Talking With Your Kids About Tragedy


Like many people across the United States and the world, my heart has been broken by the tragedy that struck Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 15. The sheer magnitude of this awful act of pure evil is almost too much to think about. I can’t stop thinking about, however. I imagine many other parents are wondering how to handle talking about this and other tragic events that may occur. Here are some suggestions that may assist you.
1.Decide how much your kids NEED to know. Many school aged kids will hear about the tragedy in CT because of it involving the deaths of children their age and the fact it happened at school. Kids they know may be talking about it. Hopefully, their teachers and administrators will not. Kids who are school age may need to know the basic facts of the event, but be diligent to protect them from the horror of details that will only make it more likely they develop major feelings of fear. Limit your own intake of the news regarding this event to times your kids will not be around. Obviously, the older your kids are, the more information they can handle. We don’t need to hide our kids from all exposure to the negative things of the world, but we do need to make sure we protect them from knowing too much at too young an age.
2. Be honest about your feelings. If you decide to have a conversation with your kids about a tragic event, let them know how you are feeling. If you are sad, tell them so. If you can’t quite figure out how you’re feeling, that’s ok too. Tell your kids it’s okay to be sad, confused or even angry that the tragedy has occurred. It’s important for you to work through your feelings without the pressure of having to know exactly how you feel within a day, week or even a month. Your kids need to have the same opportunity. Let them know they can talk to you about anything they have fears or concerns about.
3. Express positive things to them. Let your kids know how much you love them. Hug them. Write them a note describing something you think is special about them. Also let them know they are safe. Encourage them by letting know you will always love and protect them as long as you live.
4. Remember God is Sovereign. Sovereign mean authority. God is in charge of all things and He is watching over us at every moment. Even though God is in charge, He allows humans the free will to make whatever choices we want, even if they are bad ones. The fact the school shootings in Newtown, CT took place might cause kids to worry that God isn’t able to keep us safe. Show them Psalm 103:19 from the Bible that says, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.” Also, using the fingers on your hand, teach them what Hebrews 13:5b says about God’s presence. Using one finger for each word show them “He will never leave you.” Keep your faith in God strong; your kids will follow where you lead.
5. Pray with them. This is something we need to be doing each day with our kids, but it’s even more important we do so in the midst of a tragedy. Prayer keeps us connected to our Heavenly Father and is a reminder we are unable to support ourselves on our own strength. What should you pray for? In this event, pray for the families who lost loved ones at the school that day. Pray also for the teachers and administrators left behind to pick up the pieces. Pray for the kids in the school who may have avoided physical harm, but will suffer emotionally from the trauma for many days to come.