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.

Back-to-School Bonanza


Heading back to school soon? (Schools in Nashville and Chattanooga have already started! Eek!) Here is a round-up of our back-to-school posts here on ParentLife to help you out.

I hope you’ll click through and see some great advice from our varied writers. What’s your best back-to-school tip?

Keeping Young Minds Active During the Summer

Summer is a time for relaxation and family fun, but most parents would agree that their children should be actively engaged in educational activities and experiences over the school break. To keep your child productive, consider the following ideas, broken down into each major subject area:

1. Heed the Need to Read: Countless studies show the importance of summer reading: Kids who read in the summer outperform their peers in the fall. Avoid the “summer slide” by making sure your kids read often during the summer.

●Most libraries have a summer reading program with incentives and prizes. Visiting the library once a week can be a fun family escape. Research shows that kids who choose their own books (with parent approval) read more.

●Create a time during the day when no TV or electronics are allowed.

● Read to your child and listen to your child read.

●Listen to books on CD  while traveling.

●Model reading.

2. Do the Math! Few would argue the importance of math. Skills that are not used are often forgotten, so practice is essential. Besides specialized math tutoring facilities, which are gaining popularity and producing increasingly impressive results, there are many ways to keep math skills sharp at home. Consider these fun activities that allow your child to practice math:

● Follow recipes

● Read maps, and calculate mileage on trips.

● Use flashcards to practice facts.

● Utilize online math practice sites for kids, such as the following:


3. Invite ‘em to Write! Good writing skills provide evidence of learning and understanding. Writing makes thoughts and ideas visible and gives children a clear way to express themselves. Encourage your children to write using these ideas:

● Keep a journal on trips and at home.

●Write letters and emails, requiring correct capitalization, punctuation and grammar.

●Let your child record her voice telling a story, then dictate that story onto paper.

●Encourage your child to write one short story a week. Keep them in a folder as a keepsake from the summer.

4. Smart Summer Science:  Science helps us to understand the world around us. Besides being educational, science can be lots of fun! The following activities reinforce important science concepts:

●Visit science museums, zoos, and aquariums.

●Dig for fossils.

●Gaze at stars, find constellations and track the moon’s phases.

●There are many fun experiments that can be done at home. Visit the following web sites for ideas:

National Geographic Kids

PBS Kids-Dragonfly TV



5. Make History with Social Studies Activities-Summer provides an escape from  that sometimes-boring history class. Use the summer months to strengthen your child’s interest in things of the past. History teaches helps us learn from our past and prepares us for the future. Geography knowledge is vital, but often over-looked. There are many activities that can encourage your child’s social studies understanding:

● Visit history museums and historical places.

●Research your family tree.

●Make a map of your neighborhood using a GPS .

●Research and report upon the locations (states/countries) that you visit on vacation.


Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and fifth grade teacher living in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education.

Back to Sports

 I really thought that I had reached the end of the line when it came to sports for our boys this past year. The school year is so long, and both boys played baseball last fall, basketball in winter, and baseball again in the spring. They had fun, but both boys happened to be on teams with the worst records for their age groups in spring baseball … yikes! So the season felt longer than usual. We were all ready for a summer break.

As always, summer went by so quickly too. It was difficult enough to get geared up for school, nonetheless another sports season. I was late getting Christopher registered for his fall baseball. Jonathan was running for his new school, so we were excited for him to start his season but all a little nervous at the new undertaking.

Jonathan had his first cross country meet on Thursday, and it was amazing! There is nothing like the start of a race. The excitement is amazing. Approximately 170 competitors all starting at once. Check out the photo just before the start! (Isn’t that about what the troops looked like in Braveheart before the beginning of a battle?)


Jonathan was a little nervous, and it was hot. Evidently it was just under the heat index max that they will even let students run. The race started downhill, which meant a lot of the kids went out too fast–Jonathan included. But we were so proud! And it doesn’t hurt that the entire race is over in under 20 minutes!

Christopher had the first game of his baseball season tonight, so it has felt like double duty this week. Got to love those 7:00 game times on a school night! The game was fun. Christopher’s team won in the last at bat –always a fun way to win!

