What to Say to Your Child After Violent & Tragic News Events

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Tragic news events seem to be happening almost daily. Hearing and processing the emotions following can be hard for us, but are even harder for our children. Here's a healthy perspective and framework to share with your child to bring comfort and peace in times of senseless tragedy.My heart is heavy this morning as I wake up, yet again, to hear about more innocent lives tragically being taken at the hands of a violent killer.

It’s so hard to make sense of all the hate and violence happening all around the world. It seems no place and no one is off limits from becoming a victim. It’s happening in our churches and schools and to our most vulnerable, even children.

Feelings of fear, panic, unforgiveness, and maybe even hate can invade our minds and hearts if we’re not careful.

How can something like this happen?

Who’s really at fault?

Am I ever really safe… anywhere?

These are just some of the rambling questions that hit ALL of our minds after hearing of the latest attack. Though difficult, us as adults, are able to adapt, adjust, rationalize, and move on. Not callously, but as we eventually settle into our day to day lives we find peace along the way.

I, like many others, spend time regularly praying for those impacted by these tragedies, and ask Christ to point me where He wants me to go or what to do to bring comfort to others.

That’s why I’m writing this post right now. I just didn’t have peace to do anything else until it was done – to be an agent of peace.

This brings allows me to choose joy instead of hate for those who choose to commit such acts.

What Do We Say to our Children?

Even though hearing news of tragedy isn’t easy for us as adults, it can be extremely difficult and even damaging for our children if not addressed properly and lovingly.

It’s important to know exactly how to approach and discuss these terrible and scary events with our children.

As parents, we are like a barometer setting the tone for how our children think and feel. If we are fearful, or hateful toward those responsible, or passively ignore the events all together – those little ones we’ve been entrusted with will most certainly adopt our ways.

Even if you don’t watch the news in your home, if your children are old enough, they’ll often hear these events discussed at school, church, or simply with friends or family. And many children either won’t feel comfortable or can’t articulate their feelings, and will keep their thoughts to themselves.

Depending how they’re internally processing this information, holding it in can be very damaging to the child.

Now, let me be clear, I do not have a sit down discussion with my children every time something tragic happens in our world. I do this on a case by case basis. If I know they are unaware of such events, I do my best to lovingly shield them. The younger the child, the more I do my best to keep them from these issues as best I can.

But just because they don’t directly come to you and tell you about it, don’t mean they haven’t already heard about it. In fact, I prompted my oldest daughter if anything interesting or strange was discussed at school that day and neither of my daughters hinted that they heard the news.

The next morning, I asked if her and her friends ever discussed the news. She responded, “like the shooting in Las Vegas?” Umm, yes. If I hadn’t prompted her, she would have held those images in her head with no guidance.

Our goal as parents is to walk the balance of protecting, shielding, answering questions, providing wisdom, and pointing them toward the only thing powerful enough to stop it all – LOVE.

Most people, including children, will jump to an instinctive question when faced with tragedy.

Why would someone do that to another human being?

The answer is both very simple and very complicated at the same time, but boils down to that person having a gross lack of love in their life and heart.

Love is a healing balm that when offered to someone, has the ability to seep deep into the empty, hurting crevices of their hearts and to heal what’s damaged. It further works to seal out further damage from getting in.

Love is the ONLY cure for what’s wrong and broken in our world. Love is the very expression of who God is.

When we don’t have love, we’re wide open to the poisonous nature of hate in all its insidious forms.

Hate is a tool of the Enemy that roams to find broken hearts not sealed with love. It literally poisons a person from the inside out. A person who commits violence has been poisoned by hate long before we ever saw it manifested on the outside.

It’s really very sad if you sit and think about it.

As we talk with our kids about how someone could do such a thing, we must try very hard to approach the offender with compassion. To explore what hate, loneliness, or abandonment they must have felt and taken root at some point in their lives.

That as we think about and pray compassionately about the victims of violence, we need to open our children up to having compassion for the offender – as hard as that may be.

This gives our children the opportunity to think like Jesus, who had compassion for the thief on the cross and all other sinners. It’s only God’s Love that can snuff out the darkness in our world.

Showing them that we ALL have the power to show love to others and our actions (good and bad) can have lasting consequences that can last a lifetime.

For example, a child who is isolated or bullied in school by their classmates or abused by their parents can harbor feelings of hurt and hate in their hurts that can open them up to Satan’s devices. Who is at work behind EVERY tragedy we see! It’s NEVER God.

When our children learn how to have compassion for those who aren’t worthy of compassion, it empowers them to not feel helpless. They can allow love for others to have an IMPACT in their world and directly contribute to stopping the violent cycle from continuing.

How can I ever really be safe in this world?

Once we teach our kids about the root of tragedy, and how we ALL play a role in stopping it – we need to give our children a solid foundation of peace.

As those, devoted to Christ, we have a promise of protection, according to Psalm 91. We can rest in the promise and should confess as believers that no hurt, harm, or danger will come near us!

That’s not to say that those who’ve tragically lost their lives to violence somehow did anything to deserve to lose their life. No one can truly answer why bad things happen to innocent people.

We can however, choose to trust in our Heavenly protection and believe in the voice of God who speaks to us daily – warning us, delaying us, and even speeding us up to keep us out of all types of danger in our path everyday.

I know without question, my angels have prevented many terrible situations from hitting my family because of His love. Things we’ll never know about!

I personally, teach my children to listen closely and obey quickly the voice of the Holy Spirit leading them even in the simplest things.

This way, when they have a sudden leading to do something different, illogical, or even strange comes up – they’ll obey it. As it could one day save their life!

We’ve all heard the countless stories of individuals doing very uncharacteristic things or experienced an annoying delay, which in turn, kept them away from senseless tragedy.

In closing, my goal is to prepare you as a parent to comfort, inform, and uplift your child. To prevent them from walking around in silent fear unable to find their way to cope by opening the lines of communication.

Some other tips to help you have these discussions

  • Allow your child the freedom to share their feelings without judgement.
  • Ask them how these events make them feel, and lead the conversation from there.
  • Don’t allow the news to play following these or other disastrous events. Usually, in the days following there will be death toll counts rising and many retellings of individual’s personal experience. These can be very graphic in nature and can encourage fear.
  • Pray together with your child, or allow them to lead.
  • Remember you will set the tone for how your child feels.
  • If your child seems disturbed, becomes distant, refuses to talk about it, or changes in some way – don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

How do you talk to your child about violence and other difficult situations? Please share in the comments.

Also, share this post to others, so we can all work together to put LOVE to work and stop the cycle!


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