Monthly Archives: December 2015

Broaching the Subject of Terrorism with Children

With all that has been going on in the world recently, I’ve wondered more and more when and how much I should share with my children about upsetting world events such as terrorist attacks. My husband and I have had sort of an unspoken rule about not having the news on in our house unless our children are asleep. We simply feel there are way too many scary and inappropriate things they may see at their young and vulnerable age. However, following the recent terror attacks in France, I felt that we should include the victims in our prayers. So, I began to ponder how to handle speaking to them about such a delicate subject. Since I felt unsure, I decided to do some research.

What I read only reinforced what I had already felt about watching the news in front of my children.  Research has actually shown that watching media coverage of these types of events, especially repeated viewing, can indeed create stress for children, even when they are not directly exposed to the disaster in their own lives. In fact, “…if children are over-exposed to footage or images from the events, we know that vicarious trauma can sometimes occur. This happens when we hear or see images from a particular traumatic event, and have a reaction comparable to that of someone who actually experienced the trauma firsthand” (Young, 2015).

Although this confirmed my feelings about viewing the news with them present, I also realized that I am not able to completely shield them from any and all exposure to these sorts of horrific events, especially now that they are entering school.  So, I began to read further and came across some tips for parents that I found helpful…

  • We should consider our own emotional responses. It’s important to stay calm when speaking to our children. Children look to us as their role models. Therefore, if we show sadness as a reaction to these events, they too, will likely show sadness. If we show anxiety, they will likely feel anxious. If they see us respond in prayer, they will likely respond by praying as well.
  • We need to be mindful of our children’s individual personalities and temperaments. Some children are more prone to feeling fearful, while others may not pay much attention. Knowing how our children behave when feeling scared can help us to better respond to their emotional needs.  We should listen to and validate their emotions. It’s important to answer questions honestly and keep the communication lines open.
  • Encouraging them to express their emotions in healthy ways is also critical.
  • If we highlight the ways in which love is being shown as a result of the tragedy, it can bring some positive out of something otherwise horrific. I found this tip to be particularly helpful and one I don’t think I would have necessarily thought of on my own. To me, pointing out the kind deeds and acts of bravery that can often be found in the midst of these times of profound heartache is a wonderful way to remind children of God’s unfailing love!
  • We should reassure children that there are people working to keep us safe.
  • Finally, the most important tip I read was to reassure children that God is in control. As Christians, we believe in a sovereign God who is not surprised by the events that occur around us. Therefore, we have a responsibility to teach this to our children, reminding them that peace can be found in the knowledge that God is in control. No matter what happens, they can ultimately have hope through Jesus Christ.

In the end, I decided to keep my statements about the tragedy in France completely truthful, yet brief. I simply said that some bad people had hurt a lot of people in France and that we needed to pray for them and their families. I was stunned by my eldest son’s reply. He asked, “Do you mean like the bad men who knocked the buildings down?” Of course, he was referring to the 9-11 attacks. Despite the fact that we have not recently spoken about or watched any coverage of the attacks in front of him, he immediately remembered the little we had told him about that day when we were at a memorial about a year ago. I was amazed that he instantly made that connection even though I had been so vague in my statement about what had happened in France. It reminded me of how much children pay attention to everything they hear and see and how much gets soaked into their precious little brains and hearts.  Therefore, I’ve decided I want to imprint on their hearts something I often have to remind myself when faced with these heartbreaking and scary situations. It comes from the book of Philippians:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:6-13, NLT)

Christian Today. (2015) Talking to children about terrorism.  Retrieved from: (http://www.christiantoday.com.au/article/talking.to.children.about.terrorism/20747.htm)

Scripture Union. (n.d.) Talking with your children about…war and terrorism. Retrieved from: http://www.scriptureunion.org.uk/Families/Parents/Talkingabout/WarandTerrorism/1210.id

Missing Out on Christmas

I have missed quite a few Christmases in my time. I made the Christmas cookies, bought and wrapped the presents, listened to countless Christmas songs, went to church on Christmas Eve, and ate the traditional meal…but when December 26 arrived, I realized with regret I missed Christmas altogether. I wasn’t really “there.” I was not truly present to experience, appreciate, and reflect on what really matters. I have pondered the why of this phenomenon and trust there is something of value in what I have discovered to make it worth sharing with you.

I first realized my “Christmas Rut” about 10 years ago. Thankfully, God brought it to my attention before the season began that year. The Christmas story felt old, I’m sad to say. The Scriptures sounded mundane. The traditions were routine. Nothing felt special anymore. So I stopped to reflect and ask God to not let me miss out on Christmas. I asked Him to let me see something – anything – special and new about Christmas. You know the answer, right? He did….and He continues to do so every year when I remember to stop and ask Him for that special gift.

