do.

One of the things that seemed to make your teams strong was the love the players had for each other. How did you encourage this attitude with your players and within your own family?

BL: Kids in middle/high school around the ages of 14-18 are searching for identity, a place to belong. They sometimes have a tendency to be narcissistic or myopic about it: What’s in it for me? What am I getting out of it? We tried to teach the kids that having that attitude is not how you make connections, not how you improve yourself as a human. It’s about understanding the other person, reaching out to other people and showing real concern and empathy for them. This comes in teachable moments, in listening to your kids and the way they speak to each other. We made it a point to stop and correct. “Is that building someone up or tearing them down?” As coaches, we spent an inordinate amount of time reinforcing this.

TE: Respect authority, be thankful for what people do for you, clean up after yourself, think about others. For parents, teachers, and coaches, it’s also not about being the good guy all the time. A greater love is always out there to learn.

I live in Alabama where football is a way of life and high school football is huge. How can families maintain the perspective that football is “just a game”?

BL: No matter what you’re doing, when it’s all said and done, just say to yourself, “Does this really matter?” The important things are God, family, kids, loved ones; all the other stuff, it doesn’t matter much.

TE: I think it’s great that families go to games together. Have a passion for your team, but keep the perspective that what’s really important is who you are, not the team you root for. Families can be inspired by a team’s playing and effort, but at the end of the day its important who you are.

Do you think non-football fans will enjoy this story?

BL: It’s not just about football; it’s wrapped around the human lives. The human lives are not wrapped around the football, it’s vice versa.

LE: It’s about building a team, and family is a pretty important team. In the focus groups, the film was very popular among women and mothers, even those who did not like football.

Any last words for parents of children ages 3-11 trying to balance work, family, and fun?

BL: When you do get that rare free time, try to make it family-time. When my kids were younger, I always tried to make it a point to read to them or ask about their day. Hearing some sacred thing in their lives was important. This season doesn’t last forever.

This applies to marriage too: I think one of the most important things is to never leave each other or go to bed, without telling your kids you love them and hugging them. It makes a huge difference. I think that’s critical, that human touch and connection.

When the Game Stands Tall opened in theaters on August 22. It is rated PG.

Summer Beach Reads for Moms and Dads

My husband and I are very much looking forward to spending some time this summer ALONE for our 10th anniversary. We’re hitting up a nice island with a beach and without our kids for a few days. I am excited about spending a lot of time reading.

Are you headed to the beach, too? Or at least a chair by the pool or in your backyard? If you’re looking for a nice, clean book for a summer read, here are some ideas.

 

What would you recommend for a good beach read?

Giveaway! Explore the Bible

etb-logoThis just in! LifeWay is giving away one year of their new Explore the Bible series! Have you heard about this great new small group product? Keep reading … and be sure to enter to win below!

Explore the Bible is a book-by-book Bible study for small groups and Sunday School classes of all ages that takes participants deep into the context of God’s Word and challenges them to live it out in their own context. From preschool to adults, Explore the Bible presents a rich, age-appropriate study experience that pursues biblical context through:

♦ A balanced study plan

♦ Archaeological and historical background

♦ In-depth Bible commentary

♦ “Context passage” that reveals larger biblical context

♦ Engaging group discussion questions for every book of the Bible

Explore the Bible also challenges participants to live out biblical truths in their own context through clear application points in each session and shared memory verses for groups and families in each session

Visit the website to watch a trailer and get more information as well as to preview one month for free. Be sure to stop by the Explore the Bible: Kids page to see more age-specific information!

Click here for your chance to win one year of Explore the Bible for your church!

Real Life Solutions with Dr. Linda Mintle

Q: My husband is very anxious about the birth of our second child. He is feeling the economic pressure of our expanding family and worries about everything. He is making me anxious because of his state of distress. What can I tell him to calm him down? I know God will provide if we are faithful.

A: You are so right. God is faithful and promises to provide for our needs. Maybe this study published in Pediatrics will help him realize he needs to trust and let go of worry. The study included 32,000 children and found that the psychological distress of Dad during pregnancy did impact child development. Specifically, fathers were given a screening questionnaire regarding their mental health status during their partner’s pregnancy. Later, mothers were asked to also fill out questionnaires regarding their child’s development. Controlling for a number of variables, a link was found between the fathers’ mental health and their children’s later developmental problems. Dads who scored high on anxiety and distress when the mom was 17 to 18 weeks pregnant had children who were more disruptive and anxious at age 3! We don’t know exactly why this is, but maybe the mental health of the father later impacts his parenting, or maybe his mental health impacts the mother’s mental health, or maybe there is a genetic link. The point here is that the mental health of the dad, not just the mother, impacts the developing child. So let your husband know that his anxiety and distress could be affecting your child. It is time to trust God to meet your needs and let go of worry. Your new baby is too important and you want to give him or her the best start possible.

Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed therapist and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics. She is a national speaker and bestselling author with 18 book titles currently published. Visit her website at drlindahelps.com.