Helping Our Children Process Tragedy

Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, Sheridan House Family Ministries

As we write this, one of the most deadly school shootings has just occurred… in our own community. It was surreal as I looked at my phone to see a news alert banner saying another school shooting had occurred. It felt like a dream to open the article and recognize the name of the school. So many thoughts went through my head and heart, so many fears, so many questions. How do we unpack these emotions for ourselves as adults, much less our children? We grieve. We grieve for the families that have lost. We grieve for the loss of innocence for our children. We grieve for the teen who felt this level of anger, loss and rejection. What could have happened to him that brought him to this place? What could have possibly hurt him to the point of doing something this unconscionable, to attack other children?

Call to Action

There is a call to action when a tragedy like this occurs. We all want to react and do something – something to protect our children and our community. We need to respond. But it needs to be a calculated response. Our children will now face, or have already faced, active shooter drills. That is one response to keep them safe. What do we do at home to respond? It is overwhelming to try to process a response that is not reactionary when something to this level occurs this close to home.

tragedyFirst, we should let our children talk. Create a safe place for them to come and ask questions. Don’t be afraid if you don’t know the answer. “Why do things like this happen?” What a deep multilayered question, one that we may not be able to answer appropriately for a young mind. One thing that we can assure them of and point them to is our faith. There are so many verses that we can look to as a family or even put up on our walls to remind us at this moment. One example, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV).

Remind your Children

There are so many more. The Bible is full of verses and stories to calm our hearts in times like these, stories where God revealed himself in a mighty way. We cannot allow our hearts to forget in times like these of fear and tragedy. It is our job to help our children’s hearts by reminding them who we serve. It also helps to remember that He is a God who grieves with us. We see in the story of Lazarus that Jesus wept. He cried for the pain of His friends.

There is another response we can teach our children.  The Bible also says that we as Christ followers will be known by our love. We can teach our children to love those around them. Reach out to those kids that are hurting. Reach out to those kids who are sitting alone. Reach out to the “unpopular” kids. This is something that we can model for them. What is our response as adults to those around us? Do we show love? One thing that seems to be a theme, among many other things, for all the kids responsible for these atrocities is rejection.


As a community we all are hugging our children a little tighter. We cannot give into the chaos of emotions as we seek to make sense of this tragedy. We should use this incident as a tool in the lives of our children. Give them a place to talk, a place to grieve, and make sure to give them extra love and attention through this time. This tragedy has shaken our sense of security, but Know that our Father knows about this and is heartbroken with us.

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