Editor's Note: The first resource below in this topic was created by Rotation.org Member Beth Tobin for the parents, grandparents, and concerned members at her church at the start of the Fall 2023 Israel ~ Hamas War. That said, it can be used any time the need arises (which is all too often).
There is the parental impulse to "keep things from our children," to protect their innocence and sense of safety in the world, but in today's world, they usually learn about terrible and troubling events whether we want them to or not. Such moments require our attention, and they are not only opportunities to explain, but to console, as well as to share our faith and values with them.
Beth is the Children's Minister (Deacon) at the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Olympia, WA.
You are welcome to adapt the following, and you are welcome to post your own thoughts and resources for children and families on this subject.
World events are heavy on my heart and I keep thinking about you and your children. Depending on their age and what they are being exposed to they may be feeling and experiencing lots of questions, emotions, anxiety, or uncertainty. Even if children are not exposed to world news directly, they can pick up on what adults are feeling.
If you sense something is “off” with your child(ren) check in with them. They might not have words to express how or what they are feeling, but you can assure them of God’s love and your love, and that they are safe. Parenting is hard and my heart and prayers are with you. ❤️
We know these truth and need to reaffirm them:
- That God loves you. God sees you. And God is with you always, no matter what.
- That God loves all people and all of creation, and does not like that people are hurting, fighting, angry, hurting others, etc.
- We also know that God is there in the midst of war and turmoil, working for good, walking alongside those hurting in spirit but also through helpers. Mr. Rogers is famous for many things, among them his advice that children, “look for the helpers,” in the middle of conflict to see and understand that God is at work for good in the midst of scary times.
Holding hard things, like people and places in conflict, in prayer is another way we can cope, put in perspective, and help.
Our hearts just ache, we’re exhausted, or there are too many thoughts swirling in our heads to even get them out. Below are some prayer suggestions, but keep in mind that when we don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit will pray for us.
A Prayer of Three Breaths:
Try pausing and breathing just for a moment. Take a deep breath in and slowly let it out.
Say: In the name of the Father (or Creator), [Take a deep slow breath in…... And exhale.]
Say: In the name of the Son (or Jesus), [Take a deep slow breath in…... And exhale.]
Say: In the name of the Holy Spirit, [Take a deep slow breath in…... And exhale.]
Pray out loud the following so that your children can learn how to pray to God about conflict and war:
- Pray for those hurt by war -- on all sides of the conflict.
- Pray for those doing the hurting (Matthew 5:44)
- Pray for those making the decisions will listen to God's wisdom and work for peace.
- Pray that you would become a voice and champion for the peaceful resolution of conflicts in your own relationships.
Art can be really helpful in praying.
You might try a Prayer Doodle. You could doodle while listening to some music, or while listening to “A Healing for the Nations” (see below), or while just having some quiet time.
- Write a name for God, the name of someone you’re praying for, a place or thing you are praying for, or a scripture verse.
- Draw a shape around it and begin to doodle.
- Pray as you draw. Ask God to be part of this prayer time.
- Keep drawing as you release these prayers to God.
- For more information: www.prayingincolor.com
Music can help us pray and understand.
Here’s a recording of one of my favorite sung prayers. It’s called, “A Healing for the Nations" and includes all of the Washington State indigenous tribes and nations of the world, sung in two sections. This recording was made at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.
Ideas for using "A Healing of the Nations" recording:
- Display a world map. Print one, use a globe, display one on a computer screen or on your phone. Touch it. Hold it. Find where we live. Find where places you want to hold in prayer are located. Find where relatives live. Reflect on how God loves all of creation and is working for good.
- Light a candle, battery or flame, or draw candles on paper and draw lighting them as the prayer continues. Pray that God will bring light to the darkness and hope to those feeling hopeless.
This photo comes from a group praying for the Healing of the Nations:
- Paint or draw or color a beautiful picture of creation while you listen. Where are some of your favorite places to be out in creation? Remind children that the bad news isn't the only news!
Sometimes children, like adults, ask the hard question: Why did God let this happen?
It’s an important and valid question. And a safe question to ask wherever we are, even at church. Here’s my attempt at an answer. I would love to know how you might answer this one!
God does not cause bad things to happen. God is good and works for good through everything that happens.
One of the gifts God gave us is the ability to make choices. We make choices every day. Some people choose to make choices that are harmful to others or harmful to themselves or harmful to creation. God is at work encouraging us to make good choices. That’s one of the reasons why church is so important. We as a community of faith hear and listen to and study God’s word, and wrestle with God’s word, and ask questions, and encourage each other to live as followers of Christ as best as we can in our daily lives. We get reminded of God’s love and forgiveness, and filled up at church so that we are better able, strengthened, to make good choices during the week in our daily living, and sharing God’s love with others. This includes loving our enemies and praying for them (Matthew 5:44).
Hearing God’s word, reading Bible stories, creating time for prayer, chatting God up, attending Sunday school, going to worship, singing in choir, fellowshipping with other believers — these are all ways we get to know the heart of God and are better able to hear God’s voice and encouragement to make those good choices. Church helps support us in doing all of these things.
When we make a choice that is not good (and we all do!) we know that God will give forgive us. Forgiveness doesn’t take away the bad consequences of our choices, rather, forgiveness restores our relationship with God and tells us to heal the relationships with those we have hurt.
The consequences and repercussions of war are awful. God did not cause them, but God is at work for good to bring healing and hope to all affected and to all the world.
Prayers for the world.
Prayers for peace.
Prayers for peace in our hearts and minds.
Prayers for you and your children and grandchildren.
Prayers for God’s love to surround and guide you this day and always.