How can I explain senseless violence to my child?!
It’s too heartbreaking to imagine the grief those parents are facing. The evil is just too terrible, but my daughter looks to me for answers for her questions. And for comfort in an uncertain world. I want to give her the best answers to face such darkness.
I’ve listened to the emotional struggle of my friends with children of all ages over how to explain senseless violence in the wake of yet another terribly tragic school shooting.
Because we don’t want to.
We don’t want to shatter their bubble of innocence and security with the truth of living in a volatile and violent world that scares the poop out of us all too often. We don’t want to initiate them into the reality of a world where terrible things happen to wonderful people.
However, the world is going to give them answers. Whether from watching the news, seeing something on the internet, hearing kids on the bus talking, or a preparedness drill at school, we cannot keep our children in the dark about the darkness in this world. And I want my child to get her answers from me. Because I want to give her answers based on the Light.
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Yet, I do struggle with how in the world do I look into the face of my precious seven-year-old daughter, who still believes the princesses she met at Disney World were real princesses, that evil is more real than a thousand wondrous and magical things she joyfully believes, or explain senseless violence happens everyday??
It’s hard because, frankly, we adults don’t have many answers either.
Since the recent, horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida, I’ve seen hundreds of articles and a thousand opinions on gun control, mental health issues, and the second amendment. It’s almost not worth reading them, because they simply rehash the same arguments over and over ad nauseam.
We race to tout these solutions because we feel powerless in the face of senseless violence.
In fact, I’ve only seen one solution that actually was new and sounds like a great middle ground.
But that is another discussion.
The question I want to address is what in heaven’s name do we tell our children to explain senseless violence like school shootings?
First, it’s okay not to know what to say. It’s okay to be real about being sad. Praying with your children over scary things is a great way to go to the Father for peace and the right words for your children.
Secondly, our answers should be consistent with our children’s intellectual and emotional development. They aren’t looking for in-depth commentary. They are looking to reclaim a sense of security.
It’s always a good idea to only answer their actual questions. I don’t want to inadvertently give her more reasons to worry because I didn’t address what she actually asked.
For example, when my daughter asked where do babies come from when she was three, she wasn’t looking for “the talk.” I answered inside their mommy’s tummy, and she was satisfied with that answer.
With something as serious as school shootings, keeping it simple and to the point makes sure we don’t make it worse.
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For the littlest ones, a simple answer is plenty.
People sometimes do bad things. We don’t know why, but we know God loves us and that he won’t let anything happen to us that is not in His plan. And Mommy and Daddy will always do our best to keep you safe.
Giving children a plan in case of emergency might also empower them. Teach them to call 9-1-1, their name, address, phone number, how to get out in case of a fire.
Having a plan helps us all cope with things we really can’t control.
But my daughter wasn’t satisfied this time with just a simple answer when we saw the story on the news. She just couldn’t understand why someone would do this.
I tried to keep it simple and yet address her questions in a way that will continue to comfort her as she matures, living in a fallen world. Below is basically my answers to her questions about the school shooting.
When God created people, He gave everyone free will. He didn’t just give some people free will. He gave all of us free will. And, in order for it to be free, He couldn’t limit it. We had to have absolute freedom to choose to follow Him or our sinful nature.
However, absolute free will comes with a cost.
People choose to sin ALL. THE. TIME. We choose selfishness over selflessness time and time again. We choose our way over God’s.
Most of us choose our own way when we do little selfish things like choosing the bigger slice of cake, but sometimes people have chosen selfish things for so long that their hearts don’t work the way they should.
They stopped caring about other people and even really about themselves. When people are that full of selfishness and hurt, they can do terrible things.
But our God doesn’t let evil win. That is why He sent Jesus to heal our hearts and forgive our sins. When we are saved, we don’t have to be scared because we’re already sealed in His book of life and going to heaven when we die.
Honestly, answering her helped remind me that we don’t need to be afraid.
Yet, I am glad I didn’t have to wake up the next day and put her on a school bus. But I know many of you did. You had to send your kid to school in the aftermath. You held your breath all day while reports of kids calling in copycat threats spread across social media.
I’ll be honest, we attended a worship service at church last night, and for a moment, I realized how vulnerable we all were in a highly publicized event, in a difficult neighborhood. I had to stop myself from going down the fear rabbit hole.
So here is the answer I give myself to explain senseless violence I see everyday around me.
I know that God is good and loves me. He never allows pain and suffering in my life without purpose and can use everything for my good, Romans 8:28. God’s purpose is to bring as many to salvation as possible. I know this from 2 Peter 3:9. Anything He does or allows is to that purpose. I don’t have to live in fear. I know the Holy Spirit will fill me with His presence if I am ever faced with these kinds of moments and will give me peace and courage.
Psalm 56:3-4 ESV When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?
Joshua 1:9 ESV Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Romans 8:38-39 ESV For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These are just a few verses on fear that I cling to when I’m anxious. If your children are old enough, copy them together. Meditate on them, pray them. I believe God responds mightily when we pray His word.
Opening the door for my daughter to ask tough questions builds our relationship and her faith. I get to pour into her God’s wisdom over the world’s fear, often reassuring myself in the meantime.
I hope you find the same to be true for your family.