Helping our children process tragedy


Our friend Brent Manion spoke with Dr. Bill Maier regarding children and tragedy:

Dr. Maier, how can we help our kids by limiting what they see and hear in the news and why is that helpful?

I think in the next 24-48 hours we  have to be very careful as to the media coverage we allow our kids to see. The images on TV are powerful. Young children do not have the ability to abstract. They might think this is in their neighborhood, in their town, at their school. So I would really caution parents and encourage you to limit your media coverage to radio or internet, or watch TV after the kids are in bed.

What if our younger children have already seen images of devastation?

In that case, they may have questions and we need to be willing to listen even though some of their questions may be hard. Encourage them to share by asking open ended questions.

What are some ways we can encourage our children when tragedy hits?

Help them learn that prayer is something we can do anytime and anywhere. Say “Father I don’t understand what is going on. I’m very sad. I’m hurting for these people. Please help them and help me not to be afraid. Please help me to know that I’m safe with my mom and dad. But I want to pray for these people who are hurting and are in grief.”

What are some ways we can reassure our kids when they are afraid?

It makes sense to logically explain that the risk is fairly low. By the same token we need to make sure to allow our kids to express their fears. The last thing we want to do is to tell your child “oh don’t be afraid everything is going to be OK”. That’s in effect minimizing their emotions. Instead ask open ended questions and allow them to share how they feel. Then take time to pray about it. With older children it’s also good to review Bible verses that remind us of God’s provision and care. It’s not only helpful for them to know those verses but those are good for us too.

Some of the damage included a school. What if our kids are afraid to go to school? Should we allow them to stay home?

I personally don’t recommend it because in effect we’re reinforcing their fear. In most schools the teachers will handle this very sensitively and proactively. Often times the principal will have a directive on how the school will handle the situation and questions that come up during class.

(Photo via stock.xcnhng)

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