To a child a crisis is a crisis is a crisis. It makes no difference the cause of the crisis or what the crisis is. To a child it becomes a world turned upside down where everything feels unsafe, out of control and confusing. What does make a difference is the reaction, interaction, care and attention of the adults surrounding the child.
When the trauma is very large, like natural disaster, a school shooting or other events that get national attention on TV expect the impact to be widespread and long lasting.
We have heard for years that children are resilient, “Oh your kids will get over it. Children are resilient.” What we now know through research is that children are resilient when they have a support system surrounding them. When that support system can’t be the family or extended family, the church family needs to be available. This is true for the death of a loved one, for the divorcing family and for exposure to tragic events in the community or nationally.
Children’s emotional reaction to a crisis depends on their developmental level and on their experience with the people involved. Here are a few universal reactions:
For grieving children, they will take breaks from the grieving process. That’s why you see little children running and playing at the gravesite after a funeral. Children are children and they have a need to play and make things feel normal.
Here are some tips for parents when there is a community tragedy in local areas or nationally.
By Linda Ranson Jacobs
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week I’ll be presenting the workshop, “How to Combat the Stressed-Out Child and Reduce Behavior Problems”. This is geared for church leaders and I’ll be presenting it at the Children’s Pastor’s Conference or better known as CPC 13.
In this workshop we will be learning that many out of control children’s behaviors are the result of living in a stress-filled environment. I will be presenting ways to help the child de-stress. Also presented will be teaching tools to help with discipline problems in church groups and classes.
This is an exciting workshop for me to present because I have worked with children like this for years. I know what is successful because I’ve used these techniques and tips for years. I have adult kids today contact me via Facebook and share their lives with me. I am always glad to hear how they are doing and how they are being successful when many of these were kicked out of school at one time. Some of their parents were asked not to bring their children back to their church. I never want that to happen to another child, parent or even a church for that matter.
To this day I shudder when I hear about a child who is asked to leave a class at church.
In my workshop I’ll be telling some stories about real kids. We’ll be talking about some of the stressors kids have in their lives today. I’ll be presenting some brain research also to show leaders what is happening in the brains of some of these stressed-out kids.
I wish I had all day to do this presentation.
After next week maybe I’ll share some of the tips from the workshop. Anyone interested in that?
“My soul thirst for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:2
The New Year is upon us. Have you thought about 2013 and how it is going to be better than last year? Some of you have been so busy this past year that without realizing it at the time, you might have gotten discouraged. Now you face 2013 with a sense of dread.
It might be because a single parent life is busy, hectic and down right tiring. That alarm clock sounds too loud and too early each morning. You stumble out of bed in a daze and jump right into the day’s activity. You think, “Oh God, I know I need to spend some time with you but I’ll do it tonight.”
The evening comes and goes in a blur of activity. You fall into bed and you try to talk to God or you open your Bible and try to read His word but before you know it that crazy alarm clock is sounding again. It is the call to a new day. You start over vowing that today will be better, calmer and you’ll be more in control.
When are you going to meet with God?
When are you going to be fed?
When are your spiritual needs going to come first before the kids, the job, your extended family, church and other responsibilities?
When nothing quenches that aching in your soul and you thirst for God’s living word is when. You can go anytime to meet with God but you have to take the responsibility of doing it. That means purposely setting the time aside. It means making an appointment to meet with God. How about before you eat lunch? How about before you start the car in the parking lot of where you work?
Everyday can be better than yesterday when you live it through the living Word. Start today to create a new you that will be full of joy and one who experiences the mercies of the Lord each day. There will be days of frustration. There may be grief and trauma that comes into your life this next year. But there is nothing that can keep you from the mercies of the Lord except you.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22
Blessings in this new year.
Linda Ranson Jacobs
Are you a children’s minister or know a children’s minister? Here is the link to a blog I wrote, “Ministering to Kids of Divorce at Christmas” on the Imagine Family Ministry site.
Blessings as you minister to children of divorce all year long.
