Helping Teens Respond to Tragedies and Difficult Situations

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When tragedies or difficult situations come up in our teens’ lives, our reactions to these events directly affect how our child will respond. As parents, we need to remember to think clearly and carefully about how we react to the news around us. For the last 10 years I have worked with teenagers and I understand the difficulty it is raise teenagers in a world where school shootings and worldly ideas are tossed in their faces every minute.  As parents, we need to be proactive in starting up a conversation with our children so that they can process what is happening in the world around them through the eyes of God.

I want to encourage and suggest several things that we can implement when helping our children process tragedies and difficult situations.

PRAY for what happened

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22

This may seem like an obvious response to tragedies or difficult situations, but how often do we receive bad news and we forget to pray.  We often have a knee jerk response to situations that come our way.  When we go to prayer first, we are able to surrender the situation to God.  Also when we pray with our children, we help them see that God is real, that he cares about what we are going through, and that God is relevant in our lives.

After the Connecticut shooting in 2012, Scotty Smith wrote a model for how to pray in the midst of pain:
Dear Lord Jesus, we abandon ourselves to you tonight—we come running with our tears and our fears, our anger and our anguish, our lament and our longings. We collapse in your presence, with the assurance of your welcome, needing the mercies of your heart.

Some stories are just too much for us to absorb; some evil just too great to conceive; some losses beyond all measurability. We need your tears and your strength tonight. That you wept outside the tomb of a beloved friend frees us to groan and mourn; that you conquered his death with yours, frees us to hope and wait.

But we turn our thoughts from ourselves to the families who have suffered an unconscionable violation of heart and all sensibilities. Bring your presence to bear, Lord Jesus, by your Spirit and through your people. May your servants weep with those who weep and wail with those who wail. Extend your tear wiping hand—reach into this great tragedy with an even greater grace.

GRIEVE for what happened

As Christians, we are called to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). Often times in difficult situations or tragedies it is tempting to solve problems, make excuses, start action plans before simply being silent and grieving the situation. When we grieve we teach our children compassion, empathy, and the importance of being a part of a community that grieves together.

Christian author Trillia Newbell writes,
When your friend is weeping it’s hard to say, “I don’t know, I don’t understand.” We want to know. We want to bring comfort, but in our attempt to “fix it” we can forget that there’s a real person in deep sorrow. Your friend, coworker, or relative is not a faucet to be fixed—they are flesh and blood to be loved. Those moments when you’re anxiously trying to find the perfect words are often the best moments to humbly embrace your weakness and lack of knowledge.

To be clear, waiting doesn’t mean never sharing perceived wisdom. Waiting might actually involve acknowledging you do understand. You understand your friend’s sorrow enough to be willing to bridle your tongue, to speak carefully and thoughtfully, to pray and wait.

LOVE those involved

Mark 12:30-31
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

This is the major theme in the Bible. In fact, it is one of the most important things that Jesus talks about.  As parents, we need to model to our children what it means to respond with love in the face of tragedy and difficult situations.  It is easy for us to love those who are easy to love.  But Jesus calls us also to love those who are difficult to love, and for those who persecute us.

We have the responsibility/privilege to model Christ’s love to our children.  Love is also part of the solution to whatever tragedy/difficult situation we come across.  People need to be loved, and people need to know of the love that God has for them.

KEEP the Gospel Central

And finally the Gospel needs to be brought into the story. In every difficult situation or tragedy sin is the root of the problem.  The person who made a plan to harm others, the person who said those hurtful things, still needs to hear the Gospel.  It is our responsibility to share the Gospel with all of creation (Mark 16:15).  We are also commanded to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19). How can we bring the Gospel conversation into situations with our children?

As parents we are the primary influence in the lives of our children. How we act and respond to our world is important because it is teaching our children how to act and respond.  When tragedy or difficult things come our way, take the time to PRAY, GRIEVE, LOVE, and KEEP the GOSPEL central in our response.  One of the greatest things we can do is model an active spiritual walk in front of and alongside our kids.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

Kelly Lofy

Jr. High Director- Calvary Community Church


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