Children have the incredible ability to ask the most insightful questions in the simplest ways. Dr. James Dobson calls each question an “awesome why.” When they ask us how bad things can happen in God’s world, how do we respond? For older children explain that…
• God created a perfect world, but it didn’t stay that way. God gave each of us the ability to choose good or evil.
• Just as people can choose to do good, they can also choose to do bad things. A decision to do something bad affects everyone around them.
• God is sad when people don’t love Him or when they do bad things.
Safety is one of the greatest needs of children. How do we assure our children that they are safe? Children under five will probably not understand the significance of tragic events. They will pick up on your grief and need reassurance. Around age six, children should be guided through an understanding of significant events with the love and care of their parents.
• Be careful not to be too descriptive about events in front of children.
• Spend time holding your children, allowing them to experience the warmth and security of your touch. Talk to them about what happened and be honest with them about the safety of where you live.
• Let them know it is normal and healthy to feel sad when bad things happen to other people.
• Don’t tell them that it could have been worse. This could diminish the tragedy of what actually happened.
• Pray together for the families of the people and families affected, and for those working to help those people.
• If your children experience sleep loss, nightmares, loss of appetite or changes in behavior that lasts more than two weeks, you should seek professional help from a pastor, physician or counselor.
Do not hesitate to call on your church staff for help. Also, Focus on the Family has many resources on line at www.family.org. As a parent, you are the most important person in helping your child understand and deal with grief and loss. I hope these thoughts are helpful to you in that task.
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels or principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 38-39 (NASB)