So the sports bug has hit me again! It is always so much fun to watch and play. I’m sure around May you will hear me wishing it all to end again, but the Fall sports season has got me hooked for now!

I would love to hear how you manage sports, school, and church this time of year. I could use all the help I can get! How do you guys manage it all?

Asking Your Kids’ Principal about Internet Security

Handy Device

A few weeks ago, Donna Sawyer shared with us some characteristics of a responsible Internet safety program at schools. Today, she follows up with questions to ask the school principals about Internet safety.

  • Do you point students to child-friendly, copyright-free sources for images and video, rather than setting them loose on open source search engines?
  • Are students taught how to craft savvy search statements and use advanced search strategies to locate quality information sources?
  • Are students taught critical thinking?
  • Do you know when the district will make Internet Safety policies public or where parents can access minutes of the meeting where they talked about the policy?
  • Can you help me better understand the school’s Acceptable Use Policy and Internet Safety Policy?
  • What problems does the school Internet filter present in the classroom? Why?
  • If teachers are unhappy with a blocked Web site, what is the procedure for having it unblocked? Who is involved in evaluating the online material that teachers request to be unblocked?
  • Do teachers know how to build collections of free quality educational videos or Web sites, even if the district filter blocks access to them? For example, if YouTube is blocked, do teachers know how they can build rich collections of grade-level YouTube videos, bypassing inappropriate YouTube content?
  • How can I help as a parent?

Would you add any questions or concerns about Internet safety in schools? We’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments.

For even more from Donna, read "School Technology Problems" in our August 2011 issue.

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.

I Love This Lunchbox!

open_lunchbox 2.jpg

When I make lunch for my sons (I did today in fact), I like to include a note in each or their lunchboxes. We have tried buying napkins that you can write on or pre-printed notes that you tear off and place in their lunches. But then I saw this cool lunchbox from Frecklebox.

Not only does it have a cool design with his name on the outside but a chalkboard on the inside lid so that I can write personal messages to him.

thumb-race-car-personalized-lunch-box.jpgFrecklebox has 20 designs of the lunchboxes with the chalkboard inside, so you are guaranteed to find one your child will love!

Frecklebox specializes in personalized gear: folders, books, and now retro lunchboxes. My son now has one of these cool lunchboxes, and we both love it!

Have you found a cool product for your kids to spice up lunchtime at school?

First Day of School

My boys had their first day of school on Monday — Jonathan his first day of 5th grade, and Christopher his first day of Kindergarten. And who was most nervous leading up to the first day? Why their parents of course! Although the boys were nervous Monday morning too. 

First day of school.jpg

We got there early enough to lug the school supplies in to school and all went straight to Christopher’s classroom. I don’t think there are many things in parenting like the first day of kindergarten. So exciting! We hugged Mrs. Nickels and went about the work of separating all our school supplies into the classroom supply bins. These bins were spread out all over the classroom, so as we walked across the room to put the crayons away, it was a great way to get acquainted to the classroom.

After a family photo, we spoke to a few of the parents, and Christopher was already hard at work putting together Legos® with some friends when it was time for us to leave. No worries about an anxious good-bye — he barely looked up as we kissed his cotton-top good-bye!

And Jonathan? He was an old pro at this. He walked into his classroom, found his locker, and immediately sat down at his desk to start the "Who Am I?" worksheet the teacher had provided. And perhaps for the last time on the first day of school (mind you, he is an 11-year-old preteen), he didn’t even act embarrassed when I kissed his cotton-top good-bye!

How was your first day of school? Tell us about it!



Back-to-School Moms

When it comes to back to school, most news coverage focuses on getting the kids prepared for the new school year, but what about the newest population of students … moms?

In these uncertain times, a record number of moms will go back to college this fall to advance current careers, find new job options, and seize opportunities to contribute more to household finances during a recession. 

