Helping kids through tragedy

tragedyOnce again our hearts are grieved by yet another school shooting. Innocence and life were stolen. I was driven to my knees on Friday as I wept and prayed for the families, teachers, and administration of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The senseless violence perpetrated on children, and those who work with children, shook me to my core. I was again reminded of scripture that says “make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16)

Once I was able to deal with my own sadness, I began to consider those in my care. I have my own children to raise. In addition, I am responsible to shepherd hundreds of families. They look to me for counsel and wisdom on how to help their children navigate this horrible tragedy. I was given some great advice and tips on helping kids cope with crisis:

1. Be willing to discuss events of violence with your kids.
Helping your kids cope with violence on school campuses starts with being willing to talk about the tragedy with them. Children, particularly younger ones, can be scared by tragedies, wondering if something similar could happen to them. But if young children haven’t heard anything about the tragedy, don’t bring it up with them. Don’t rush into introducing these types of tragedies into your kids’ lives. Sadly, the time will come when it’s necessary to discuss these issues. If you know that your younger children are aware of the tragedy, ask them whether or not they have been thinking it. Find out if what they have heard has made them afraid. Talk with them, in an age-appropriate way, about what has happened and help to answer their questions and calm their fears. For older children and teenagers, assume that they know about the crisis and be proactive in making it a topic for discussion in your home.

2. Tell them the truth.
Honesty is the best policy – now as always. Still, honesty doesn’t mean that you need to share every gruesome detail of the event with your kids. Young children can be frightened by such cold, hard facts, so be sure to be age-appropriate when talking to your kids about this tragedy.

3. Shelter your kids from graphic video and pictures.
In our “24/7 live” news coverage from around the world, be aware that the graphic, often disturbing video and pictures – don’t have to be part of conveying the “news” of what’s happening to your children. My advice is that when school shootings occur – especially in the immediate aftermath – keep the television news programs off when your kids are around.

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