Praying for the Words to Say to Our Children

04 Aug Praying for the Words to Say to Our Children

As someone responsible for the care and safety of children, I am bewildered that we have to  once again address the issue of gun violence, shaken after waking to the news of  not one, but two mass shootings. The unfortunate reality is that we MUST provide context for parents and caregivers who are having to google “how to talk to children after a shooting.”  The best advice I can offer is to go back to the basics: breathe, hydrate, and pray. This pause for self care will re-orient us to respond thoughtfully to the fears borne out of senseless violence. It seems obvious to say that children are all different: like adults, some will be acutely aware of last night’s tragedy, while others are oblivious because of their personality or circumstances. We cannot safely assume they are silent because they don’t know, or because they aren’t worried or scared.  Children will pick up on our cues, and need the security of safe relationships and calm demeanors.

It is a challenge and a privilege to lean into our faith during these bewildering timesI will direct you to two of the prior posts that I have returned to again and again:  Processing Through the Lens of Faith and More Than Thoughts and Prayers.

Please let us know if we can provide additional resources or support. We don’t have answers to these horrific questions, but we can seek comfort together. Please know that we are praying for you, that God will alert you to signs that your children are struggling, that you will have the right words for any conversations that arise, and that you (and we) never again have cause to type these searches into our browser.

May God bless you and keep you and give you His Peace.

Jenny Cudahy, 

Director of Family Ministry and Communications

Below are some practical guidelines taken directly from “The Institute for Trauma and Stress at The NYU Child Study Center.”

  • Determine your child’s risk for problems.Those most at risk are children who have some personal experience with the tragedy; who may have been close to the area or have family or friends who have been hurt or killed, or who have had previous mental health problems.
  • Provide reassurance. Children will be affected by a parent’s mood and reaction. Calm parents encourage calm in their children. Parents can show children that they too are sad but should temper their own intense emotions.
  • Keep in mind that children’s reactions depend upon their age, personality and coping style. Some children want to talk about the details, some are quiet and concerned, some may show an increase in their activity level, and some may prefer to get along with business as usual.
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