Tag Archive - parenting

Talking to Kids About Tragedy

Dad and Kids Hugging Small
Newton, Connecticut. Boston, Massachusetts.  West, Texas.  Moore, Oklahoma. Recent tragedies have  broken our hearts as so many others before, but some of these have been different. They invaded the lives of young children – little ones that looked a lot like our little ones. And because there were children involved, our kids are going to be asking a lot of questions.

As parents, one of our primary roles is to be constantly teaching. When it comes to “Life 101,” class is always in session. This doesn’t change in the midst of tragedy, as awkward as the role may be. Most kids are asking the same innocent question that we all ask – “Why?” – and our ability to respond correctly can help turn a terrible situation into an opportunity to talk about some tough-but-necessary topics.

As a father of three and a pastor and author who has dedicated two decades to helping parents, I am still left wanting for the right words to say in such an awful situation. Still, I’ve learned a few things along the way, and hopefully these ideas will help you navigate this difficult road with your children:

• Remind them that they can trust God – even in tough times. Consider saying, “Sometimes things happen that we can’t completely understand. We know that bad things happen in this world because there are bad people. But it doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about those little children. In fact, that’s why Jesus came – so He could rescue us from evil and be with Him some day in a perfect place!”

• Pray for everyone involved. We do this, most importantly, because God hears our prayers and answers them. But prayer also does something else: it reminds us that God is with us, and that He can help in ways that no one else can.

• Don’t act like you have all the answers. They won’t believe you anyway if you start making stuff up. It’s okay to say, “You know what? That’s a good question, but a hard one. I’ve wondered that too.” But follow it up by sharing something that you DO know. You don’t have to pretend to be certain about everything if you can demonstrate that they can be certain about many things: your love for them, God’s love for them, the fact that you will do everything you can to protect them, that their schools are safe – and will be even safer – after this, etc.

• Listen and don’t ignore questions or inquiries. Pay attention to even the most passing comments. If your child knows anything about what happened, you can count on the fact that he’s thinking about it, and you want to be ready to talk when he is.

• Keep life normal and routine. Young children always fare better when life is as stable as possible.

• Sharply limit media exposure in young children, and be there to explain what is seen. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that “overexposure to the media can be traumatizing. It’s unwise to let children or adolescents view footage of traumatic events over and over. Children and adolescents should not watch these events alone.” Kids may have a hard time discerning that only one gunman went into only one school, for example, when they see reports for hours on end on different channels as they’re looking over your shoulder.

After you take those initial steps, you have an opportunity to proactively use a tough situation as a teachable moment. Point out the good things that can happen:

• Place emphasis on the heroes of the events – emergency personnel, teachers, and other students. Perhaps write a letter of encouragement to people who worked to help from the area police departments.

• Seek out stories about the people who are working to help the families who have been hurt by this tragedy – churches, doctors, and even school personnel. Talk about how wonderful it is that people are willing to help others.

• Share the ways that your local schools have announced they are working to improve security. Almost every school district made some sort of statement about the tragedy. You can find most of these statements online at your school’s or school district’s website.

Help kids find ways to help – let them come up with creative ways!

Finally, look for any signs that might indicate high levels of anxiety in your child. Remember: what we see as replay footage or something horrific that happened in another town, our children may interpret as something that keeps happening very close to home. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology points to the following symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in kids:

o Refusal to return to school and “clinging” behavior
o Persistent fears related to the catastrophe
o Sleep disturbances such as nightmares, screaming during sleep and bedwetting.
o Abnormal behavior problems.
o Withdrawal from family and friends.

If you start to see any of these behaviors in the following week, it might be worth a call to your doctor, pastor, or school counselor to inquire about some additional help.

It is almost overwhelming to take in the magnitude of the tragedy that has taken place in multiple locations over the past few months. It’s even more challenging when children hear that it involved children just like them. It makes me angry that such conversations have to take place. As a Christian, I’m grateful for the promises of something better – because Christ has overcome the evil in the world and will one day eradicate evil, sin, sickness, war, and death from this earth. In the meantime, God has put moms, dads, grandparents, and mentors like you in their path to remind them everything will be okay.

Christmas and Humilty

BBC Christmas 1920x1080 111912

What a wonderful time of year! Christmas brings feelings of joy, peace, comfort, but the Apostle Paul thought there was a more important theme of Christmas, and wrote about it in Philippians 2:3-8:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (ESV)

When we think of Christmas and Christ’s incarnation, we should be drawn to thoughts about humility. But the world’s definition of humility is not the same as God’s definition of humility. We often get humility wrong. In fact, Dictionary.com offers what I would consider to be an inaccurate definition of humility: “Having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience.” That’s not humility. That’s depression!

