Something that many of us may struggle with in the aftermath of grief and tragedy is simply this, “so what do we tell our kids?”
Here’s a few things that may help give guidance:
1. Turn off the news. Be careful not to surround yourselves in media hype, be protective over how much your children hear from all the “outside noise” and over what you’re choosing to listen to.
2. Be honest. Don’t feel the need to cover truth in order to protect your kids, but be wise and careful with what and how many details your share. Often kids just want to know “what happened,” they’re not really asking about all of the details surrounding the event. Ask God for wisdom as you share. Follow your kids lead as to what specifically they’re wanting to know.
3. Go on with normalcy, as much as possible. As tough as it may be while you work through your own grief, remain calm and secure with them. Kids are such expert “readers” of our emotions, it’s OK to be sad, reflective – that’s honest. But, resist the urge to be overly anxious and fearful, and constantly talk about the story. They take their cues from us as parents.
4. Remind them that they are safe. Remind them that even though we live in a world where, unfortunately, hard things sometimes happen, we can fully trust in the fact that God is always with us. We are never outside His care. We do not have to walk in fear.
5. Validate their feelings and thoughts. Listen to them. You may not even want to talk about difficult things, but make sure you’ve given them some time to work it through. Often for kids, just drawing a picture, writing some words, or being free to ask more questions as the days go by, brings healing and comfort. Resist the urge to just quickly sweep things under the rug.
6. Remind your kids how incredibly important they are to you, and to God. Hug them. Tell them you love them. Remind them that you are a strong family, that you are there for one another no matter what.
7. Keep conversations open-ended. Remember that, like many things in life, having ongoing conversations are sometimes more important and meaningful over time than just one “big” conversation. Don’t be afraid to talk about hard things. Fear. Death. Eternity. Heaven. Open the doors for more discussions. You don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t have to be a Bible scholar, it’s OK to say, “I’m not sure, but that’s such a great question, let’s search for the answer.”
I am constantly made aware in the midst of this crazy world in which we live, that we don’t have to walk in a spirit of fear, but with the very deep awareness that we live in a real world – where real suffering does exist. And in the end, it will NOT win.
Praying for God’s mercy to cover our community…our families…our friends.
“God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18