By: Kelsey Terschak
The world is a traumatic place. The year isn’t even halfway over and we’ve already had wildfires, a pandemic, lockdowns, economic collapse, murder hornets, and riots in addition to ongoing wars, racial tensions, death and natural disasters.
It’s a lot for us adults to process, let alone our kids.
Having discussions with kids about scary things is a difficult yet necessary part of a parent’s job. How do you help your kids navigate confusing and frightening times?
If your kids are like mine, they are very inquisitive. I find this to be good and bad. One the one hand, we have so many opportunities to speak truth to them, but on the other hand, kids tend to be very trusting and not always very discerning about where their information comes from. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned through interactions I’ve had with my kids in recent months.
Thanks to technology, we have access to news 24/7. But just because it’s available doesn’t mean we have to be constantly connected. Even if your kids are too young to understand what’s being said, it’s unhealthy for them (and you) to be constantly bombarded with the latest about Covid-19 or riots and destruction. Turn it off and find something else to do. Put on some music, play a game, go for a walk, or watch a movie together.
On the flip side, you don’t need to bury your head in the sand, either. Ask your children what they know about current events and how they feel about it. Not only does conversation help you bond, it also allows you to clear up any misinformation they may have gotten from friends at school or anything they misunderstood from the news.
My middle son told me he was scared of dying from Covid-19, so I helped him look up some facts. We worked together to calculate the actual death rate from the virus. This may seem a little morbid, but I wanted him to use facts to see that his death wasn’t necessarily imminent, and his fears were alleviated. We also brainstormed practical ways he can stay healthy.
A two-way conversation is helpful because it gives them a chance to ask questions or to help suggest solutions. Pray with your kids and allow them to express their feelings and concerns to God.
Everyone has an opinion and people post information without verifying whether it’s even true. Chances are, you are confused and overwhelmed by all the noise. It’s okay to tell your kids how you are feeling. I find myself telling my kids, “I feel sad and angry about the way people are treating each other” or “I can’t promise that we’ll never get sick/hurt. All we can do is trust God because He loves us and knows what’s best.” Make sure they know that feelings are not sinful; what we choose to do with those feelings can make us sinful if we don’t ask God for help.
I came across a video of a teacher who ran a discrimination experiment with her third-grade class. Over the course of two days, she successfully pitted the brown-eyed children against the blue-eyed children,
just by suggesting that one group was better and smarter than the other. By the end, they all realized the injustice of judging people based on the way they look. I showed this video to my kids because I felt that it would more clearly exemplify God’s commands to love all our neighbors. My kids were fascinated and I felt like they “got it” much better than if I just lectured them on discrimination.
Find the Good
No matter how bad things get, there is always something uplifting to focus on. As Fred Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” Show your kids how people are responding in positive ways. Local churches are providing meals and supplies to poor families in the developing world. Police officers are joining protestors in taking a stand against racial injustice and police brutality. Have your kids brainstorm ways to make a positive difference in your community and do something together.
During the quarantine period, my kids painted rocks with inspiring messages and put them around town for people to find and receive encouragement. We also put together care packages with goodies and handed them out to our neighbors. Our church put together candy-filled Easter eggs to hand out to families so that kids didn’t have to miss out on Easter egg hunts. These activities helped us feel connected to our community even though we were isolated.
Emphasize the Gospel
When your child is frightened, point him to Jesus. Never pass up a chance to share the Gospel. When my kids struggle with the reality of suffering, I share God’s truth with them. God made the world good and perfect. But the first people chose not to listen to His rules, so sin entered the world. Suffering is a result of sin, whether it’s a direct result of a specific sin or just because our world is fallen and now the Earth is dying. Remind your children we all sin and that separates us from God.
But God loves us so much that he took on the human form of Jesus and came to Earth, not only to teach us how to be good and set an example for us, but He fulfilled God’s law for us and paid the penalty for our sin. Now we can be right with God and have a relationship with Him. No matter how bad things get on Earth, we will spend eternity in heaven if we trust our lives to Jesus. That’s good news that can be shared with everyone, from your next door neighbor to a child living in poverty on the other side of the world. That’s incredibly empowering!
When you or your children feel overwhelmed with the state of the world, remember that God is there to help you. Stay in communication with Him as you communicate with your kids. You’ve got this!