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When Kids Can’t Make Sense of the World, Sensitive Parenting Is a Must

September 15th, 2015     By Father Boes, President & National Executive Director of Boys Town

Connecting with Kids, Family, Healing Families, Kids and Teens in Crisis

Recently in the news, we saw the heart-breaking photos of a little boy whose body had washed up on a beach after he drowned during his family’s attempt to flee their war-torn homeland of Syria.

The family was part of a group of refugees who were desperately trying to cross the sea from Turkey to Greece in an inflatable boat. The boat capsized and the little boy, his brother and mother were among the 12 people who did not survive.

Parents often have the difficult task of trying to explain to their young children why bad things like this happen to innocent people. When kids see images like that of the 3-year-old’s body lying on the beach and a soldier later carrying him away, it becomes even more of challenge to deal with their feelings of being afraid, anxious and confused.

There are no perfect or easy answers for parents when they are faced with trying to help their children make sense of a world that seems to make no sense at all.

But there are positive things you can do as a parent to guide your child through these tough situations.

First, reassure children that they are safe, that their family loves them, and that God loves them and will take care of them. Tell them that even though bad things happen, we as people must have faith and hope for a better world. Ask God to bless your child before he or she goes to school. You can even take your child to a priest or minister for a special blessing as a way to provide your child with a feeling of emotional reassurance.

Another positive response is keeping traditions strong in your family. Pray together as a family before meals and pray with your child before bedtime every night. In stressful times, children crave the comfort and security of routines and rituals because they know what to expect and know they are safe.

One more way to help your child is to focus on caring about the victims. Your family can pray for people who have been hurt or who have died under tragic circumstances, or you might show your child how he or she can contribute to a fund that provides assistance to people who need food, clothing or shelter. Reaching out in these ways teaches your child there is always a spiritual way, and often a physical way, to respond when people are suffering.

There is really no way to totally shield our children from all the ills of the world. With the media’s focus so heavily on tragedies and crises, parents are usually fighting an uphill battle. But it is vitally important that children know they can go to their parents whenever something bothers or upsets them and talk about how it makes them feel. Communicating with your kids and calling their attention to the many good things happening in the world are the keys to teaching them to stay positive and hopeful for the future.

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