By Bill Emeott
While you may be all too aware of recent tragedies, most younger kids probably aren’t—thank God.
They’ll hear things, however, and you should be ready to have meaningful conversations. I advise church leaders and parents to be careful about the media exposure and adult conversations you allow your kids to be exposed to over the next few days.
Below are some ideas to help parents and ministry leaders engage with children during and after a crisis.
1. Be Sensitive: God gives us a sense or a tug (in the person of the Holy Spirit) that leads us when we’re careful to listen. Be especially sensitive to His guidance during tragedy and crisis.
Beg Him to lead you as you offer advice and comfort. He wants you to be successful. He wants you to say the right thing. Start with prayer.
2. Be Talkative: Talk with your children. Include them, when appropriate, in family discussions regarding a crisis.
Find opportunities to talk to your child about the situation (around the dinner table, when tucking your child in bed, in the car while driving to school). Most children are talkative by nature. Take advantage of this time to share and talk.
3. Be Honest: Tell the truth. Don’t deny that something bad has happened. Be honest with yourself.
Recognize your own feelings. Understand that you have feelings regarding this crisis. Know how you feel and understand that your feelings play a part in shaping your child’s feelings.
4. Be Respectful: Ask your child how he/she feels about the crisis and be respectful of his/her feelings.
Realize their feelings are real and respect their feelings. Give your child permission to feel their feelings.
5. Be Age-Appropriate: Each child develops at different rates. You know your child and their level of understanding. Guidelines to follow include the avoidance of euphemisms and complicated explanations.
Answer questions asked, but be careful to not overload your child with too much information. If they want to know and you’ve created an atmosphere of freedom to ask, they will!
6. Be Reassuring: Reassure your children it’s going to be OK. Assure them that they are safe. Many children may begin to fear leaving your presence.
Honestly assure them their feelings are important and that you and those to whom you entrust them are concerned with their safety. If you’re visually frightened, your child is likely to assume your fears.
7. Be Hopeful: Support your child as they work through the emotions of this crisis. Expect them to be concerned but offer them the hope we have as Christians. Explain that God is in control.
He can use this crisis for His good. We may not understand His ways, but we can trust His heart. Pray with your child. Teach them to seek God for their strength, especially in crisis.
Allow this time to lead them closer to Jesus. Allow this time to bring you closer to Him as your Deliverer and Savior. Allow God to use this time to bring you closer as a family.
Use these teachable moments to demonstrate the faith we teach is real.
Bill is the Minister to Children at Houston’s First Baptist Church. Previously, he served as the lead childhood ministry specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources.