As I drive to work, I listen to the news: Fighting in the Middle East, more casualties in Afghanistan, several killed in Chicago (including a young girl inside her friend’s house).
This is our world.
The world in which our kids are growing up.
Yes, we can isolate them from some of the chaos—but not always and not all the time.
The mother of the girl who was killed at her friend’s house was overly protective of her children, not even allowing them to play in the backyard. She thought they’d be safe indoors – but a stray bullet crashed through a window and instantly killed her daughter.
Another family made the decision to not mention a recent school shooting to their younger children – which worked well until their own school had a counselor come in and “talk” to the children about their fears (because of the shooting) – fears that, until that time, they didn’t know they had.
How do we do it? How do we raise stable kids in an unstable world?
We live in a world affected by Adam’s sin and a world in which sin is often celebrated. Everything around us is shaky – nations, city streets and even the very ground we walk on – but we shouldn’t be surprised. The Bible never makes claims that life on this earth gets better – just the opposite.
That’s why we need to make sure our kids are standing on a solid foundation – the Lord. Here are some thoughts – but it isn’t some kind of magic formula for erasing fears. That doesn’t exist.
- Be calm yourself. Children quickly grasp what is happening around them. If they see you upset, worried and panicky, they will be upset, worried and panicky, too. You need to be an example of what it means to rely on God. (I Peter 5:7) Of course, that doesn’t mean you continue barbequing when you hear tornado sirens. You do need to take precautions and get to a place of safety, but do so without getting hysterical.
- Encourage your children to appreciate the now. As you walk with them through the park or canoe across the lake, talk about how thankful you are that God created such a beautiful lake, flowers, sunshine, etc. Tell them how thankful you are that you’re their parent and how much you enjoy being with them. (Psalm 107:1)
- Promise your children that the Lord is always with them, no matter what is happening around them. (Hebrews 13:5) But don’t promise them happiness and safety. You don’t know that. We live in a sin-rooted world and the effects of that sin (tornadoes, sickness, being a victim of violence) can affect our family as much as it does the neighbors. (On the other hand, a life lived following Christ will eliminate many of the consequences of individual sin.)
- Explain to your child that most of the people in the world don’t care what God says in the Bible. One reason why there’s so much conflict is that people don’t care about God’s standards. (This is something we, as adults, need to acknowledge sometimes, too. People are coming from a different foundational base than we are, so they won’t understand our point of view on issues. If they don’t see the value in a life created by God, they will see nothing wrong with abortion. It’s the base that’s warped. People need Christ, not judgmental self-righteousness.) Explain that God is not surprised that people don’t listen to Him. (Isaiah 5:20-23)
- Teach your children Scripture and then review that Scripture so that God’s Words will come to mind when the child is facing difficulty. Psalm 46 is a great chapter to cling to during chaotic times (and times that aren’t so chaotic). The chapter begins and ends with a reminder of God being our strength and fortress. Several of the verses (such as vs. 7) also remind us that God is with us all the time.
Helping children deal with stuff that’s going on in our world is a tough job for a parent, because we, as parents, have a tough time too and we don’t always remember to rely on God.
But we should.
Because God IS our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
He utters His voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us. Selah. (verses from Psalm 46)
The God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.