The latest of these being the tragedy that became of an entire school in Connecticut this past Friday. 27 total lives were lost because of one man's unknown intentions. I, like the majority of the world, was devastated at the news.
My first reaction was to cry, then to pray for the families, then to be honest, my next emotion was anger. Anger that yet another place where I have little or no control over my son's environment had safety challenged and defeated. I was so angry at the loss that over 20 families experienced that day. Anger at the lasting mark such a tragedy has left on other little lives, a community, a nation, and ultimately the world. Anger that such evil exists and that it can penetrate such innocence and purity.
I have never truly felt as if my son was 100% safe. There is always that lingering possibility that something evil will enter every effort I have to keep him safe. I think like all parents on Friday, it made this evil in the world just that much more real and left me feeling helpless to the possibility that it could have just as easily been my son in that classroom. There is really no "safe place".
So, how do we as parents help our children cope with such a tragedy? How do we give our children a sense of security and covering with a world that is falling apart? The simplest answer I can give is: truth. Give them truth.
After sharing tears of grief together over the lives lost, my son and I talked about good and evil. We talked about the promises of the bible and how important it was to reach as many people as we could with the good news of Christ. The promises of His love, grace, and mercy. As we started to pray for the families affected, my son stopped me and said, "But mom! All of those kids are in Heaven with Jesus! They are happy!" What divine understanding in such a young child.
Many parents are reaching for answers and for resources on how to help their kids cope with such a tragedy. I have done some research on some links provided to me from a friend here at Family Talk.
1) Keep the media away from your child's eyes and ears. Constantly bombarding them with images and news of the fearful event will be overwhelming and have terrible lasting effects.
2) Pray with them. Calling upon God and the Holy Spirit to intervene in times that are out of our control will teach our kids to call upon the name of God as well.
3) Renounce Evil. It is important that children see adults willing to fight against evil and take a stand for good.
4) Look for signs of PTSD in your kids. Changes in behavior such as acting out, withdrawal, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, or fear of a similar tragedy happening to them would all need to be addressed with the help of a Christian Counselor.
5) Try to keep them in a routine as much as possible. Keeping the normalcy and predictability will counteract the feelings of confusion and disorientation.
6) Accept your child's emotions for what they are. Be open to discussing the behaviors in a gentle and understanding way. Allow them to draw, write, paint, play games, write poetry or write in an journal. As many outlets as they can have for their feelings the better.
7) Most importantly, tell your children that you love them. Hold them close to reassure them that you are doing everything you can to protect them. This reinforces that you are near and you are always available to cover them in your love and embrace.
For adults, we need help coping also. If you are finding yourself suffering from PTSD, please seek counseling from your Pastor or a local Christian Counselor. Visit here for a list of counselors.
I'll end this with Psalm 91
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”