As I write this blog, the Christmas season has just begun, and already I feel under attack. It’s no wonder we miss the true joy of Christmas with the tyranny of planning, shopping, wrapping, decorating, eating, and greeting. My mind is already consumed with whether I’ve eaten too many unhealthy foods and if I will be stretching the budget with my gift plans. It was in the midst of that frustration that God yet again got my attention and reminded me that I had not yet stopped to ask Him for “the gift” this year.

Here are two practices that help me overcome my “Christmas Rut.” Perhaps they will lead you to consider a unique strategy for your own life.

First, I try to to take each Christmas activity and do it with an awareness of God’s Presence and Joy. This holy Season was not meant to be busy, complex, or stressful – so why do we often make it that way? We need to be intentional about choosing to recognize God’s Presence rather than choosing to worry or allow stress to dim the joy God intends us to have.

So, I still bake cookies, but I make them with my daughter to give her fun memories and with the intent to bless someone else. I still decorate at home, but I have made peace with the fact that I’ll never approach the quality of what I see in magazines. Instead, I look at the decorations, enjoy their beauty, and refuse to be frustrated that my daughter is so enamored with them that they never stay in their carefully selected places. I still attend church, but I attend more prayerfully, inviting God to touch my heart with some aspect of the Christmas story that I’ve never thought about before.

Second, I strive to pay attention to the simple story of Christmas and what it means for my life today. The message of Christmas is simple….so simple we hardly even pay attention to it. In my favorite movie, the main character struggles to keep her family business afloat in the midst of fierce completion. The advice she gets from a friend is to tell herself every day, “It’s not personal, it’s business,” and to keep saying that until she has the courage to fight her enemy. In the end she realizes that it was actually very personal to her. She says, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”

My friends: This is personal. Christmas is personal. It‘s not business, it’s personal. It is a private gift exchange between you and the God of the universe. It’s about you – your incredible need for a Savior and the shocking reality that your need has been met in the most generous way possible. May you look at the message with new eyes and an open, uncluttered heart this year.

“On that day you will say, ‘Praise the Lord! He was angry with me, but now he comforts me.  See, God has come to save me! I will trust and not be afraid, for the Lord is my strength and song; he is my salvation. Oh, the joy of drinking deeply from the Fountain of Salvation!’” Isaiah 12:1-3

The Need for Family Meal Time

Unfortunately, in today’s hectic world, it can often be challenging to gather the whole family around the table for a meal everyday. However, research has repeatedly shown that doing so is incredibly beneficial to the growth and well-being of children. In fact, family meals have even been shown to reduce the risk of substance abuse by teens. In 2000, the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University conducted extensive research on this issue. They found that when compared with teens who had dinner with their families at least five nights a week, those who had family dinners only two nights a week or less, were twice as likely to be involved in substance abuse. They were 2.5 times as likely to drink alcohol and almost three times as likely to try marijuana.

In addition, sharing a meal as a family on a regular basis fosters bonding between family members. For many families, dinner time is one of the few opportunities throughout the day when everyone can talk together. Therefore, providing parents and children the opportunity to share the good and bad parts of their day with each other only serves to tighten the family unit. Furthermore, it has been found that establishing this family “routine” provides a sense of stability and security for kids. When children know that being with them is a priority to their parents, they feel valued and loved.

Finally, research has also shown that children are more likely to receive better nutrition when eating dinner regularly with their families, eating nutritionally balanced meals, lower in fat and sugar, than if they are left to prepare or purchase meals on their own. Therefore, it’s been found that children who regularly eat with their families are less likely to be overweight or obese.

I will admit that as a busy mom, there have been nights when I’ve felt so overwhelmed by my tasks that I’ve been tempted to rush through my dinner. However, this research has reminded me of just how precious these family meals with my children are and just how quickly they are growing. “Children are a gift from the LORD ; they are a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3) Therefore, I believe that it’s critical they are treated that way, cherishing and nurturing them as best as we possibly can.

References:

Hagelin, Rebecca. (2009, July 09). The Importance of Family Meals. Crosswalk.com. Retrieved from: http://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/the-importance-of-family-meals-11605762.html

Munoz, Nicole. (2009, September 14). The Importance of Family Meal Time. Christian Parent.com. Retrieved from: http://www.christian-parent.com/the-importance-of-family-mealtime/