After having had a child care in OK during the Ok. City bombing let me offer some tips we learned.
1. Parents please do not hug your child fiercely every time you see them. They may not fully comprehend all that has happened however, they will pick up on your fretfulness.
2. Turn off the TV. I can’t say this loud enough TURN OFF THE TV. Younger children can’t tell the difference in reality and non reality. To them every time they see something on the shooting they will think another school has been attacked and will wonder if their school is next.
3. Do not talk to other adults about this shooting in front of your children. Children don’t understand speculation.
5. Try to keep yourself calm. Kids WILL pick up on your anxieties. Promise you they will.
6. At a calm moment sit down with your children and ask them what they know about the school shooting. Ask them what they want to know. Explain things in as calm a voice as you can.
17. Don’t lie to your children. When they ask you why this happened, tell them you don’t know. If they ask why God would allow this to happen, tell them God did not want this to happen and He wants them to be safe. Sometimes bad people do bad things.
8. Ask your children to pray with you for the families of the children and the teachers that were hurt or died (depending on the age of your child). Continue to pray for the children and their families at Sandy Hook Elementary School for the next few days.
9. Pull your children up on your lap and tell your children they are safe right now. You can only guarantee your child’s safety in the moment and for now that is what they need.
10. If I had elementary age children right now I’d talk to them about listening to their teachers when an emergency happens. Some schools might start practicing what to do in a shooting situation. I know in our child we practiced escape routes, etc. We talked a lot about what would happen if a bomber came to our program. We asked the kids to take some responsibility in helping us be on the look out. Kids will take their responsibility seriously. If presented wisely kids will be very mature about it all. We talked about keeping each other safe.
We also talked about what to do if a shooter should appear. We actually had some situations we had to prepare in advance for in regards to keeping all kids safe. We explained to the kids that we had safety measures in place.
Don’t be surprised if your child starts playing through various situations. Even 9, 10 and 11 year old kids will pull out the army men and other characters and play through their stress and fears. Stay on the sidelines, listen and observe. Just let them play through without interruptions. Bath time is another time kids will play through frustrations.
At any rate this has been my experience. I wish all of you the best in keeping your kids calm and safe. And remember your child might not even talk about it right now but they might bring it up months later. Be ready and prepared when it does come up.
Linda Ranson Jacobs
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda Ranson Jacobs
“Guess what? On Christmas Day my sister and me get to open our presents at mom’s house. Then I get to go to my dad’s house and he said he has a lot of presents for me. After we open presents at Dad’s then we are going to grandma’s house and I get to open more presents there. Presents, presents, presents. I must be the luckiest kid of all. I love Christmas!”
Whew! That sounds like an exciting and very busy day for a child. It also sounds like a day in which the baby Jesus gets left out. As a children’s minister don’t you worry about the true meaning of Christmas and this child? The birth of our Savior doesn’t seem to be amongst all the presents.
Down through the years as I’ve worked with children of divorce I’ve noticed that Christmas is either a very depressing time. Or it is one hyped up by the onslaught of gifts from guilty divorced parents trying to soothe their guilt. It is rare to find a single parent that has developed the ability to create normal holiday times for the children.
For some children holidays are painful reminders of how their family life used to be. Or they might be the children who have lived in two homes for years but something might have happened the past year to bring the hurts back to the forefront. This could be a new the announcement of a pending marriage of a parent or even the birth of a half sibling.
For these children church leaders need to pray for and with the child. It is a mistake to ignore the issues or to bury them. It is also a mistake to try and “happy up” a child just because it is Christmas. Saying something like,
“Oh come on, cheer up. It’s Christmas”
will only serve to drive the child deeper into self-doubt and confusion.
Allow the child to have a safe place to express what is bothering him or her. Assure the child that no matter what is happening that there is a Savior who will walk beside them. From that you can talk about the baby Jesus and why we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Empathy and understanding will help the child get through the holidays.
