Hard things happen in the world every day. So often, as parents, we prefer to simply keep our children ignorant of these hardships in the name of “childhood innocence.” But, whether you choose to intentionally engage in talk about hard things or not, you are still shaping their worldview. Do we want them to simply ignore hard things? Or do we want to teach them how to have a biblical response? In choosing to not discuss world events with our children, we miss an opportunity to inform the way they interpret God’s world.
It is our job, as Christian parents, to help our children filter current events through God’s lense, through a biblical worldview. There are events that may feel too heavy to discuss with young children, but with wise discernment, we can still choose to talk to them in a way that encourages their faith. And when we choose to discuss current world events or difficult personal circumstances with them within a biblical worldview, it will:
- Inspire and feed their faith in God.
- Create hearts of compassion and encourage them that their prayers matter.
- Provide them a tangible way to get involved with God, and
- Enlarge their worldview to trust God when they see how other believers respond to trials.
Choosing to Engage your Children Takes Discernment
Learning how to engage your children in age-appropriate ways takes discernment. It can feel daunting but don’t let that stop you from taking a step in the right direction. It may be uncomfortable. It may be messy. There may be tears. You may overshare. Your children may seem disinterested. Here are some tips to help you wade through these conversations for the purpose of education and leading to a family prayer time:
- Make sure you are prepared emotionally. While you shouldn’t be afraid of your children seeing your emotions, you do want to have processed the event a little yourself first to make sure your emotions are at an appropriate level for your children’s ages and you are able to help them interpret events in a biblical way. If you are furious or devastated, wait to have the conversation until you can have a biblical discussion with them.
- Use words and context that you have already heard them use in their play: “bad guys vs good guys” would be appropriate words for preschool through young elementary ages. Put what is happening into a context they can understand: ie “people that go to church there are scared of the bad guys.” With older children, if they have already learned some basics of other ideologies involved in the events, you could choose to mention specifics as an example of differences in what Christians believe. But do not use this as an opportunity to teach them about other faiths or ideologies for the first time! Based on the children’s knowledge of the Bible, point them back to what the Word of God says. For example, children can be reminded of the persecution of Christians in the book of Acts (ie Chpts 6-9 and more) and how God used that to spread His Word.
- Less is often more. You don’t need to go into who is at fault or the causes that lead to these difficult circumstances. Give them just enough information to help them pray. You don’t have to be the expert, understand all the issues involved, or how to solve it. Keep it simple and lead them to pray. They don’t need to know many details, unless they have already heard details, you likely don’t need to name names or give vivid details.
- Be careful of your own prejudices. We all have preconceived ideas about people and places. If we want our children to filter world events through the Bible, then we need to as well! Whether or not you agree, now is not the time to discuss political alliances, or distrust of certain peoples/nations. Are the words you are using uplifting to God? If you use this time to encourage a certain agenda, you risk distracting your children from the purpose of prayer.
- Remember, the purpose is to help them process hard things in light of the Gospel and grow their faith in God. Pay attention to the focus of your conversation, if it starts shifting too much to history, pointing fingers, and wanting to know details, direct the conversation back towards what your family can do: pray!
- Pray using Scripture when possible. The Psalms is a great place to guide and direct your prayers. If you are unfamiliar with how to do this, I recommend this short book to learn how: Praying the Word of God by Donald Whitney.
- End in praise and worship. While hard for us who have never experienced hardship to understand, joining our brothers and sisters from around the world in praise to Jesus, who paid the price and endured the cross and shame, is one of the best things we can do! Acts 16 tells of the time when Paul and Silas were imprisoned for their faith: what were they doing? Praying and praising! Don’t leave out this step, for it reminds us all that God is on the throne, worthy of our lives, and cares for our hurts and trials. Turn your hearts back to Him!
Remember, the purpose of doing this is to form their worldview, educate them, and pray together! Taking the time to do this with your children will deepen their faith and grow their image of God. We do not know exactly the events that they will encounter as they grow up, but we can provide a framework which will guide their responses. Here are some specific world events and circumstances that you may decide to discuss with your children:
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