Each new school shooting poses a keen question for every parent: How do we talk about the shootings with our kids? What do we say to them? How do we explain what happened to them? What can we say that may fight their fears and foster faith?
No child should ever have to fear going to school lest a shooting might occur. But it’s the day in which we live.
How do we parents and adults address these shootings with our children? How can we help them rightly deal with these tragedies?
First, practice presence. Just be there with and for your kids. Make sure you’re available to them. Make an appointment with them. Just be there. And the fact that you are simply present when their feelings are raw will speak volumes.
Next, let them guide the conversation. Listen to what they may be feeling. When you hear feeling words, give them back to them. Especially listen for words like worry, fear, anxious, concerned, or afraid. Make sure you echo those words back. When they hear you doing so, they know that you care because you are really listening. They sense that you are intently paying attention to their feelings. It encourages them to share more of what’s in their hearts.
Don’t offer solutions just yet. Yes, there are some practical things lawmakers and leaders can do to address gun violence. The problem seems to be enlarging. But that’s not what your children need right now. Their hearts are hungering for a caring adult and a listening ear. That’s the greatest yearning. Give them this gift.
Do reassure them that statistically their chances of ever experiencing a school shooting is extremely unlikely. Though they are horrible when they happen, the likelihood of one occurring at their school is proportionately tiny. Most likely, it will never happen to them. Children can appreciate statistical logic. They are smarter than we realize.
Finally, take this vulnerable moment to teach your kids about faith. Little hearts have the same concerns as big ones. They feel what adults feel. They need the encouragement of faith, just like grown-ups do. More exactly, what should you say to them about faith?
Assure them that God has promised to be with people when they are walking through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).
Teach them that the biblical antidote of faith is God’s promised presence (Isaiah 41:10).
Show them that when they hold up the shield of faith it extinguishes all the fiery darts of their spiritual enemy (Ephesians 6:16).
Invite them to believe that God knows them intimately---even the number of the hairs on their head (Luke 12:7).
Show them in the Bible the power and might of God’s invisible angel armies. They surround God’s people during every moment of every day. They are available to help his children when called upon (Hebrews 1:14). Therefore, teach your kids every day to ask God to send his angels to protect them (2 Kings 6:17). Remind them that they can do so throughout their day---no matter what they are facing, from bullies to terrorists. There are amazing stories, found in the Bible and in people’s personal testimonies, of angels protecting God’s people from harm. They can protect your children as well. Teach them this truth.
You can help your children fight fear with faith. They can learn to depend on God even when they are young. Why else would Jesus adjure all his followers to possess a childlike faith (Matthew 18:3)? Apparently it is the strongest of all faith postures.
In the aftermath of yet another shooting---this one in Parkland, Florida---many children are experiencing the raw emotion of fear. There is a way to combat it. Parents and involved adults need to be on the front line of fostering faith and hope.
These perspectives have helped my wife and me when addressing these kinds of issues with our kids through the years.
We hope they help you as well.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 (ESV)