Like everyone else, I have been deeply impacted by the senseless shooting that took place last week at the Christian school in Nashville. I guess it has been particularly disturbing because I have spent my entire adult life ministering to kids in a school just like that one.
As I have prayed for the staff, parents and of course the sweet children who are left to deal with this horrible situation, my thoughts have also gone to the staff, parents and children in our own school.
Processing something this awful is difficult to say the least. But perhaps thinking through these Biblical principles might help.
My first thought is to remind adults to be adults. Children do not have the capacity to think things through to the extent we do. Never lie to a child, but only discuss the details that they need. And as you work to share comfort and assurance, consider these thoughts…
Speak words of comfort: Remind them that Jesus knows and cares for us all. Tell them Bible stories that reiterate His love and compassion. Pray with them throughout the day, quote scripture as you discuss things, memorize a verse together that highlights His care and fill your home with music that shares those same thoughts.
Slow down: Don’t try to mask the heartache with a frenzy of activities. Distracting children from intense sorrow might be a good thought, but amping up the pace of life is not. Sit quietly with them, read a book together, play a quiet game, or watch some appropriate entertainment. Set a gentle tone for the home.
Answer their questions: Don’t gloss over their concerns. Answer them honestly, but with only enough details to satisfy their development readiness. A 14-year-old can process much more than an 8-year-old. You know your children best, answer their questions but limit the details. Just assure them that you can keep on talking about the event, when they are ready.
Allow for grief and mourning: The Bible instructs us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Your child may be particularly sensitive to a situation. Maybe they hear that one of the children in Nashville was in the same grade as they are. They might identify with that child and express it with tears. Just hold them and cry with them. Ignoring our hurts is never a good idea.
Physically be near: Express your love and comfort physically. Let this be a time of closeness. Sit together, share lots of hugs, even junior high boys appreciate a side hug or some humorous pushing and shoving. Let them know you are there. Be the first face they see in the morning (maybe some sweet snuggles before they get out of bed) and the last one they see at night.
And finally, lead them to understand that they can and should take all their concerns to the Lord. Encourage lots of prayer and spiritual conversations with God. Prompt them a bit if you need to and be an example.
May the Lord bless you as you bless our little ones.