How do we talk with our children about brutality, protest, and violence without leaving them afraid? Because media is everywhere, it exposes our children to news about scary things at younger ages than is likely appropriate. We cannot raise our children in a bubble safe from frightening truth about sin and danger in our world. Because our faith speaks to these issues, it is best to vaccinate our children rather than shelter them. When we vaccinate children in this way, we give them a small exposure with a helpful discussion giving them learning to use in future exposures to confusing information. Faith discussions will help our children see alarming situations through God's eyes and His will for us.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
We have the sure hope that Christ's death and resurrection have brought us into the safety of God's family. Because of this, we can persevere in the face of danger – our faith and our salvation are not at risk.
As parents, one thing for us to remember is that an unspoken truth is an untaught truth.
As difficult as these conversations are, if we do not indulge in them, we leave our children to find truth elsewhere. This result is not a chance we want to take. We can also remember that difficult topics begin as short conversations that grow with the child. We can concentrate on immediate concerns and address other issues in future discussions.
Below are some possible topics for conversation. Remember to ask for and listen to your children's concerns and address what is on their mind. Let their thoughts and questions be the guide.
Safety When children see violence on media, they can usually tell when it is fake and when it is real. They cannot always tell if the violence they see on a video clip could happen to them. Part of your reassurance is to fill in that information. If you are discussing the protests that turned violent, let them know if they are happening close or far away. Point out what actions keep people safe. Remind them that even when we see bad things in our world, we know that God created a good world and that He cares about the safety of His children.
Empathize Teaching empathy for a situation is not about making excuses for sinful behavior. Instead, it is about understanding another person's perspective. When children see people doing bad things, it is helpful to go beyond the action to discuss what may be the cause. If children see violence but only hear that violence is wrong without an explanation for why it happens, they might make a false leap of judgment and be concerned that this violence could happen to them. They are also worried about their own intense emotions. Talk about what led up to the violence, about what has made people afraid or angry. This can be done in a way that does not condone or promote violence. A good discussion about emotions will only positively serve your children as they learn to regulate their strong feelings. There are good Bible stories to share about how God kept people safe amid violence. Look at Joshua 2 and the story of Rahab and the spies, for example.
Read Check with your child's teacher or with your local library to find good books to read on segregation. Reading stories will help your child to see how the fear and anger build up over time. An excellent place to start is a picture book: The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Cole. Don't be afraid to cry when you read about what happened to Ruby Bridges and how she responded. I cry. Every. Time.
Positive While it is easy to focus on the negative, primarily when it floods social media, it is good to seek out the positive stories. Help your children to see what people are doing to make things better by repairing relationships and correcting past wrongs.
Pray Of course, we should pray for an end to violence, for the safety of our family, and to thank God for His protection. God instructs us to pray for our enemies, too. The protestors are certainly not our enemies (thinking that way is part of the problem), but the sin of violence is everyone's enemy. We can pray for God to help all of us when we are hurt or angry. We can pray for all people, law enforcement, and protestors, who are confused into violent actions.
I am collecting some tools for future posts on talking with children about issues concerning race. Just like talking with children about violence, learning about the sin of racism is not conducive to one or two big lessons. It is more effective to teach through many, many discussions over your child's lifetime. These discussions happen best in the light of faith. Talking about sin is never easy. When we face sin, when we understand our part in it, we find God's mercy.
This is a truth that needs to be endlessly spoken.
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. I Corinthians 14:33a