The news, which is rarely positive, is filled with sadness and tragedy this week. Although we know that each day there is war, famine, disease, violence, and injustice in our world, sometimes it seems the headlines just scream louder. As Christians, we are asked to “to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with God.” Micah 6:8. As parents of children, some very young, how do we respond faithfully to current events? How do we “do justice?” What do we do when our children hear of things we weren’t ready for them to know?
Discuss: Approach your child at their level. Start by asking them what they have heard and what they are feeling. This guide from the American Academy of Pediatrics is helpful for framing discussions with children of all ages. I also recommend Good People Everywhere, by Lynea Gillen, as a must-have picture book to comfort and inspire kids 8 and under.
Pray: Communicating with God is an essential practice for growing in faith. Our children are comforted when we pray with them. Pray the words of your heart, even if it is a simple, “please help the people of…..” If you would like some example prayers, I have numerous books to lend. One prayer that spoke to me this week was a prayer for peace:
I pray for peace in myself, in my family, in my community, in my country and in all the world. I pray that no one will hate, that no one will kill, that all will forgive and live in love.
This is from Marian Wright Edelman’s beautiful book of prayers, I Am Your Child God.
Older kids can “Pray the Headlines” in this activity.
Find comfort with the Butterfly and Snuggled Under God’s wings prayers from author Traci Smith.
Act: The UMC Ministry with Children Blog has a number of ideas for engaging in acts of justice, mercy, devotion and worship. Even children too young to write a letter can engage in acts of justice through drawing their visions of peace, love, food and safety for all people. Post the drawings in a window or use chalk on the sidewalk to share the message publicly. If you are donating money to relief, discuss this with your child and give them and opportunity to contribute. UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) is a top-rated charity which accepts monetary donations and gifts of relief kits that can be assembled by young children. Find directions, here. I can assist local people with getting kits to UMCOR.
Creation is also an action. My friend, Hanna Brown Schock, offers a picture book to that shares a message of Beauty in Response to Violence. I find painting small cardboard signs a quiet activity that helps me process all that has gone on.
Repeat and Connect: Continue the conversation about living and acting as a follower of Jesus in the world. Share your ideas for action with your faith community and work as a team to create even bigger acts of justice and mercy. Love your neighbors near and far. Love God. Keep praying. Always.
This is not even close to an exhaustive list; if you find other great resources for parents, please share them in the comments.