Helping Children Deal with Tragedy

In light of the tragic event in Connecticut last week, I thought it would be best to share some thoughts about ministering to children and their parents as a Sunday School teacher. When senseless acts happen like this one, we all face normal grief responses of disbelief, shock, fear, and anger. We have children and adults wondering, “Why would God allow such atrocities?” It would be best for us to consider our responses ahead of time and not give simplistic answers that will damage a child’s faith. So what do we do?
Admit we don’t have all the answers. Yes, we can talk about God giving us freedom and expecting us to share God’s love and care. Some people choose to use their freedom to harm others. One of the pastor’s in my region, Adam Tyler, has a great blog about this area: http://pastorsmoleskine.blogspot.com/2012/12/when-bullets-fly.html?m=1
I encourage you to look up his blog.
Two things we should never say in times like these:
“It was God’s will.” It would have been God’s will for a family member, church in the neighborhood or other Christians to influence this young man and assist him in getting the help he needed to find God, purpose and professional care instead of his use of violence.

“God must have needed more angels in heaven.” This may sound comforting (as I even heard a newscaster say these words), but it doesn’t help the situation. If you call your child “your little angel,” he/she may be anxiety ridden and wonder if God will need him/her next. This brings more fear and not the love, care and support they need.

It is okay to admit we don’t have all the answers here, but there are some things we can do that are positive.

God hurts with us when tragedy strikes. Whether it is a natural disaster or senseless violence, God cares for every person involved. Psalm 147:3 reminds us, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Scriptures demonstrate God is on the side of the oppressed, the hurting, the weak and children. Those who need help the most, like orphans and widows, God stands up for and expects us to do the same. (Read James 1:27.)

Offer care and support. Too often we become paralyzed in crisis, but it is best when we can move to: “now that this has happened, how I can glorify God and help others?” Children need to know adults are going to do everything possible to make sure they are safe. (I will do a second blog this week on safety and children, since I will not do one next week.) Assure them you are there for them. They can share their doubt, their fears and even anger with you, and you will love and support them. In times like these, may we be reminded of Romans 12:9-15:

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

All scriptures are NIV translation.

About tonystopic

Seeker and connector to the abundant life as a husband (to Katrina), father (to Tara & Joseph) and Field Strategist/Sunday School Specialist for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.
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2 Responses to Helping Children Deal with Tragedy

  1. Thank you, Tony. I will share this with our teachers. That indicent hit particularly close to home for me; Newtown is just a few miles from my mom, and very near where I went to high school and college. As far as I can tell, I don’t know anyone who lost loved ones, but am grieving with them all. Grace and peace. Paul McLinden

    • tonystopic says:

      Thanks Paul for responding. We all grieve right now, but I didn’t realize you had family that close to Newtown. Praying for clarity in our approach to provide safer environments for our children as well as remembering parents, teachers and classmates who are facing this attrocity. Blessings! Tony

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