In this world of pain and suffering, how do we help our kids process tragedy when sometimes we struggle to process it ourselves?
Helping kids process tragedy is hard because our instinct is often to shield them from it.
We want to protect our children, like fierce mama bears! The truth is we can’t protect them from all the evil & sadness in our world, but it is very important to use wisdom and discernment as we help our kids process evil.
Our children will encounter death, evil, & tragedy, so we need to be ready to walk them through it. The first step is to prepare our own hearts for how to handle these situations. Pray for God to help you reconcile the tragedy in your own heart and pray for His wisdom as you guide your children through this tough time.
Here’s some truths to cling to when processing evil, suffering and tragedy:
God created a perfect world with no suffering. He is not the creator of evil.
- Author, Lee Strobel explains it this way, “God did not create evil and suffering. Now, it’s true that he did create the potential for evil to enter the world, because that was the only way to create the potential for genuine goodness and love. But it was human beings, in our free will, who brought that potential evil into reality.” He uses this analogy, “Even before you had children, couldn’t you foresee that there was the very real possibility they may suffer disappointment or pain or heartache in life, or that they might even hurt you and walk away from you? Of course — but you still had kids. Why? Because you knew there was also the potential for tremendous joy and deep love and great meaning.”
- “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
God gives no promise that this life would be without suffering. Only the promise that one day the suffering will end and that evil will be dealt with once and for all.
- “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
- He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
There are things that we will never understand because we can’t see things the way God does. He sees the bigger picture.
- “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29
- “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” I Corinthians 13:12
Even though God doesn’t cause suffering, He can bring good from it.
- We may not always see the good He brings through suffering on this side of heaven, but every now and then, we do get a glimpse of the good that can come from suffering. Intense times of suffering will often draw people to begin a relationship with Christ or grow closer in their relationship with Him. We also have beautiful reminders from scripture such as Joseph’s suffering turning to triumph, or Job’s suffering turning to blessings.
- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
- “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
In the midst of great suffering, God is the ultimate comforter.
- “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2
- “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” I Peter 5:10
Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you are walking your children through this process:
1. Prayer should be the first step.
I know that sounds trite, but prayer is powerful & often times brings comfort to children when nothing else will. Here’s some ideas to pray through:
- Pray for all involved in the tragedy. Pray that God would comfort all involved and give them the strength they need to deal with their pain.
- Pray for people to turn to Jesus during this time of suffering rather than turning away from Him. Pray that God would draw all those involved close to Him.
- Use the printable scripture cards HERE to help overcome the fear that comes with dealing with tragedies.
2. Avoid the media, and seek to become the first source of information for your kids.
We have a rule that we just DON’T watch the news while our kids are awake, honestly we don’t watch very much news at all. The visual images and slanted views are too much for kids to handle and it makes them more fearful than necessary. We choose to be the “news” for our kids. We want them to hear about these tragedies from someone they trust, not from the TV or radio. The key is to be their first source of information and be a calm reliable source. We shouldn’t shield our kids from these stories, but we also shouldn’t allow them wide open access to all the details. Sometimes we don’t give our kids enough credit thinking their attention spans are short & these events won’t have a lasting impact on them. Other times, we give them too much credit by thinking they can handle all the details and process it as an adult can. Neither is true, kids have huge imaginations, so when these situations arise, they will likely have lots of questions.
3. Answer their questions honestly, but be discreet with details.
Our kids need to know that we will answer all their questions to the best of our ability and be honest with them. As their parents, we need to determine how much they can handle and discuss the details of the tragedy appropriately. This doesn’t mean we just avoid the hard parts. Often times, we try to “shield” them from details that are hard. When we “shield” them from too much real life by not having those hard conversations, they aren’t equipped to deal with the real world. Only you as the parent will know what “hard things” to share and which ones to skip. Be sure to allow them to share all their fears and thoughts openly with you.
4. Equip them with knowledge that will solidify their trust in God & calm their fears.
Often my son will ask questions like, “What if someone breaks into our house?” My answer starts with the facts, such as our doors are locked & our alarm is on. After the facts, we discuss what practical steps to take if something bad does happen and then we move to discussing our faith and trust in the Lord. The goal of this is for him to feel prepared instead of helpless. Sometimes the only knowledge we can equip our children with is that God is in control & that they can trust in God’s plan. Use the simple truths listed above to begin to instill knowledge of God’s character into their hearts and equip them with knowledge of how to conquer their fears with prayer. It’s ok to tell them that pain & suffering is a hard thing to understand and that you don’t always have all the answers, but that you trust in the Lord and His plan.
Ultimately, they will take their cues from you, so if they see you trusting in an all powerful, almighty God when tragedy strikes, they are much more likely to do the same!
Anything to add or share with other readers? Please join the conversation by commenting below:
Founder of The Praying Mom
This website was birthed out of Christy's passion to see women become intentional in their lives. She is passionate about helping moms discover their purpose in their homes, churches, communities & world!