Talking with your kids about Las Vegas and other tragedies
“Mommy, what happened in Las Vegas?”
It seems to me, that I am answering this question way too frequently these days. It has not been so long since I heard, “Mommy, what happened in Charlottesville?” or even “Mommy, what happened in Paris?”
Las Vegas. Houston. Charlottesville. Paris…
I could think of many more examples. Indeed, our world has no shortage of tragedy and heartache. Images of police, flashing lights, bodies on the ground, sounds of gunfire and panic play on repeat on our television screens.
Our children are not oblivious to the violence and pain. Even if we shut off our TV and turn off our phones, we can never completely prevent them from being exposed to the evil of this world, nor should we.
So how do we explain these events to our kids, while we are still processing them ourselves?
Here are a few things to keep in mind while navigating these uncertain waters with your children.
First, for preschoolers, we should limit media exposure and conversations as much as possible. Answer their questions about the events, but don’t provide more detail than necessary.
For Elementary age children, psychologists tell us to let kids lead the way.
Provide solid information.
Children do better when given honest information. Talking about the circumstances surrounding these events will help a child begin to understand why. Answer their questions with facts and focus on your child’s well being, reassuring them that they are safe and loved.
Allow space for feelings.
Events like these are sad and hard for children to understand, so being comfortable with their sadness gives them permission to feel. Remember, as parents, we don’t need to have all the answers. Instead, we point them to the truth that God is with us, even through tragedy and sadness. Be available to offer reassurance, affection, and hugs as much as needed. A warm reassuring response is the best way to help your child move through feelings of sadness and fear.
Encourage their desire to offer help and hope.
Often when faced with tragedy or sadness, children want to find ways to help those who are hurting. As parents, it’s our job to encourage and guide these efforts. There are countless ways to go about doing this, whether it’s praying for the victims, writing thank you notes to first responders and hospital workers, donating items where needed, or giving financially. By nurturing a desire to respond to darkness with light, we’re helping our children grow into selfless adults who are intentional about helping those around them who are hurting.
One final thought.
God is not blind to the suffering and pain in our world. In our home, I use Scripture to point to our Heavenly Father who is surely heartbroken right now.
I remind them that God is with us (Deuteronomy 31:6), that God will guide and comfort us (Psalm 23), that we are all part of God’s plan (Matthew 5:16), and that we are called to love (John 13:34-35).
In the coming days, there will doubtless be stories of survival and hope that emerge in the midst of the darkness. We are already seeing great numbers of people gather to pray, give blood, and offer support for the victims of this shooting. Instead of focusing on the senseless violence, I will focus on the responses of many, particularly those who love the Lord and are serving others in the name of Christ today, and in the days ahead.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33