When difficult things happen, one of the first questions we tend to ask is, “What now?” It can be difficult to know how to start processing and what to do next. We’ve identified a few helpful tips as you and your family process difficult times together.
When it comes to talking about something sensitive or scary, go to God with it first before you begin a conversation with your student. Ask him for wisdom on how to approach the topic, how much you should share from your own perspective, and to give you the right words to say. And don’t be afraid to double down - when you’re IN the conversation, keep asking God for all of those things, too!
As the parent, leader, or guardian of students you have the ability to help them learn how many voices speak into their hearts and minds regarding a difficult subject and how much time they’ll spend on it. You can help them learn to do this for themselves over time by using the language of “turning up” and “turning down” the volume of these things.
Areas to Turn Up the Volume:
- Talk about world events in age-appropriate language.
- Monitor their media / news exposure and filter what they see. We suggest these news outlets:
- Subscription to Christian Current Events: WORLDkids, WORLDteen, or WORLD watch - 10 minute videos for students
- 1440 Daily Digest is NOT a Christian resource, but it is a neutral, fact based, bipartisan news source for adults and older teens. It can be delivered directly to your inbox without pictures, videos or any images. The format is simple and easy to navigate and gives a brief summary of the daily headlines and you can choose to click on it if you want to learn more about a given topic. It is also on Facebook and Instagram, but these sites include pictures and videos.
- Ask open ended questions and respond with support to their questions, even when you don’t have an answer to give.
- Accept their emotions, whatever they may be. Affirm that their feelings and concerns are important and matter to you and to God. Give them permission to express their feelings, in a variety of ways. Encourage discussion about the feelings they are experiencing, but don’t force it if they are reluctant!
- Focus on finding the good. Identify all of the helpers in this situation! Encourage them to make a list of every possible helper they can think of related to this crisis.
- Talk about how and when has God protected you / them / your family and provided for their needs in the past.
- Model compassion and trust in the Lord for your student. They are watching you to learn and gauge how they should feel about, respond to, and cope with the events currently taking place.
- Validate their concerns. Nothing is too big and nothing is too small. When you validate the small things, they build confidence that they can also share the bigger concerns they may be tucking away in their heart and mind.
- Do a Bible reading plan as a family. Choose one that focuses on God’s protection, provision, and trustworthiness. Memorize verses together!
Areas to Turn Down the Volume:
- Students of all ages should be limited in the amount of time that they spend on or are exposed to news feeds and coverage. Our brains can only absorb a certain amount of catastrophic and overwhelming news at once. Find a trusted, age-appropriate news source and limit the time your student spends on this site. When possible, watch with them, in order to monitor and talk about what’s been seen and heard, especially with elementary and middle school students.
- Take media breaks over the weekend or during the week. Check in with them a couple of times a week to give them an option of talking about what they’ve seen or heard, or just to express their concerns. Talk with them about these limits. We want to prevent them from “doomscrolling” as an attempt to cope with their anxiety, uncertainty and concerns, which only leads to increased fear and confusion. Instead, we want to encourage dialogue and understanding the facts.
- Be mindful of adult conversations / comments that they may overhear and interpret on their own. Avoid politicizing the issue.
- Try not to give false assurances, in an attempt to provide comfort. It’s okay to say “I don’t know”, but do always assure them that they are safe right now, that you will always do everything you can to protect them and that God is watching over them and will never leave them. Be careful not to transfer your anxiety to them.
- Don’t discount or minimize their emotions, reactions, or concerns, even as a well-intended gesture to provide comfort. Try not to cut them off or finish their sentences when they are talking. What comes out may not be what you think it will be! Let them finish their thought before assuring them or giving them more accurate information / explanation.
- Don’t avoid the topic and do or say nothing. This only exacerbates their fears and misconceptions about the current conflicts and will lead them to look elsewhere for answers. Silence increases a sense of isolation, which snowballs into increasing anxiety, fear, and negative or distorted thinking.
- Discourage comments from siblings that make fun of or minimize their reactions, thoughts, feelings, or fears.
- Check out more tips on how to process a difficult conversation through the example of the Ukrainian War.
You may often wonder when it’s time to bring in professional support. We are able to provide connections to trusted and supportive professionals around each of our LCBC locations.
When to Seek Professional Helpers:
Signs to watch for: Changes in eating and sleeping patterns, upset stomach, headaches, nightmares, acting extra lethargic, a “flat” mood, not enjoying activities as they normally would, increased anxiety, not wanting to leave home or showing separation anxiety when leaving parent(s), preoccupation with details about the issue, increase in time spent playing violent video games, and / or increased irritability and expressions of anger.
Please don’t hesitate to contact a school counselor or a professional counselor in your community if you feel like your student is having difficulty processing their emotions related to the issue and is in need of extra support and resources. You can also reach out to local LCBC staff for support.
Remember that God is in control. If you’d like to talk to someone, or you’d just like prayer, we’d love to start a conversation with you.
To learn more about LCBC’s Student Ministry and how your student in Grades 5-12 can get involved, visit LCBCchurch.com/Students.