Helping Children Cope with America’s Great Tragedy
By Glenn Stanton
What can you say as a parent to explain the terrorism to a young child? All the talk about the events of last September may bring back many of our children’s questions. It may bring back some of their fears. The following material was made available by Focus on the Family last year to help parents talk to their children about the tragedy.
Few Americans have ever seen or experienced the kind of senseless tragedy the world witnessed on September 11, 2001. As adults we find ourselves struggling to understand and respond to this devastating catastrophe. Harder still, how do we explain it to our children? How do we help our children come to terms with this terrible event, but still preserve their innocence, sense of safety and trust in God? Following are some suggestions.
Building Your Child’s Trust in God
Our children have the incredible ability to ask the most insightful theological questions in the simplest ways. Dr. Dobson calls each question an “awesome why.” When they ask us how such bad things can happen in God’s world, how do we respond?
Explain to your children 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 evil. Sadly, people often choose to not love God. Sometimes their evil can be unspeakably hurtful and ugly.
- God is sad when people don't love Him or when they do bad things. He is also becomes angry when their bad behavior hurts people.
- When such horrible things happen, we have to remember that God is right where He was when some very bad people killed his own Son, Jesus.
Horrible events cannot be easily explained. But just because we don't understand how such bad things can happen, God is still in control.
As Dr. Dobson explains in his book, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, “Most of our spiritual frustrations do not end with an enlightened, 'Oh, now I see what You were doing, Lord!’ We just have to file them under the heading, 'Things I Don’t Understand,' and leave it there.”
Building Our Children’s Sense of Security
Safety is one of the greatest needs of children. How do we assure our children that they are safe?
Children under 5 will probably not understand the significance of such events, but beginning around 6, children should be guided through an understanding of significant historical events with the love and care of their parents.
Limit exposure of graphic images and explanations in the news.
Be careful not to be too descriptive about these events in front of your 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.
Read Psalms 23, 27, 46 and 61 with you children and talk about how God is our provider and comforter.
Pray together for the families of the victims, the rescue and medical workers, our civic and political leaders and our military as they work to protect our nation.
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.
Focus on the Family has professional counselors on staff. They can be reached by calling 719-531-3400 ext. 2700.
As a parent, you are the most important person in helping your child understand and deal with this great tragedy in our nation’s history. We 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,