Many children of divorce will use Christmas to manipulate their guilty and sometimes warring parents to get what they want. For the child that is into how many gifts they are going to get, join in the excitement. Use pointed questions to open the door to the real meaning of Christmas.
An example might be,
“Oh my, you sure are excited about all those presents. What are you going to do with all of them?”
Gradually turn the conversation toward the most important gift of all, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It might be that the child has never really heard or understood why we celebrate Christmas.
Some children may only come every other Sunday so it will be hard to get them involved in celebrating Christmas.
It might mean you
Children in single parent homes don’t have the ability for one parent to take them shopping to buy a present for the other parent. And many won’t want to ask the parent they live with to give them money and take them shopping for the other parent.
Just a few extra things will help the child of divorce survive the holidays and learn about the true meaning of Christmas. If you are too busy then find someone who will take on ministering to the child of divorce at Christmas.
Written for Imagine Ministries, Jill Waltz www.imagineministries.org
© 2012 by the author
This publication is protected under U.S. Copyright laws [© Linda Ranson Jacobs, 2012] However, it is also a ministry to those who need it. While you may pass along this article freely, please check before reprinting anything in another publication. In most cases, all she requires is proper credit.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Nothing in this or other emails or materials from Linda Ranson Jacobs should be considered as psychological or legal advice. Linda is not a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, or lawyer. These suggestions are simply suggestions and not guaranteed solutions to your particular problems. Linda offers this information because she was a single mom for years and ran a child care where the majority of her children were from single parent families. She offers support, encouragement, and suggestions to help you succeed as a single parent.
Recently my friend Tiffany Crawford posted something on her blog that got me to thinking yet again about a controversial subject. (http://tiffanycrawford.org/2012/11/06/charismatic-churches-use-military-tactics/)
Maybe this subject is not controversial to anyone but me but that is probably because I’m one of the few people in children’s ministry and church work that thinks often about the child of divorce. The controversy is children’s church versus keeping children in big church, grown up church or simply worship service whatever you want to call it.
I am opposed to all the separating we do in churches today. It seems as though when a family comes to church the minute they enter the door everyone goes a different direction. While this might not be that big of an issue for two-parent families it can be a HUGE issue for single parent families. And I suspect it could be a big deal for two-parent families if they stopped to think about it.
I understand parents wanting their kids to attend children’s church because they want their children to have biblical concepts presented to them on their developmental level. And I understand parents want to worship and hear what is going one without being pestered or bothered by the children. However, I think kids should be in the church service with the parents at least occasionally; say at least once a month.
When my daughter was deployed to Afghanistan and I was living in their house helping with the grandchildren the kids attended church with me and my husband. They could have opted to go to the children’s departments but they chose to stay with us.
During the church service they played. They whispered. They dug in my purse for gum. They wrote on any paper they could find. But they also watched. They watched us pray. They watched me take notes and agree and sometimes disagree with the pastor. They watched us sing and worship. They watched Papa Bruce shake hands with others while he had his Bible tucked under his arm.
Then we saw it. We saw the 3 yr. old tuck his little notebook under his arm and walk around sticking out his little hand to shake hands with others. He was imitating his Papa Bruce. It was a blessing to behold.
We saw the 8 year old taking notes. We saw the teen slumping and pretending to not pay attention but we heard his conversation later in the week at the dinner table and while we were riding in the car together. He was hearing and getting it.
Children in single parent families need to be attuned to what is happening with their single parent regarding church and religion. These kids are exposed to two different homes and sometimes different religions.
I suspect my grandchildren didn’t want to be separated from me because I was a primary care giver during a stressful time in their lives. I was a connection to mom. They depended on me for emotional stability; for nurturing and for a lot of hugs and kisses.
The same holds true for children living with one parent. They need the physical presence of their parent with them in this building called a church. They need those few minutes a week or a month where they can connect with that parent with something that is bigger than their problems; bigger than their family issues and just plain bigger than them. They need church family.
I realize there are many that will vehemently disagree with me. That’s cool. All I ask is that you think about the child of divorce and the stress you might be adding to their lives when you separate them once again from their parent and from their siblings.
