Chapter 2 – How to Talk to Your Kids About Death and Tragedy
This is a topic no one ever wants to talk about with their kids. However, it is a reality of life and we do a disservice to our kids when we try so hard to shield them from the reality of life. In her book For the Love, Jen Hatmaker says: “A good parent prepares the child for the path, not the path for the child.”
As we said in the previous chapter, it is our privilege as parents to be the primary spiritual caregiver for our children. We all know that God is good but not every experience we have is. That is why we walk in faith and are constantly reminding ourselves of Romans 8:28: “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him.” It is important for a generation that has been taught that life is all pillows and marshmallows to learn that it is not and sometimes there are shells in our egg salad.
Brian Dollar makes some very great points in this chapter. The first I believe is where he talks about grieving and making sure we do so in a way that is healing, not one that produces resentment. Resentment is a powerful emotion the enemy uses to keep us in a corner, we don’t even realize we are there. Resentment quickly grows like a weed to blame, frustration and excuses for our anger this is not a healthy way of grieving to teach our kids. Yes, when someone passes away or tragedy happens in our lives, it hurts, there is no doubt about that and it shouldn’t be treated as no big deal. We all know emotions, we experience them often, if you are a woman you can experience them all in one day. Kids experience emotions just like adults do, however they can’t often put them into words to explain what is going on in their minds.
The second valuable point I walked away with from this chapter was to not devalue small events. That can hurt our kids. It may not be a big deal to you because you have a different big picture view, but in their world it is a big deal. If we minimize so much that they have to mask their hurt, then when a big tragedy does happen they will not feel they can come to mom and dad to talk about it. That is devastating. It can be overcome if it has happened, so don’t feel defeated.
Similarly when you brought your new born home, you paid very close attention to your baby to learn their cries and needs. We need to do the same with older children. This can help us help them better. Just because they can talk doesn’t mean they can always communicate.
We have been in full-time children’s ministry for seven years now. That does not make us experts by any stretch of the imagination ,however, if there is one thing we have learned, it is this: kids are literal! They don’t read between the lines or understand sarcasm at all, ever! What you say to them they take as fact, they trust and believe everything you say. It can be a stumble in their road when we try so hard to protect them that we don’t tell them the actual truth. We must guard details according to their age, but be truthful. Those moments of truth will lead to questions, questions you may need to search for the answer together ,and guess what? You will grow closer from searching together.
I remember being 7 or 8 years old and a little girl that I went to church with, she was a few years younger than I was, she had been hit by a car. I played with her, went to church with her, I saw her on a weekly basis. We weren’t the best of friends, but I noticed when she wasn’t around. She was in the hospital for a long time before she passed away. As a kid I could feel a heaviness for that season she was in the hospital. I didn’t know what I was feeling or what was going on but I knew something was different.
My parents told me what had happened to her and where she was. They never told me the details of the accident or showed me pictures, but when they told me then I could understand the situation that was going on around me. There was a point where her parents broke and prayed that God’s will would be done–whatever that meant. They were ready for a physical healing for their little girl or a heavenly healing. There was not a dry eye in the room and there was a silence that blanketed everything…one that was solemn of people believing and walking in faith. Again, my parents explained what her parents prayed. I definitely didn’t understand what they were talking about and the heaviness of that moment until years later. What I did know was exactly what I needed to for my age and maturity level. I prayed for her, which helped me understand what was going on around me.
In conclusion, tragedy and death are not fun topics but they are important. They are topics we need to talk to our kids about open and honestly. They understand more than we think at times. Pray that God will lead you in the right words to explain these difficult discussions with your kids.
How old were you when you experienced your first tragedy? (You don’t have to share details, let’s just see how old you were.)
I was 6 when my great uncle passed away. I liked him a lot but didn’t understand what that meant until I was a little bit older.