Talking to Your Children About
the Hard Stuff in Life
By Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz
It’s hard enough for adults to make sense of life’s
difficulties—disease, divorce, and death (and those are
just a few that start with “D”!). But just try explaining
them to a child. It just may be one of the more challenging things
a parent has to do.
What do you say to a youngster who wonders why a hurricane would
kill so many people and leave so many more homeless? How do you
explain the suffering of millions of children in Africa who have
been orphaned as a result of the AIDS pandemic? What’s the
best way to comfort a child caught in the middle of a custody
Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, authors of the newly released God
Is in the Hard Stuff (Barbour Publishing), know how difficult
it can be to talk with a child about the hard stuff in life. And
they think they have some practical advice that will help.
“Children want honest answers that can help make sense
of the suffering in the world,” says Bickel. “The
worst thing we adults can do is avoid talking about it, hoping
they will move on to another subject.”
“Most adults can wrestle with tough issues over time and
still maintain a relatively normal life,” Jantz adds. “But
a kid may not be able to move on until his or her questions are
Bickel and Jantz have come up with a short checklist that parents
(and others who work with children) can use when talking with
kids about the hard stuff in life and the suffering it can cause.
Whether the topic is the latest natural disaster or the loss of
the family pet, these principles will help frame the conversation.
1. Make sure you have a correct spiritual understanding
Before you can respond to a child’s questions about suffering,
you need to understand how suffering fits into the world and,
more importantly, how suffering fits into God’s plan for
the world. If a child has been taught that God loves them, he
or she may want to know why a loving God could allow such bad
things to happen.
2. Determine your child’s degree of interest.
Before you begin to offer explanations and insights into a particular
issue, make sure you know the level of your child’s interest.
A younger child who just wants a simple answer may be overwhelmed
if you try to say too much.
3. Emphasize the sovereignty of God (but don’t
use words like “sovereignty”).
If a child is asking questions about suffering, it’s not
too early to introduce the concept of the sovereignty of God.
A child who is troubled by a world where it seems like God doesn’t
care needs to be reassured that He is in control. Just because
God is allowing certain things to happen does not mean He is unable
or unwilling to help us.
4. Bring an eternal perspective to your conversation.
It’s important to talk to children about heaven, not as
some fairy-tale place, but as a real eternal home that God is
preparing for them. If a child understands that there is more
to life than our present difficulties, he or she will be much
better equipped to handle them.
5. Endure your own suffering with a proper perspective.
Children are incredibly perceptive. If they sense that you have
not placed your own struggles into an eternal perspective, they
will be less likely to listen to what you have to say. Have you
committed your own burdens and trials to God? Do you trust Him
for the outcome? Your own faith in the sovereign God who loves
you will be a great comfort to your children.
These are not easy issues to deal with—neither for adults
nor children. But they need to be addressed, because suffering
is a part of our world. “Suffering of any kind is hard,”
the authors write, “but it’s nothing to be ashamed
of. In fact, those who suffer gain a perspective on life and an
appreciation for God that others do not have.”
Read an excerpt of God
is in the Hard Stuff.
Visit the authors' Web site.
Article used with permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
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