Helping Kids Process Traumatic Events

Living in an information saturated world means we often get bombarded with news events. I recall crying when I read the news on Sandy Hook and feeling sick to my stomach over the events in Paris. And now, the latest terrorism in Orlando leaves us all stunned—CNN is calling it the “deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.”

How do we respond to such events? And, how do we help our children process difficult news when we struggle to make sense of it ourselves?

  • Be careful of media exposure—Whenever possible, avoid letting children under 5 view any traumatic news. Many psychologists also suggest that children between the age of 6–11 should have limited exposure (See CNN’s article “How to talk to kids about tragic events” and Mayo Clinic’s “How might my child react?”).
  • Remain available to listen when your children need to express their emotions or verbally process events—Make sure they know that it’s okay to grieve evil things in the world. The prophets in the Old Testament often lamented. Jesus wept when Lazarus died (John 11:35). Paul encourages believers to “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15).
  • Keep your thoughts and actions in check—Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability, but to do model right thinking and behavior. Be careful not to let negative attitudes, worry, or panic prevail. We serve a sovereign God who will triumph over evil.
  • Turn to the Psalms—Take comfort in words from the book of Psalms expressing God’s power and strength. One especially encouraging one is Psalm 46.
  • Pray with your family—Express whatever is on your heart and the heart of your family members.
  • Look for proactive ways to get involved—In the case of the Orlando shooting, this might mean donating blood, donating to Red Cross, using social media in a positive way, or attending a vigil (see Relevant Magazine’s article “How You Can Help Orlando”).

Sarah is the author of Bathsheba’s Responsibility in Light of Narrative Analysis, contributor to Vindicating the Vixens, and contributing editor for The Evangelism Study Bible. Some of her previous ministry experiences have included teaching and mentoring of adults and children in a wide variety of settings. Her small claim to fame is that she has worked with children of every age range from birth through high school over the past 20 years. She and her husband Ben reside in Richardson, Texas with their four children.