I wanted to give you a few things to consider regarding children walking through trauma (crisis, divorce, death, a move).
Talk – Children also endure what adults in the home are going through. Use age-appropriate language and ask them questions about what they saw, how they felt, what it was like for them, etc. Give them permission to talk. A great way to access their heart is by asking questions. Let Holy Spirit lead you in the conversation. Another great way to help them release what is in their hearts is by drawing pictures. Ask them to illustrate how their heart feels about the event. Be intentional to have family time alone together and check in to see how everyone is doing and where they are at in processing everything. I generally ask, “How is your heart feeling, and what do you need right now?”
Fear – Being scared is normal in the time of danger, but now that danger is over, we don’t want to continue to partner with it as it can turn into fear which welcomes the wrong spirit. If you see signs your child is holding onto the concern that something bad will happen, remind them they are safe, that the trauma is over and that God isn’t the one giving them that emotion, but instead God gives us power, love, and peace in our minds (1 Tim 1:7). If the fear continues, you may need to walk your child through commanding the fear to go in Jesus’ name AND inviting Holy Spirit to come and fill their mind, eyes, and emotions with peace, comfort, and joy. If your child reports an image they saw and it replays in their minds over and over, validate their concern over the issue, “Sweetie, I am so sorry you had to see that. It must have been so scary for you.” I would then remind them that Jesus’ blood covers it all and that we can use His blood to wash our minds. My kids would act out pouring His blood on their hands and then wash their minds (like pouring shampoo and washing your hair). “Jesus, we invite You to wash our minds of these images and fill them with Your love.” This is a powerful way for children to apply the blood of Jesus to their situation.
Joy – Returning children to joy is essential in trauma. It releases a chemical in their brain that helps them rise above challenging circumstances. While we can’t always change our circumstances, we can invite joy into them. Perhaps it is a 5-minute dance party, jumping on the bed, a game of balloon volleyball, or a tickle attack. Do not underestimate the power of these pockets of joy for children in a crisis.
Connection – Just because you are together 24/7 doesn’t mean you are connecting. Know their love language and intentionally fill it. Children’s love tanks empty quickly but fill fast. Connection is golden during this time, and it is an intentional verb. Go after 1:1 connection today. Grab a soda and sit in a corner alone together to talk, rub their back while holding them, tell them how proud you are of them for the way they have handled things, give them something as a token of your love for them (a note on their bed, a pack of gum, or a quick trip to the store to pick something out). etc. Be intentional. Know their love language and intentionally fill it. Children’s love tanks empty quickly but fill fast.
Limited Screen Time – I know it is hard because many are bored, and you want to be on your phone a lot too, but I strongly encourage you to try and limit it. Their hearts need real human contact and connection, not a lifeless screen. Screens increase joy chemicals but through artificial connection only leaving them more lonely afterwards. We do not want to throw our children into an addiction to screens just to cope with their pain and loss.
Build Their Faith – This is where we get to help our children see Jesus in the midst of the storm. Yes, it was awful, but we spend time focusing on calling out where Jesus was. Yes, we had a fire in our city, but Jesus kept us safe. Yes, we had to leave our home, but Jesus provided us with a hotel room/friends. Yes, we lost our beloved Whiskeytown, but God designed His creation to grow new life… keep it going. Validate the reality but focus on Him. These are bricks in their faith. God was there. God was in control. God helped me. The next time they are afraid, in need, or walking through a storm, you can remind them of their history with God, “Remember when we had to leave our home, and God took care of us? Let’s ask Him to do it again for you in this situation.” This is how they build their faith and confidence in Him.
Peace – Peace is His presence, and nothing ushers it in more than worship. Be intentional about having family worship time. He changes us in worship and realigns us to His face. Increase soaking time where you just put on music, lay still, and encounter His presence. This is super important for children.
Parents, you are enough during this season of chaos and pain, and you will know what to do because He dwells inside you. You will not only overcome this as a family, but it will make you stronger.