It can feel really awkward relating to young people going through tough times. Often they feel very lonely because people avoid them ‘not wanting to interfere or meddle.’ Can you imagine what happens when everyone takes this view? No-one engages the young people in their pain! They often have some questions about what is going on. How do we answer those questions?
Avoid simplistic or unrealistic answers
- Respond to children's questions and concerns. Older children may be thinking..."Where is God in all of this?" or "How could a loving God let these terrible things happen?"
- We need to be honest about what has happened. Don’t lie or make up a story to protect them, but we don’t need to explain things in graphic detail.
- Comfort children with assurance of God’s loving care for all people. Help them to see God’s presence in those who help the people who are going through tragic experiences.
- It’s easy to say, “Everything is going to be okay”, but at the time, it doesn’t feel like it.
- Answers like ”God must have needed your mum more than you did” or “‘God must have needed another angel” are simple answers, but simply not true. Words like this just aren’t helpful. If you don’t know what to say, simply say you don’t know what to say.
- It’s actually okay to come alongside the hurt and say something like, “This is heartbreaking. I’m so very sad too.” Validating an emotion is the first step towards dealing with it. Continue to reassure children that they are loved and that you will be there to help and support them.
Some helpful tips for taking care of each other
- Try not to bottle up feelings. Allow time to talk, be angry, cry, laugh and grieve.
- Allow children to share in your distress and encourage them to express their own.
- Allow time to be with people who care about you and also with people who went through what you went through.
- Spend time alone when needed.
- Recognise that everyone expresses things in their own way. Men may find it harder to express emotion and weep. Children may need encouragement and support to express themselves.
- Take time out to sleep, rest, enjoy and do routine things when possible.
- Allow children to return to school and keep up with their activities as soon as they are ready.
- Express your needs clearly and honestly to family and friends.
- Spend time together as a family. This gives us the opportunity to pick up on signals that children are struggling to deal with something.
- Maintain routine as much as possible to help children see that life is secure and predictable.
- Read together some of the Bible messages of comfort in difficult and trying circumstances, e.g. Psalm 23:1-4; Psalm 30:5; Psalm 66:12; John 10:27-28; John 11:25; John 14:27. Talk about what the Bible promises for us in our situation.
- Prayer is one of the most important things we can do together. We turn our concerns and God’s promises into a conversation with God.
- Do something. Children will often feel better when they are given a chance to ‘do something’. They may make a drawing, say a prayer or light a candle.
- Watch our children. Difficult situations and crisis are not dealt with in a one-off manner. These concerns will remain in the weeks and months ahead. Kids may revert to ‘younger’ childhood behaviours if they are anxious or worried about something. They may be quieter than usual or spend more time alone in their bedroom.
- Live one day at a time.
Talk about the hope we have
We have a God who is big and powerful, and while we may not understand what is happening we know that he is writing a bigger story. We need to trust him no matter what happens. God is bigger than our circumstances, and we need to have our roots firmly grounded in him so that when these trials come we are able to withstand them, solid in the knowledge of his love, mercy and grace.