The thing about headlines is that they are big, they are bold, and they are bait. They draw us in with words that shock, incite, and entice. They tell a story of a million words, reduced to four or five. They call to our emotions and tells us to read on…but many times we only skim; after all, the headline tells us most of what we need to know.
I don’t know if it is because I’m getting older or because my kids are getting older, but I am becoming increasingly more sensitive to this big, bold, baiting words around us.
Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time on Twitter the last two weeks watching people attempt to have discussions on amazingly complex topics in 144 words or less.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen one too many headline that predicts the end of life as we know it from reasons spanning from the environment to the next U.S. president.
Maybe it’s because I am weary of the sensationalism and aggrandizement that seem to lace each article I see posted, each sound byte I hear aired, and each newspaper I pass by.
But mostly I think it’s because one of my children looked at me and with all sincerity and with deep concern said, “Mom, I’m scared.”
Of what, dear child? Of bugs and bats and creepy crawly things? Of the sounds you hear in the dark or of having a bad dream? Of missing the bus or failing a spelling test?
Because these are the things I would expect a 4th grade girl to be afraid of.
“I’m afraid because I heard on the news that…”
I won’t fill in the blank. We know what is in the news. We’ve seen the headlines.
And so have our kids.
Half-truths, fear tactics, emotionally stirring words intended to create the very emotions my daughter was feeling. Only she’s not an adult. She doesn’t have the mental acuity or capacity to view these things through a lens of objectivity. She can’t say, “Hmm, that’s interesting. Before I charge ahead and start a campaign to right this wrong or to understand this topic, I’m going to do some research and make sure I’m well informed.”
She’s a kid. Emotions are her reality. Fear is real.
I can’t change the media. I can’t hide her from the real world. I can’t shield her from every radio broadcast, political conversation, doomsday prediction or end-of-the-world scenario. What I can do, and what I think as parents and ministers and adult Christians who interact with the youngest generations, is to give her some frames, some truths, through with she is able to filter whatever she hears and grab onto the hope that is offered to us through Christ and His Word.
- God is still God – Acknowledge the world honestly, MAGNIFY the Lord intentionally. Yes, there are bad things that happen in the world. Hiding the truth from your kids will only make them more inquisitive. Talk to them when they ask about things that are scary BUT don’t focus on the scary thing; intentionally shift your focus to how GREAT God is!
- Seeing (or hearing) Is NOT Believing – Walk by FAITH and not by SIGHT – Kids watch what you model. If you react out of fear, that will be the model that they learn to make decisions from. If you model decision-making from a place of faith and seeking God, that’s what they will learn to do as well.
- We have a part to play – Be the HANDS and FEET of Christ – We are confronted with the reality of a fallen world on a daily basis. People who are lost, in need, alone. When we become Christ to those people by serving them and sharing hope and life with them, we show our kids that faith conquers fear every time and we model participation on the life of Christ as the way to approach a Christian life.
- We are never without hope so PRAY without ceasing – The reality is we cannot protect our kids forever from the results of living in a sinful world. We can parent from faith, we can give them tools for the task, and we can hold their hand for a while, but eventually we have to let go. But, we never have to stop praying, in the morning, at lunch, before bed, while we walk along the road, while we sit in our house. We can always, always pray. And we can tell our kids that they can too!
I realize that I have a grave responsibility here, that my reactions and consequently, my actions are being watched and recorded. My prayer is that I am offering her more than trite answers that “Everything will be okay” but real world acknowledgment that life is hard, and sometimes scary, but God is faithful and we can trust Him.
And the best way I can do that is to live that way myself; to measure my words and my responses in ways that communicate hope instead of hopelessness, action instead of reaction, grace instead of judgment and careful response instead of emotional outburst.
Let’s be aware that our kids see, hear, and digest a lot more than we might realize. We don’t need to fear that, but we should be cognizant of that so that when those words written above get spoken, we are able to confidently lead them to a place where hope is the anchor and love the foundation because that this the place we ourselves are living.
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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 D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.