How do the families of college moms cope? Try the following tips from real-life college moms.73_Mom_online.jpg

  1. Gain the support of friends and family. We all need cheerleaders to accomplish the many things moms do in any single day. 
  2. When you go back to school supply shopping for the kids, don’t forget your own supplies for online studying like printer ink and paper, a spare battery pack for the laptop, and flash drives.
  3. Prepare meals for the week on Sunday. Whether it’s a hearty soup, lasagna, or a casserole, make meals that are filling and easy to take out of the freezer and reheat quickly.
  4. Work as a team. Show the kids that running a family requires team effort and that your schoolwork is important too. Let them pitch in to help out with family chores.
  5. Remind your significant other that he may need to brush up on his math and science skills because you will need him to help the kids with homework.
  6. Before you sit at your computer, take 15 minutes to do some stretching and/or a few sit-ups. Get the adrenaline pumping so that you are ready to commit to studying and homework.
  7. Instill in your children the value of making sacrifices. Teach them that hard work has positive results.
  8. For those single moms or stay-at-home moms who sometimes have to do it alone, it is OK to let your older children entertain themselves when you have deadlines to meet.
  9. Keep the faith. Everyone has their ups and downs, and sometimes, there are more downs than ups. At the end of the day you can still do this. Remind yourself how much your education means to you and of the future benefits it will bring to your entire family.
  10. Plan some alone time, even if it’s a 20-minute soak in the tub to relax after the children are in bed.


Thanks to moms at Kaplan University (— where nearly 75% of students are women and the average student age is 34 — for their tips for juggling family, work, and school.

Have you decided to go back to school?

Listening to Our Kids

31_homework.jpgSometimes we spend too much time and energy listening to what experts say we should do as parents. Oftentimes it is our kids who tell us what they need the most!

Proof positive are these real-life student comments submitted by ParentLife writer, Mia Pinson, a middle school teacher in South Carolina. Their assignment was to write down advice they would give their parents to help them be a better student in school.

Listen to what some students said they really want from their parents.

• Help me with homework.

• Don’t ignore me when I ask for help.

• Help me study so I don’t have to make bad grades. I am embarrassed when I do.

• Don’t yell at me when I don’t get my homework.

• Don’t scream at me if I mess up.

• Don’t yell at me to wake me up in the morning. It starts me off in a bad mood.

• Reward me for good grades with a surprise.

• Please congratulate me more.

• Be happy when I make a good grade.

• When I tell you the truth about something, don’t go and try to fix me.

• Spend time with me. Talk to me about school.

• Don’t fuss if I get a C on my report card and I tried my best.

• Don’t make me feel bad because I am not smart.

• Stand up for me. Show other people you are proud of me.

• Show me how to love school.

• Pay more attention to me. Encourage me to do well.

• Thank you for always asking me what my day was like and for trying to understand me.

• Thank you for saying you love me.

This list was humbling to me. I think it shows that, no matter the context, our kids need our love, help, support, and encouragement. And it makes me want to ask my sons, “How could Daddy be a better parent?” I think they would say, “Play with us more!” What do you think your kids would say?


Taking the Stress Out of School

Is your preteen tired of school? Is she feeling the pressure of completing school work, earning good grades, and fitting in with her peers? Help her take the stress out of school.

  1. 28_homework.jpgEncourage excellence but emphasize to your preteen that she does not base her self-worth on grades. There is a balance here. Push her to do her best but assure that her value is grounded in being a child of God. 
  2. Ensure that your preteen has enough time to study and complete homework. Procrastinating or rushing through assignments will catch up to your
    preteen sooner or later. Be proactive in this area. Know what
    assignments are coming up and help your preteen set aside enough time
    to get all of them done.
  3. Celebrate your preteen’s success. Be eager and quick to point out when your preteen does well. When she earns a good grade, praise her! When she writes a paper, ask to read it and give her positive feedback. If the only time you talk about school is when you are critical, your preteen most likely will worry more.

For more help on teaching your preteen to see herself through God’s eyes, be sure to check out ParentLife’s 9 to 12 Years Growth Spurt article “Self-Identity” in the March 2009 issue.

What school struggles is your preteen facing? Do you have
stress-reducing suggestions to share with other parents?  Leave a comment and
let us know.