Needs of Children in a Crisis:
Love – In times of crisis, whether individual or national, children need love – They need to know your love, not showering with gifts but physical love.
Assurance – They need to have assurance of their own safety, but avoid being overprotective so that they are afraid.
Conversation – Keep the lines of communication open. Use such things as selecting pictures in a book or drawing pictures to express feelings. Then talk about the pictures. Take the lead from the child as to how much they need to talk about and know about the situation. Keep answers to questions simple, giving only what is needed. Listen to comments of children as they play – are there clues here that need further conversation?
Expression of feelings – Use opportunities for children to express feelings, such as: toys, puppets, books, music, water play, play dough, painting, puzzles (creating order out of chaos). Let children know that you have some of the same feelings they have. Be honest about your feelings, but temper them with recognition that God loves even those who have harmed someone. God doesn’t like their actions, but God continues to love.
Prayer – Pray for those injured, those whose family members were injured or killed, those who are making decisions, and also those who planned and carried out any injustice. Keep prayers simple, simply talking to God. It’s ok to tell God about your feelings too. Children may want to write out prayers as if writing a letter to God. Let them even express anger to God. God is big enough to take our anger and still love.
God’s love – They need to know that God loves with a happy heart and with a sad heart. During a crisis God loves with a sad heart. We don’t understand why things happened. We don’t believe that God plans for bad things to happen. We will never understand why bad things happen, but we do know that God is sad, not only sad for those who are hurt or killed and their families, but also for those who did bad things. God wanted them to be happy people who loved others, but something went wrong.
God’s will – Older children can understand the concept of the three wills of God.
1. God’s Original Will – that we choose to live together peacefully, loving and caring for each other.
2. God’s Circumstantial Will – A part of that original will, however, is that we all have our own free will. We are free to choose things that will be helpful to others and things that will be hurtful to others. In these circumstances, some people chose to do things that were very hurtful to others.
3. God’s Ultimate Will – If we allow God to work through us, we can become stronger people because of the circumstances that did happen, and we will have a stronger faith (or relationship with God) because we have lived through this.
(Adapted from THE WILL OF GOD by Leslie Weatherhead.)
Really, Really Me – When talking about death with young children, play the game, “What’s the Really, Really Me?” In this, touch a part of the child’s body and say, “Is this the part of you that makes you cry when you are sad or makes you laugh when you are happy?” – Then do the same with other parts of the body. Finally say, “That’s the part that doesn’t die when the body dies. We sometimes call this our soul.”
Focus – Children need something aside from the crisis on which to focus their attention. This is a good time to carry out a mission project. Suggest some local mission they may participate in or one of following:
~ grow a garden and give food to others
~ supply a meal for someone, bake something for someone
~ adopt a room or flower bed at church to work on
~ plant a tree or care for yard of some older person
~ pray for a missionary. Get a calendar of birthdays, etc. from
GBOGM Service Center,
7820 Reading Rd,
Caller No. 1800,
or call 1-800-305-9857 Also may be ordered from www.cokesbury.com make a search for
“Missionary Prayer Calendar”. Cincinnati
~ read about missionaries http://new.gbgm-umc.org/work/missionaries/biographies/
~ support UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). Visit their web site www.gbgm-umc.org/UMCOR-Hotline or call 1-800-841-1235
Reality – Children may have trouble distinguishing between TV shows that blow up buildings and the factual news reports of an event. Yes, this really did happen. It is a sad time, but we will come through it with God’s help.
Stability – There is something about the routine schedule that makes it settling. This can be an anchor to help the child realize that life can and will go on. Continue with the routine.
Quiet times – In the confusion the crisis, children and adults alike need quiet times.
Some additional thoughts:
Two main questions they’re likely to have, whether they communicate those questions or not:
Will this happen to me or to someone I love? (We don’t expect it to. You are always loved and have a loving circle of family and friends.)
Why does God make/allow this to happen? (We don’t believe that God made this happen – see will of God above.)
A young child cannot understand “We just have to trust in God.” They trust in parents and parents protect them. Did a person who is hurt, or as in 9/11 the thousands who were killed not trust in God too?
If you remember any fears at time of Kennedy’s death or 9/11, share that you had fears then.
Realize that children may regress in their behavior to get our attention.
Prepared by Delia Halverson
915 Santa Anita Drive,