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Finding The Words

We’re all still reeling from the Connecticut tragedy, I know. And I have nothing new to say – and nothing that hasn’t been said better, by smarter people – on the subject. We live in a fallen world, and as one local official remarked on Friday, evil did indeed visit that town.

If you’re like me, you’re walking around on a knife edge, one sappy Christmas commercial away from sobbing uncontrollably. I know my children are tired of being squeezed relentlessly, snuggled unashamedly, clutched ridiculously tightly. I am unwilling to let them out of my sight, reluctant to stand even a few feet away in a room of strangers. School today will be a strange thing indeed.

Brian and I wrestled Friday evening with whether or not we should tell the girls what had happened: on the one hand, they have little to no exposure to the news or social media, and with Maddie’s tendency to worry about EVERYTHING we could see her getting incredibly wound up about this if we told her. On the other hand, if we kept this from them and they heard about it at school – we didn’t even want to think about the state they’d be in by pick-up time.

So we decided to tell them.

Saturday at lunch we discussed the issue very simply, without speculation or elaboration, withholding as many details as possible. Cora was content with a rough outline; Maddie demanded more information. And then we were finished with the converstation.

We’re not really finished, of course; I expect Maddie is processing the whole thing and will be coming back with questions for weeks. I also anticipate some nightmares in a few days, as well as anxiety about going to school. This is just reality, and I’m simply grateful to still have a daughter to worry about.

I’ve been reading several sites, looking for helpful information on how to speak with your children about this – or, in the case of one great article, how NOT to speak with your children about this. I’ve found a few great sites, and wanted to link to them here in case they’re of any help to any of you.

Helping Children Cope with Tragedy-Related Anxiety at the National Mental Health site

Talking With Your Kids About Today’s Tragedy by the National Association of School Psychologists

The New York Times article suggests a great tip for anxious kids: teach them that for every worried thought, they can find a brave thought to go with it. This won’t “fix” the worry, but give them strength to go on. When we talked about this whole thing with the girls, we told them that although there was one bad man there that day, there were dozens of very good people there working to keep the kids safe. “Always look for the helpers, the heroes, in those situations,” Mr. Rogers once said. And I know this will help Maddie.

So we’re moving forward through this the best that we can. I read what I think is helpful and avoid the media’s more sensationalistic reports. My all-time favorite article, though, has been Max Lucado’s response to this whole thing. I print it below giving him full credit, knowing he’s happy to have this passed on.

Dear Jesus,

It's a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately. These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated. The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod's jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won't you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Your Children


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