Guiding Children During a Crisis

Follow these suggestions as you guide and talk to your children about the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut.

Although we try to protect our children’s innocence as long as we can, we live in a fallen world. Tragedy can occur in the form of a crisis so close to home that it can’t be ignored, or in such a way that sparks national or worldwide conversation. In those times, we need to know how to lead our children well through moments of crisis or grief.

Below are some ideas that might help parents and ministry leaders as they deal with the children in their lives during this crisis. Feel free to reproduce these points as you see helpful.

Be sensitive: I believe that God gives us a sense, a tug the Holy Spirit that leads us when we're careful to listen. Be especially sensitive to His guidance during tragedy and crisis. Beg Him to lead you as you offer advice and comfort. He wants you to be successful. He wants you to "say the right thing." Start with prayer.

Be talkative: Talk with your children. Include them when appropriate in family discussions regarding the crisis. Find opportunities to talk to your child about the situation (around the dinner table, when tucking in your child for bed, in the car while driving to school). Most children are talkative by nature. Take advantage of this time to share and talk.

Be honest: Tell the truth. Don't deny that something bad has happened. Be honest with yourself. Recognize your own feelings. Understand that you have feelings regarding this crisis. Know how you feel and understand that your feelings play a part in shaping your child's feelings.

Be respectful: Ask your child how he or she feels about the crisis and be respectful of his or her feelings. Realize that their feelings are real and respect their feelings. Give your child permission to feel the feelings that they have.

Be age-appropriate: Each child develops at different rates. You know your child and their level of understanding. Some guidelines to follow might include the avoidance of euphemisms and complicated explanations. Answer questions asked but be careful not to overload your child with too much information. If they want to know and you've created an atmosphere of freedom to ask, they will!

Be reassuring: Reassure your children that it's going to be OK. Assure them that they are safe. Many children may begin to fear leaving your presence. Honestly assure them that their feelings are important and that you and those to whom you entrust them are concerned with their safety. If you're visually frightened, your child is likely to assume your fears.

Be Hopeful: Support your child as they work through the emotions of this crisis. Expect them to be concerned but offer them the hope that we have as Christians. Explain that God is in control. He can use this crisis for His good. We may not understand His ways but we can trust His heart. Pray with your child. Teach them to seek God for their strength, especially in crisis. Allow this time to grow them as followers of Jesus.

Allow this time to bring you closer to Him as your Deliverer and Savior. Allow God to use this time to bring you closer as a family. Use these teachable moments to demonstrate that the faith we teach is real.

Bill Emeott serves as the lead childhood ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. His passions include childhood ministry leadership training and development, leading children's Bible Study, and being an uncle! Bill also teaches children at First Baptist Church in Nashville.