“All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace.” Isaiah 54:13 (NIV)
Just came across this bit of research today. It was in Kathy Nunley’s enews from Brains.org
In order to increase both creativity and productivity in any work or task, the worker must feel they are making progress in meaningful work. Students who experience small wins more frequently, who have autonomy with clear meaningful goals, and who work in an environment without punishment, make the most progress. The least progress is made when a student feels the work is useless, meaningless and they are not sure why they are doing it. Amabile, T. (2012). “Creativity, Productivity and Commitment: Revelations From the Work Diaries.” Presentation given August 3, 2012, American Psychological Association Annual Conference, Orlando, FL.
I believe this can apply across all age groups including preschool age children. When a child experiences small wins in what they are doing and they survive in environments that are not punitive but nourishing they will make the most progress or have the most success. Whether that be in playing, studying or getting along with peers.
Children need to feel independent. They need worthwhile goals even if it is committing to making their bed or helping a friend put the blocks away. Like the tip above says, the least progress is made when a child feels useless, meaningless and they aren’t sure why they are doing something.
This might lend itself to the child of divorce who is shifted from place to place. Many times they feel useless, life has no meaning and confusion reigns.
Give the child of divorce meaning. Help them set viable goals and give them the means to obtain their goals. Encourage them in their progress by describing their success.
Help them feel wanted. Give them a sense of independence, not put upon as many kids of divorce who have to care for younger siblings feel. Help them to understand they are part of a family unit whether it is at home, church or school.
Unhealthy self esteem in children is something I have been thinking about for quite some time. Dr. John Roseman in his book, “Parenting By the Book” is what got my mind to really thinking seriously about this subject. By unhealthy self esteem I am talking about a high self esteem. You know the kid that thinks they are so special they deserve everything they want.
“If you love me you will keep my commandments” John 4:15 Jesus doesn’t tell us that we have to obey him. He doesn’t threaten us or reward us into obeying him. God doesn’t force us to believe the Christ was His son. Goodness knows He makes a strong case about it and with all the prophecies in the Old Testament how could we not? But still it is each person’s individual choice to believe or not.
Oswald Chamber in his book, “My Utmost for His Highest” says on the devotion for November 2nd, “God never insists on obedience.” God also never forces His will upon us. It is always our decision and we should want to do His will because we love Him. Also I think because when we truly love God we respect God and who He is.
The high self esteem concept could be the reason kids are so out of control today. Think about this, in the Bible it talks about in the end times how children will turn away from their parents. “Children will rebel against their parents…..” Mark 13:12 NIV Well, we certainly have kids turning away from their parents in our world today. Kids today are disobedient to parents, teachers, church and government and to God. But then again why shouldn’t they be? We have raised children with this self esteem concept. Schools and day cares tout that we should not destroy a child’s self esteem. Therapist and counselors work with parents all the time to help raise a child’s self esteem. Even in some churches we are careful not to do anything that might affect a child’s self esteem.
In raising their self esteem and keeping their little psychic’s in tact we have turned them into little beings and then adult beings where everything is about “ME”! “But I WANT that toy” says to many parents that they have to purchase the toy. Think about the cheating in school; the addiction to drugs and alcohol – “but it makes me feel good”. All of these issues are ultimately about what I WANT and about ME. Curse anyone else’s feelings – the world revolves around me.
What have we done as a society? We have raised an entire generation with entitlement issues. “But I am entitled to feel this way; to have what I want; I deserve to be rewarded.” Don’t you imagine Bernie Madoff said these things to himself when he stole all that money. Even after his arrest and sentencing his wife still thought she deserved to live in her mansion and live in the life style she was accustomed to living.
(Sorry I digress!!!)
Self worth, self respect and a healthy self esteem are all good and needed in our kids today.
Living, breathing, trusting and loving God is foreign to many of our children and teens today. Because to believe, to respect, to trust and to love God would no longer be about “ME”!