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How to Talk to Your Kids about Bad News

August 12, 2014

by Candice Watters

It’s rare to forget about Twitter, to leave emails unopened, and to not know what’s going on beyond the bounds of a hotel swimming pool, but last week we managed a family vacation so full of mountain hikes, sightseeing, lounging at the swimming pool, and visits with old friends, that except for photography apps and uploads to Instagram, I forgot about checking my phone. The stack of last week’s Wall Street Journals that greeted our return from nine days away jerked me back to reality: rest is not the norm in this broken world.

The headlines out of Iraq about religious persecution and genocide, the death of an unarmed teenager, the discovery yesterday of the suicide of a famous actor, these are but a few of the disturbing headlines in the most recent newspapers. In addition to getting myself back in touch with the needs all around me, I know we need to talk to our kids about what’s going on in the world. But how?

There’s only so much we can avoid in our media saturated culture. As tempting as it is to pretend bad news doesn’t exist, God’s Word shows us a better way. When it comes to religious persecution, we must pray with our children for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith in far away places. Hebrews 13:1 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” None who follow Christ are immune. Jesus warned His disciples that if the world hated Him, they will hate those who are His.

In John 15 we read:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

But He did not leave them hopeless. He said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 6:33). For all who are trusting in Christ, this is our hope, too.

Get Help
In order to talk thoughtfully, with wisdom, about current events with our children, we need to know what to think and believe about them ourselves. A solid source of help for thinking biblically is Albert Mohler’s The Briefing, which he describes as “a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.” Today I looked back at Mohler’s blog post about a previous shooting of an unarmed teen, as well as one by Kevin DeYoung. These provided help for processing and praying about the shooting death of an unarmed teen boy in St. Louis. John Piper’s Ask Pastor John is also a rich source of biblical wisdom on difficult to understand, and harder to talk about, issues. His episode on suicide and salvation gives sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) for broaching an incomprehensible tragedy.

Trust God
When the news makes no sense, may we parents have the grace and wisdom to talk with our children about the evidence of sin, as well as the hope of redemption when we submit to the God who “sits enthroned above the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22), the One of who we may say with conviction, “works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

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