I originally wrote this article in the aftermath of the events in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012. At the time, the deaths of the 20 six and seven year olds from that elementary school and the six staff members were still fresh in our memories and hearts. In my own house, and in church on Sunday morning, I was faced with kids who were both afraid that something like that could happen at their school and mourning not only the loss of life but a certain loss of innocence. In the years since, we have continued to see stories of tragedy in the news and in our neighborhoods. Our kids continue to be bombarded with information and images of human beings at their lowest moments. This article was written in response to a tragedy, but we would do well to be prepared to help our kids deal with the next tragedy before it happens. The purpose of this article is to help parents, children’s ministry workers, teachers and anyone else who works with kids to process tragedy.
The Sunday night after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, I was asked to participate in a special episode of the Kids Ministry Collective Radio Show to discuss the topic of helping kids deal with tragedy. You can find an archive of that show featuring special guest Linda Ranson Jacobs at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cmconnect/2012/12/16/kmc-special-edition–when-tragedy-strikes-. In preparing for that show, I read numerous articles from experts on how to help kids and compiled what is a fairly comprehensive list of notes that I thought might benefit our readers. This article includes those notes on how to help kids, helpful scriptures for helping kids deal with tragedy, age-appropriate information, and ideas on how to plan and prepare kids for future tragedies and an extensive listing of additional resources available online.
When it comes to tragedy, it is important to remember that life presents us with a series of teachable moments for our kids. Some of those are not very stressful, and some are tragic. As parents, and those who work with kids, we need to make sure that we don’t let these teachable moments slip away in the process of dealing with a tragedy. Deuteronomy 6 is the picture that God gives us a capitalizing on the teachable moments in our lives to impart spiritual truth in our children. In tragic events, there are things that we can learn and things that we can model for our kids.