As parents, we naturally desire to shield our children from tragedy. We turn off the TV to protect their eyes. We might even ask them to leave the room to protect innocent ears. We watch their intake carefully to protect their hearts. But as much protection and security, as we attempt to provide, there comes a time for every child to deal with the tragedies of life. The issue may come in the form of world news, the illness of a close relative, or a pet dying, but whatever it is, our children need security and understanding. Today we’re outlining five ways for helping kids cope with tragedy.
1. Give them reassurance that the circumstance or issue is not their fault. Many times children automatically have feelings of guilt when something bad happens in their lives. They wonder what they did wrong to cause the tragedy. Stating the facts of the situation gently and providing reassurance that they did nothing wrong is important for your child’s confidence.
2. Help them understand that God is in control. This point can be so tough for parents to teach their children because the bottom line is: we don’t understand God’s ways in totality for ourselves. But children are often more accepting of God’s power and wisdom than adults! Telling your child that God can take absolutely anything bad and make it turn out for good provides hope for your child. One book that is especially helpful for giving children assurance and hope after the death of a loved one is Heaven is for Real for Kids. This children’s version of the adult bestseller includes a section for parents on how to talk to children about heaven along with a Q&A section with answers from the Bible about heaven written specifically for young ones. I know people who read this to their kids after the death of a family member and they said it really helped the kids open up and talk about their feelings and imagine what that person is doing in heaven.
3. Try to give the child choices while dealing with the situation. Making a choice gives children a sense of empowerment. If you feel that the child is completely insecure, sometimes offering a choice will assist them in providing that much-needed security. For example, if a grandparent is extremely ill and in the hospital, and you as the parent have made the choice to take the child to see them, then give the child an opportunity to choose a gift to take to the grandparent. That small choice makes them feel involved in the good God wants to do through the circumstance!
4. Remember that grief does not absolve overnight. “Time heals all wounds” is an important statement to remember. Sometimes children appear as though they have moved on from a rough situation, then out of the blue, they have a meltdown. Or a more emotional child may be crying off and on for days while grieving. Having patience with the process of grief is difficult when you as the parent are grieving as well. Clinging together as a family is critical during this time and reading God’s Word together provides incredible comfort.
5. Discuss the potential outcomes of a situation in advance when possible. Because our family has a child with a terminal disease, sickness and death are not foreign conversation topics to our children. We gently discuss these topics, giving our children an opportunity to ask questions as they are comfortable. Sometimes tragedy strikes and there is no time to discuss what may or may not happen – only what has happened. During these times, as parents, we can begin to form conversations about what the future holds. “Grandpa is going to come and stay with us for a few weeks now that Grandma is in Heaven.” “Let’s take a meal to our neighbors on Friday.” Simple statements are a great way to help your child focus on ways to cope. For more ways to help your children cope with heart-wrenching situations here are 8 Bible Verses for when you need hope and a list of praise songs that bring hope to hurting hearts.
What methods have you found to be comforting in helping your child or other children through tragedy? We would appreciate your sharing.