Bad things happen sometimes. As parents, we struggle to understand and move forward, leading our families with confidence and strength in difficult times. With maturity and experience in our corner, we are often able to see the work of the Lord in whatever trial we face. We see the joy after the mourning, the light after the darkness. But children don’t have that same maturity and experience. They can easily become tangled in fear and anxiety. So, how do we comfort them and lead them through scary situations?
“My God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28 NIV
Our family is finding our way through such a situation right now. My grandfather, a military hero, and man of great strength and character, has cancer. It’s not his first battle with this ugly disease, so we have some experience fighting the cancer beast as a family. But this time is different. This time there will be no treatment. At 88, my grandfather’s body is failing him. When this decision was made just two weeks ago, my husband and I faced one of the hardest things a parent ever does. How do you tell your child that scary and fearful times are coming? How do you prepare them to face loss? As with any scary experience, your children look to you for comfort and strength. My husband and I try to be all these things for our children, but we also realize the importance of teaching them to look to the Lord for that strength and comfort as well. Here are a few thoughts that may help you and your children navigate hard times a little easier:
Stay calm and positive. Speak to them with compassion and gentleness. Children are uber sensitive to our feelings and emotions. They can sense our fear and sadness easily. Try your best to stay calm and positive. If you can, and especially in a highly emotional situation, take time to gather your thoughts and feelings before you approach your children. The more hope and confidence they see in you, the more comfortable they will feel in this very real and scary situation. It’s okay for them to see you shed some tears or show some sadness; that’s real emotion that they will feel as well. Make sure you have plenty of time to answer any questions or give out as many hugs as are needed. Don’t rush it, and make sure you are 100% invested and present emotionally in the discussion.
Be honest. Stay positive, but don’t give false hopes. Answering your child’s questions truthfully to the best of your ability (without being blunt or scary of course) will help them deal with the outcome of the situation better. It’s okay to let them know that you don’t have the answers. That leads me to the next one…
Lead them to the One who knows. While we don’t have all the answers for the questions our children may ask about a difficult situation, our Lord does. He has provided us with His Word, full of comfort and hope. Search for easy to remember verses that will be a help to ease their fears in scary times
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 NIV
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV
I’ve found with my children that books and videos are also great ways to reach them during tough times. Reading a book about a certain situation your family is facing can do wonders for helping your child process their feelings.
Angie Knutson: Angie is a Christian freelance writer and homeschooling mom of four active children ranging in age from 5 to 13. She’s been married to her husband, Jeremy, for fifteen years as they’ve learned to live God’s way, and grown together in His love. Angie has recently left the world of diaper bags and babies, and is cautiously approaching life with teens. She blogs about faith and family at www.AngieKnutson.com