How I Explain Tragedy to My Children - Baby Chick
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How I Explain Tragedy to My Children

Finding the right words to explain tragedy to kids can be tough. Here's how one mom navigates through the news with her children.

Published July 29, 2016 Opinion

When there is another massive loss of life all over the news every few weeks, I often find myself stumbling to find the words to explain to my small children what a tragedy means. As an adult, it’s hard for even me to process and digest such blatant hatred and complete disregard for human life.

How do you tell a child about a mass shooting in a grocery store, a church, or an elementary school where innocent people, including children, have died? There is no “perfect” way to tell your little ones that the world is hurting and far from perfect. But if you’re like me and have a very tenderhearted and inquiring child, avoiding the subject just brings more questioning and curiosity.

Kids Want to Know Things

It makes sense that kids want to know more about the scary things that pop up on the news or that their friends are talking about at school because they, too, are connected to this world. They have a natural compassion for the people in it. I don’t want my child to lose their compassion and innocent love for people by avoiding this topic. So with a lot of conversation and debate with my husband, we decided that the next time our eldest son asked about the latest mass shooting or terrorist attack, we would do our very best to answer his questions in an age-appropriate way.

‘Why Are People Hurting Other People?’

After the Buffalo, N.Y., tragedy, we thought we would have some time to figure it all out and navigate these new uncharted waters of parenthood. Then, not even a few weeks later, there was a mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas. Again, the news reports were spilling in. Our 4-year-old asked the big question: “Why? Why are people hurting other people?” It’s so complex and confusing, and there is no clear answer, so with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I prayed for some grace as I attempted to explain the tragedies to my son.

We Do Our Best to Protect

“Baby boy, Mommy, and Daddy promise to do our very best to protect you, and we will always love you to the moon and back. But there are people in this world whose hearts are hurting so very badly that instead of praying about it or talking about it like we do when we get upset or scared, they decide to take that hurt and spread it to others. And now, because of their bad decisions, lots of people’s hearts are hurting.

“So you may see an ambulance, soldiers, or even police officers trying to help. You may see some upset people; you may even see them cry. This is because someone they love, whether they knew them or just know their story, is now in Heaven. One day, they won’t be so sad anymore. But until then, we can pray for the ones who are heartbroken and sad and those helping to make everything okay again. Just know that if you ever have questions or are scared, we love you and will do our best to answer clearly and honestly.”

I can only share my story and hope it is somewhat helpful if you’re looking for a way to approach this awful and gut-wrenching topic with your kids. I’m certainly no expert. I sincerely hope that we live in a world where this is no longer a conversation we need to have one day, but until that day, I intend to keep things truthful with my son. As best I can for his age and comprehension, of course.

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  • Author

Sarah Ring is a mother to two elementary-aged sons and one toddler daughter. She is passionate about travel, date nights, Southern manners & traditional children’s clothing, but above all, finding… Read more

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