That’s what’s so beautiful about the birth of Christ as an illustration of humility: Christ did not have feelings of inferiority, but willingly placed the needs of mankind above His own.

Nelson’s Bible Dictionary defines humility in a way that better illustrates what Jesus did at His birth. Humility is, “A freedom from arrogance that grows out of the recognition that all we have and are comes from God.”

Phillip Brooks put it this way: “The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.” (Quoted in Burning Out for God, E. Skoglund)

This type of humility is of far greater value to us, because it extends beyond mere feelings of inferiority to a call to raise the value of others, and measure our value against the glory of God.

Can you imagine what would happen if we connected the attitude of humility to our Christmas celebrations with the same fervor as we do joy, cheerfulness, and the like? Imagine how your holiday could be transformed if you chose to live out acts of humility among your family and friends this Christmas. What steps might you take to imitate the Son of God – surrendering your rights and reputation for the good of another, regardless of what you will receive in return?

Expressing and cultivating humility – the genuine kind – can can be an intentional part of our Christmas celebration. Here are three ways I plan to dwell on it in the next few days.

1. I will intentionally seek out others I may bless who are likely not willing or able to bless me in return, reminding me of the grace extended me when Christ came. For example, rather than telling people about our Singing Christmas Tree Presentation at Bannockburn this weekend, I will INVITE them to join me and my family at the Tree. People want connection and acceptance more than they want gifts or information. Connection is harder. It often requires humility.

2. I will take inventory of all the blessings and gifts I have been given, and then offer thanks to God for them. Gratitude is the antidote to false pride. (The 2012 BBC Advent Devotion is a great tool to help with this!)

3. I will ponder the humility extended by the King of All Kings, as He wrapped Himself in flesh out of love for us. How can anyone dwell on such a thought without a recognition of his own desperate need?

This Christmas season, I’m compelled to think that the greatest form of worship of Jesus my King may be to imitate His active humility. Would you join me?

Start your faith breakthrough now!
The spiritual barriers people face are countless, but they can be categorized into Eight Primary Walls. These walls correlate with the 8 primary breakthroughs that everyone needs.
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I have to guard against judging people when I learn they are dealing with tough circumstances.
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When bad things happen, I wonder if God can make things better.
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I observe things that make me wonder if I should believe the Bible.
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I believe God is willing and able to answer my prayers.
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People who have hurt me in the past cause me to avoid some relationships today.
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I believe God wants what is best for me.
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When looking back on my life, I tend to focus on all of the things I did wrong.
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When bad things happen, I feel like I am getting what I deserve.
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I am so busy that I find myself ignoring the most important things in my life.
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I look forward to good things in my future.
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I tend to expect the worst to happen.
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I believe God is loving and kind.
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I don't believe anyone can ever know what is absolutely true.
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I think God cares about the details of my life.
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It troubles me that God has not answered my prayers.
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I feel with God's help, I can face any situation.
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I am amazed at God's power.
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I have witnessed things that make me wonder if God is in control.
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People would describe me as a giving person.
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My faith practices are more about routine than relationship.
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I find myself drawn to things I know are bad for me.
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I believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing God.
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I spend too much of my energy pursuing material things.
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I am willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for something better down the road.
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I feel there is a disconnect between who I really am and how I act in front of other people.
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I try to avoid temptations that would bring me harm.
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I think that God will meet all my needs.
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I have a hard time trusting people.
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I believe truth is the same for everyone.
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I feel compelled to make the world around me better.
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When I am facing a difficult situation, I feel like I can solve problems on my own.
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I believe God loves me in spite of who I am.
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I find myself more focused on the things I don't have but wish I did.
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I know a lot of people, but don't feel very close to many people.
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The possibility of gaining a good friend is worth the risk.
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I believe the Bible has answers for today's circumstances.
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I feel strong relationships are hard, but worth it.
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I have too many of my own problems to deal with the problems of others.
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It humbles me to think I can know God.
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I question why God allowed certain things to happen in my life.
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I feel I can turn to God for direction.
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I am willing to serve others for nothing in return.
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I am grateful for the things I have been given.
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I am intentionally seeking to grow in my relationships with others.
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I have been wronged in the past in a way I cannot get over.
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I am confident God has forgiven me for my past.
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I worry about the problems that the future holds.
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I worry that God is angry with me.
Great you have finished the evaluation.
Ready to see the results?