I’m sure your heart is broken too, after reading, hearing, and seeing the unspeakable world tragedies of the suffering of families, victims of terrorism, and the war. What’s happening is devastating beyond what words can express.
While we continue to see this tragedy unfold, the overflow of ongoing content might reach our children one way or another. Access to information (and misinformation) is so easy these days. If we choose not to talk to our children about highly sensitive difficult topics someone else will do it. They might even come across violent pictures or videos that have become viral, perhaps on someone else’s phone or on your own device. Let’s remember that the first impression children form in their minds about any given topic, especially the sensitive ones, becomes their main point of reference and in the case of a war we don’t really want our children to experience fear and anxiety without our guidance and comfort.
Having said this, I would like to share a few thoughts on how to approach world tragedies and bad news with our young children and the tremendous value of life lessons we can teach them along the way.
Keep it simple and be honest
Depending on the maturity of the children, parents can agree on what to share. It should be simple, clear, and honest. “Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances,” according to the National Association of School Psychologists (Talking to Children About Violence, 2023).
From a Biblical perspective, reassurance comes from faith. It is based on the knowledge of God’s promises of protection and provision. This conversation with the kids is an opportunity to reinforce these truths as they experience fear about world tragedies. Psalm 121:1-2 is one of many suitable examples: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Choose your words wisely
We are our children’s main reference. They are constantly looking up to us and observing what we say and how we say it. How we react to what we see or hear is crucial. Because this information is stored in their minds, it will influence how they handle similar news in the future. If we panic, they will be watching. If we cry (and this is something we don’t hide from our children) they will learn that it’s ok to cry.
Be ready to answer difficult questions
These are questions that mom and dad can discuss in advance and agree on answers before talking to their children. If they are as curious as my 8 and 6-year-old kiddos, the first question they will ask is Why? Why is this happening? Why do people harm each other? Why is God allowing this? Why didn’t God protect these families?
While we certainly won’t have all the answers, it is important to give our children tools to handle their emotions. These conversations are an opportunity to affirm faith and beliefs in their young hearts. Kids, like us, need something to hold on to and this is the time to pass it on to them.
My husband and I believe that the Bible is the Word of God. It is true, relevant, eternal, and trustworthy. We believe everything that’s stated about God and what He has done and continues to do for us, and we have taught our children to develop a relationship with Him, trusting that He has our lives and future in His hands (Psalm 16).
Here are two resources that have been helpful in explaining the hardships of a fallen world, the existence of evil, and the redemption plan through Jesus to our children :
- The Garden, The Curtain, and The Cross (Take a look at this video about the book)
- The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask You About Christianity, published by Focus on the Family.
Lead their hearts to feel compassion
Finding out that evil is a real thing and that people are suffering death, harm, separation from their loved ones, hunger, and many other horrible hardships, will most likely make our feel children sad, frustrated, worried, hopeless, confused, insecure, and even angry. Most importantly, these feelings are necessary for them to feel genuinely aware of and concerned about others’ suffering. The Bible says God is compassionate. Developing compassion mirrors an important quality in God’s character (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Help compassion produce an action
This is why it’s so important to experience compassion. It moves the heart and produces an action, as there’s always something we can do about other people’s pain. My husband and I recently introduced the concept of intercession in our home. Intercession is the action of intervening on behalf of another in prayer. It allows us to pour our hearts out in prayer for the war victims. In prayer, we can ask God on their behalf for help, protection, comfort, justice, restitution, and much more. We are encouraging our children to pray for the little ones who lost their parents, for the broken families, for the loneliness, fear, and pain many people are experiencing right now in the midst of the war.
More specifically, when it comes to praying for peace, the Bible is very clear when King David says in Psalm 122: 6-7:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.
Teach them to value what’s really important in life
God’s presence in our home is something we value and have taught our children to acknowledge and be grateful for. Especially because His love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).
Secondly, we encourage gratefulness for God’s Word as our source of wisdom, comfort, and help always. Even in times of grief and need.
Last but not least, we use this and many other conversations on a daily basis to intentionally be thankful for everything we have. Including material blessings. This helps manage day-to-day complaints that feel superficial when we learn the magnitude of suffering and world tragedies so many people are experiencing.