Yesterday I was communicating with a lady who is a children's pastor in El Paso. She was sharing how the shooting had affected their church.
Today's kids are growing up in a world where shootings, murder and tragedy can strike at any time and at any place.
Kids live with the fear of being shot at school....at church...at Wal-Mart...at a restaurant...at a movie theater..at a sports event...and at any other public location.
When tragedy strikes, it can cause children to be fearful and anxious. We wish we could totally shelter children from the pain and tragedy of the world we live in, but that's not possible. This is the broken world in which we live. And how we help kids process these things makes a difference.
Let children ask questions. Invite children to ask questions about what has happened. Be prepared to answer questions about anything that upsets the child.
Stay calm. It's okay to let children know you are sad about what has happened...but don't freak out. If you are highly emotional, children will absorb your emotions and reflect them. Remain calm. Children will pick up on this and intuitively grasp from you that even though tragic events can upset our lives, we can get through them.
Listen. During tough times listening is often more important than talking. Listen with empathy. Listen with compassion. Listen with focus.
Give children assurance. When children hear about things like acts of violence, they are likely to wonder if this could happen to them. It's important to reassure children that safety measures are in place to prevent this from happening to them. You can also assure children that the authorities are working to prevent it from happening again.
Help children express their feelings. Children do this in different ways. Some will talk...some will draw pictures...some will share memories...however the child wants to do so...encourage them to express how they are feeling.
Spend extra time with the children. One of the best things you can do to help children feel safe is to spend time with him or her.
Stick with routines. Children find comfort in routines. Keep their routines as normal as possible.
Provide spiritual support. Pray with them. Share God's Word with them. Point them to God and the hope that is found in Him.
The book "Comforting Children in Crisis" is a must for every person who serves in children's ministry. It will prepare you to know what to say and what not to say to kids and families who are going through tragedy.
When facing situations like this, are you like me? You feel so inadequate because the need is so great and situation is so desperate? In times like this, lean upon God and go into the situation with Godfidence...knowing He is with you and will work through you to bring hope and peace to kids and their parents.
These steps are great to pass along to the parents in your ministry as they help their children process what has happened and what could potentially happen in the days ahead. Help parents communicate to their children that even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they don't have to be afraid because God is with them.