Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

ID-100155111-3Today, American children are exposed to stress at much earlier ages. Because of technology and the media, visual images of disaster, war and criminal activity can be seen daily in households. Parents have to discuss what to do in case of a school shooting, how to handle a bully that may come after you with a weapon, what to do if your friend becomes suicidal or is slowly killing herself with an eating disorder. Children and teens are growing up in stressful times and worry. They may lose sleep, complain of headaches, stomach aches, become irritable, withdraw and want to stay home, have changes in appetite or even fear going to school. They need our help to deal with the stresses of our day.

Of course, the way you help depends on their developmental age. Preschoolers are typically unaware of the violence and trauma of the world. They should be sheltered from news reports and global terror. They can’t make sense of it and need to feel secure. Younger children need reassurance. Not reassurance that everything will be fine because that may not be true. But reassurance that you, as a parent, are doing everything you can to protect her. Remember, younger kids often confuse reality with fantasy.

Older children need a chance to share their feelings about world events. Allow them to talk about their views and insecurities, again providing reassurance. These are teachable moments in which you incorporate faith and values to our responses to stress and anxiety. Talk about the bad actions of people, versus bad people. Explain how our choices impact others.

Help teens critically think, integrating biblical principals into the discussion. For example, “If there was a bully in your school who pushed you around and kept taunting you, then began to push and shove you on a regular basis, what would you do? Would you turn the other cheek like Jesus talks about in Matthew or would you defend yourself and put a stop to the behavior like David did with Goliath?” Let your teen struggle with that question. Search the scriptures for answers. Talk about the importance of always seeking the mind of Christ and being led by His Spirit.

And of course, the most important thing you can do is pray with and for your children. Memorize scripture. Our family is working on Psalm 91 right now. It makes for great discussion while placing the Word of God in our hearts. Involve your children in prayer for those they may know directly involved in defending our freedom and for innocent people who are victims of trauma and terror. Remind your children that God is always in control. Nothing happens away from His watchful eye. We will call upon the Lord, and He will help us in times of trouble.

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