Last summer a father in a suburb near us slit the throats of his three young children.
I was at a tennis lesson a couple of days later when the pro took me aside and said watching the news had wrecked him. And his wife. And they didn’t know what to tell their two kids, 6 and 8.
He didn’t have words to even form a question at the time, but he asked if we could talk. I said, “sure” and immediately went home and made sure John (who’s the wise one on my team and always knows what to say in hard situations) would be willing to come with me.
The next morning I saw the pro again and said, “Let’s set up a time for coffee.”
He asked me if I had seen the news the night before…another horror. The random killing of 14 people at the Batman premiere in Colorado.
This time I listened for awhile and I realized it was really important for me to get to the root of his distress before I offered anything. I asked,
“What is the question that is troubling you the most? Is it…
“How can a good God allow this to happen?”
“How do I explain this to my kids?”
“How do I keep my family safe?”
“Why did this happen?”
He said, “It’s ‘How much do I say to my kids and how do I reassure them?'”
That made me think of one of the most helpful things I’ve ever heard about parenting. I really wish I could remember who I heard this from so I could give attribution, so if anyone recognizes it, tell me.
This person said two of our primary jobs as parents are to protect and prepare our kids.
When our kids are little, we major on protecting and start preparing. As they get older, there is less we can do to protect, but we ramp up all we do to prepare them to be out in the world.
Here’s a picture of what that might look like.
I said, “It sounds like you need to do all you can to reassure them that you are safe. Your home is safe. You are going to protect them as best you can from harm. But then you also need to think of ways, appropriate for their age, to prepare them. That might mean role-playing different situations they might find themselves in or counseling them on situations to avoid.”
No one could anticipate what would happen at that movie theater in Colorado and it doesn’t mean kids should never go to movies anymore just like 9/11 didn’t mean we should never get on a plane again. But there is evil in the world. Whether it’s the dramatic violence we’ve seen lately, or the more day to day challenges of a friend encouraging your child to cheat, or a boyfriend who wants to go too far, or a bullying situation, we need to protect our kids where we can but also prepare them to go out with wisdom and the assurance that God goes with them.
How old are your kids? In what ways is it appropriate for you to protect them? In what ways do you need to be preparing them?
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.