Helping Kids Deal With Tragedy

At Divorce Ministry 4 Kids, our mission is to help kids and families in crisis.  Specifically, we deal with the impacts of divorce on children and the grief process that kids go through after the divorce of their parents.  However, the events of December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut have prompted us to step outside of our normal ministry and offer the following resources on helping kids deal with tragic events like those which unfolded in our nation yesterday.  Those of us who work in children’s ministry and in ministry to children of divorce need to be prepared to answer hard questions from kids and parents about the events these kids are seeing in the news and hearing about from their friends.  We hope that the following resources will help.  I am deeply indebted to many people who wrote these articles and brought them to my attention. 

School Shooting in Newton School: Advice for Parents by Linda Ranson Jacobs

Linda is the developer of Divorce Care 4 Kids, a contributor here at Divorce Ministry 4 Kids, a mother, a grandmother and a former daycare owner.  This is one of the best resources I have seen today, or any other time, in terms of helping kids to understand and cope with today’s events including:

    1. Don’t let your children see you fret.
    2. Turn of the TV.
    3. Don’t talk to other adults about it in front of your kids.
    4. Try to keep yourself calm.
    5. Ask your child what they know.
    6. Tell the truth.
    7. Ask your kids to pray with you for the families affected.
    8. Reassure your kids that they are safe right now.
    9. Talk to them about listening to their teachers.

Check out the whole article for more detailed ideas.

Responding to the Tragedy in Connecticut from KidzMatter

My understanding is that this article addressed to children’s ministry leader was crafted by Tina Houser for the the KidzMatter team.  KidzMatter is the publisher of K! Magazine.  The article offers 10 things you can do to help the kids in your ministry this weekend including:

    1. Listen
    2. Pray
    3. Talk in small groups
    4. Allow them to be sad, or mad or angry
    5. Be truthful.  Don’t pretend to have all the answers.
    6. Give short answers
    7. Don’t displace your reactions on the children.
    8. Assure them that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe.
    9. Watch for children who display extreme anxiety over this incident.
    10. Remind them that this was NOT from God.

Make sure to check out the full article for additional tips and advice.

Kidology Discussion Forum

Karl Bastian started a forum on Kidology this afternoon to allow for discussion of this important topic.  Many of the resources listed here are also included in that forum.  The forum also includes discussion and reactions from a variety of children’s ministers trying to process these events for themselves and for their kids.

Helping Children Deal With Tragedy by Dr. Scott Turansky

This article from provides a Christian perspective on helping kids deal with tragedy.  Check out the whole article for detailed suggestions, but the following is a summary of Dr. Turansky’s advice:

    1. Be sensitive to the child’s emotions.
    2. Validate feelings.
    3. Remember that trials provide opportunities to grow.
    4. Continue regular routines.
    5. Limit TV viewing.
    6. Be sensitive to developmental stages and the child’s unique personality.
    7. Model right thinking with your children.
    8. Look for proactive ways to be involved in the solution.

The article also includes specific advice on helping kids deal with fear, anger and sadness.

Do You Wonder Why? Crisis Booklet

From Child Evangelism Fellowship, this booklet is:

Designed to help children troubled by natural disasters, national crises and personal problems, the Do You Wonder Why? booklet helps children understand the effects of sin, the depths of God’s love and how they can know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and friend.

Tragic Events in the News by the Fred Rogers Company

Before his death, Mr. Rogers (yes that Mr. Rogers) wrote a book on parenting.  This information was excerpted from that book on how to help kids deal with tragic events they see in the news.  Among the suggestions include:

    • Keep the TV off
    • Keep yourself calm
    • Give extra comfort and affection
    • Keep regular routines
    • Plan something to do together
    • Ask kids what they think happened
    • Focus attention on those who helped like policemen and firefighters
    • Let your child know if you are doing something to help out

Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting from the American Psychological Association

This article offers specific instructions on helping children deal with a shooting rampage.  It offers guidance including:

    • Talk to your children
    • Keep your home a safe place
    • Watch for signs of stress, fear and anxiety
    • Take “news breaks”
    • Take care of yourself

How To Talk To Kids About Tragedy by Mark Harper

Mark Harper offers age specific advice for parents on helping kids under 7 years old, 7 – 12 years old, and 13-18 years old.  In addition he offers his advice on answering three of the most frequent questions you might get.  He offers the following advice to those of us who work with kids in church (check out the whole article for more detail):

    • Ask Questions
    • Quote Scriptures
    • Pray
    • Keep the Classroom Routines
    • Be Available

5 Tips on Talking to Kids About Scary News by Sasha Emmons

This article from offers five tips to parents for explaining to kids about scary events like those in Newtown, CT based on a conversation with Dr. Paul Coleman.  Advice includes:

    1. Wait until they’re older (7 and up)
    2. Keep it black and white
    3. Ask questions
    4. Legitimize feelings
    5. Use it as a teaching moment

The full article offers more insight into each suggestion.

Talking to Kids About Scary News Stories by Dr. Paul Coleman

In this article on Nickelodeon’s Parents Connect site, Dr. Coleman offers the following advice:

    • Understand the benefits of talking to your children about scary things
    • Search for hidden concerns
    • Offer strong reassurances wherever possible
    • Involve your child in normal, routine activities
    • Remind them of the essentials
    • Be willing to have more talks later on

Additional Resources