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FIRST-PERSON: Explaining to children the horribly horrible

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Who can explain the motives behind evil? How can you explain the horribly horrible, especially to children? Thankfully, when you’re explaining things to children, it’s okay to take a simple, direct approach.

Start with what they know already. Children are looking for something they already know about to help them process new information. My kids saw a plane crash into a building. It didn’t look too bad to them. They’ve seen similar special effects on television before. They needed to understand that there were people involved. I used the example of Nashville’s large Adelphia Coliseum in the initial hours of the crisis. “Remember when we went there? Remember all the people? That’s how many people may have died today.”

Apply it to their “everyday” lives. My children didn’t know all the people in the coliseum when we went there for an event. They don’t know anyone in New York personally. So how could they understand the magnitude of those lost lives? “Those people are mothers and fathers and grandparents,” I explained. “This afternoon there will be empty houses and apartments. There will be lights flashing on answering machines, but no one will be coming home to get their messages. They will not be coming home to open their mail or feed their pets.”

Understand that they are still kids. This is where I dropped the ball. We were headed over to their grandparents’ house. David asked if he could watch cartoons when we got there. “No,” I replied. “I’m sure that Granna will be watching the news.”

“That’s not fair!” David protested in a loud and whiny voice.

I lost it. “What’s not fair,” I retorted angrily, “is that there are a bunch of kids today in New York City who don’t have a mommy and daddy anymore!” Kids are not adults. Please remember that as I try to as well.

Bring God into it. Pray with your children for our country. Pray for all the people whose lives have exploded along with the World Trade Center. Let us ask God humbly for his mercy on the United States. Remind your children and yourself that God is still in control, even in the midst of this horribly horrible situation.
Powell is the author of “Baby Boot Camp: Surviving the First Six Weeks of Motherhood,” a devotional for new mothers featured at http://www.rebeccapowell.com. She and her husband, Rich, have three children.

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  • Rebecca Ingram Powell