It appears as though this is a week for tears as we’ve watched our world torn apart by disasters and disease and our own country caught in the throes of violence and despair. Earlier this year I wrote a blog about how to help your children or those you minister to process the devastation in Nepal, only to find my heart breaking the next day for my birthplace, Baltimore, MD. And now I weep for Oregon.
Lest we think our children are immune to these stories of ruin and despair, consider the following:
- The #1 website used by children around the world is YouTube. Out of curiosity, I went to YouTube’s home page today and the featured video was one of Nepal and the top trending videos were of the rioting in Baltimore. Our children ARE seeing this.
- Over the course of the last few days I’ve visited friends in their homes, gone shopping, driven in a car with the radio on, sat in a restaurant, and went for a walk. In every one of these places, I heard television and radio reports focused on the devastation happening in our world. Unless your child does not venture out of your home, it is highly likely they too have experienced this. Our children ARE hearing this.
- The other night my oldest daughter and I sat in the living room at 1:00 am, processing through the evil in this world. She asked questions like, “How can people be so evil?’ and “What if that happens here?” In the middle of the night, she needed reassurance that God was still on His throne and that Love will ultimately win the fight. Our children ARE experiencing this.
I know I’ve already shared this in a previous blog, but it is of utmost importance that in these moments we are “all there” for the next generation.
We can’t let the sadness of the moments and our own confusion and doubt keep us from fully engaging with our kids. To brush them off in this moment will leave them hurting and wondering, having to sort through on their own the fears and worries they can’t understand. In these moments, we must take the time away from distraction to look them in the eyes, answer their hard questions as best we can, and gently lead them to the heart of Christ through prayer and love.
What can YOU do?
1. Process with them – There may be a lot of questions, there may be only one. They may just want to talk. Let them download on you rather than keep it inside. In their innocence, it may appear as though these things aren’t affecting them deeply so you may want to brush over it and “not make a big deal about it.” My heart in this is – it’s worth making a big deal about. Give them the space to process with you and know that they are not alone.
2. Protect them – Kids are vulnerable to fears in ways adults aren’t because their minds don’t know how yet to separate reality from imagination. When fear is made manifest, combat with with love. The Bible says “Perfect love casts out fear.” If need be, remind them of that favorite movie from last year where the heroine was defeated when fear ruled but victorious when love won (just don’t tell them to “Conceal don’t feel” – worst parenting advice ever)! Be present with them and let them know they are safe with you and that no matter what, they are never alone.
3. Pray with them – Even if your conversation is only a few seconds long, don’t end it without saying, “Hey buddy, you know what, let’s pray for those people right now.” Not only are you inviting God’s presence into the situation, you are teaching a valuable lesson about where to turn when life’s troubles come our way. It will leave a lasting impression on their heart.
Friends, there are no easy answers. When hearts are broken, we can only turn to one place for healing. As we process the next few days and we consider our own hearts in these matters, let us model for our children what is is to be the Body of Christ.
*Original Featured image from http://images.politico.com/global/2015/04/27/150427_baltimore_protests_child_police_ap_1160_956x519.jpg
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.