“Mom, did you hear about the earthquake? The news said thousands of people died.”
If you have not heard a variation of this question recently, you probably will soon.
As news of this devastating earthquake continues to flood all forms of media, it is likely that your children or those you serve will hear about it and turn to you for help, advice and processing.
This can be a deer-in-the-headlights moment for adults because we often feel just as lost and confused in these moments.
Here are some ideas on how you can enter into a conversation that both assuages fear and helps them turn to God in times of confusion, doubt and sadness:
1. Ask a few questions of your own.
In our zeal to answer questions or in fear of not answering well, we start talking in the hope that we make some sense to them.
But sometimes it’s better to start slow and get more information about exactly where your kids are at before just barging ahead.
Some examples would be, “Yes, I’ve heard. Where did you hear it?” or “How are you feeling about that?” or “Do you have any questions for me about that?”
It is possible that you’ll find they just want a hug and reminder that you and God love them. But other times, they may have deeper questions.
Overloading children with information or explanations could be harder on them if they aren’t ready to handle it yet.
2. Be “all there” when you have the conversation.
If your child is bringing up this topic with you, something about it caught their attention.
They might be afraid of the same thing happening here. They might be questioning how God could let it happen. They might just be curious to see how you react.
Regardless, they came to you. It’s worth putting down your phone, turning off the radio or TV, delaying the chores and giving them your undivided attention. It will mean more to them to have you than any answer you could give.
3. If possible, let them act.
Kids are doers. When they hear about something like this, they will naturally want to do something about it.
A few years ago, when a tornado ripped through the town of Moore, Oklahoma, my girls heard the story on the radio, asked a lot of the questions we’ve discussed, and ended up deciding to spearhead a toy drive for the kids in that state.
With some help from mom and a great church body, they were able to send a ton of toys to a church in Oklahoma to hand out to kids who’d lost all of theirs.
Through that action, they were able to experience just a little bit of what it is to be the hands and feet of Christ on earth.
Over the next few weeks, a number of relief opportunities will likely be made available – consider giving your kids some options to “be the church” to Nepal.
4. Pray with them.
Of utmost importance, before the conversation ends, help them remember that we serve a God who invites us “to come before his throne with confidence to find grace to help us in our time of need” (see Hebrews 4:16).
Invite them to join you in praying together for the people of Nepal and those who are going to help.
And never forget to thank God for the blessings you have, especially the one you are praying with in that moment.
As your kids grow, the questions will become tougher, but the best thing you can do is establish the open door with them to come to you.
By taking time to engage them and pray with them, you set a precedent, both at home and in ministry, that you are a safe place to go in times of fear and doubt.
Christina Embree is director of children and family ministries at Nicholasville United Methodist Church near Lexington, Kentucky. A version of this article first appeared on her website, Refocus Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @EmbreeChristina.
Christina Embree is a church planter with Plowshares Brethren in Christ in Lexington, Kentucky. She is a graduate of Wesley Seminary with a Master of Arts degree in ministry focusing on family, youth and children’s ministry.