In the past weeks in the USA, we have been a witness to a great deal of violence through media and if you live in an area affected by hurricanes and fires, personal experience has been a first-hand witness. The children see and hear, everything. My family was not personally affected, but there is a new awareness in the hearts of our children. These are all very spiritual events and conversations with your kids.
A man decided to open fire on a group of people at a country music concert killing 58 and then himself. He wounded nearly 500 people. There have been shootings all over the country. There have been devastating hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Caribbean and the season is not over, yet. There are fires in the north west, and needs that have made specific headlines in Puerto Rico that break our hearts all over again.
Your children hear the headlines, too. They also hear you on the phone saying, "Oh my God - what are they all gonna do?" and, "What a nightmare, who shoots people like that?" and other reactions to violence in the world. What do the children think?
If you have young ones who have asked about the headlines, or have expressed some concern, worry or displayed anxiety over these violent events, remember to ask them specifically what they are concerned about? Depending on what you hear will lead you to a response. The questions could range from, "will the storm/fire/shooter reach us at our house?" to, "what if those kids can't find their dog?" Listen for how they are spiritually relating (fearfully, anxiously, compassionately et al.) to the story they heard on news media so you know how to answer their questions.
Remember to assure them you will take care of them, always. It is okay to have genuine concern for others and to be upset about events that are, genuinely upsetting. You will want to explain on your terms, how you feel about the violence or events that have occurred; you want to be the person they count on to explain scary and upsetting life events. As you think about how you really feel and how you want to explain things to the kids, remember:
- Bring God into the conversation through prayers for people who need help and for your family as helpers, an an example:
- Dear God of us all, please hear our prayer. We have great concerns about the kids and families who still can't live in their own home because of the storms (or whatever the event). Help them the most, Lord. Guide us to know what to do that we might be of some help, too. And thank you for our family who takes care of each other, too. Amen.
If you are currently displaced because of the storm - you will still be the one to take care of them no matter what has happened, and, you are in our prayers. If your family was blessed not be storm ravaged, you can say that you count your blessings as a family. Perhaps you could donate to the relief effort through your faith community, Red Cross, or another reputable non-profit organization to mark the blessing. As part of the people who are the helpers we are part of God's special presence in the world. We are connected to all things and when we have the opportunity to help, so we shall.
The idea to remember is that God has allowed we are all connected to one another's joys and burdens. Today we help others, another day, others will be helping us. Love thy neighbor as thyself...(Mark 12:30-31)
Finally, parents, monitor how often you have the news on while the children are listening. The evening and network news programs are aimed at adults, not children. Why be shocked by headlines if the children are in the room? It is not difficult to hear the news via Internet on demand, process your own feelings, ask God to help you through your thoughts and feelings - then go to the children with what you want them to know about the violence in the world. You can do this. Yes, you can.
With grace, Pastor Robin