One of my biggest dilemmas in parenting is deciding when to tell my kids about hard things in this world. I’m parenting teenagers now, and so often we’re bringing them into the hard parts of the news—the parts that we hate, wish weren’t true, and as a result, want to shield our kids from.
That desire to shield them comes from a good place in our hearts. There’s this feeling that we can keep our children’s innocence intact for longer if we keep the dark things of this world from them. I struggle with this so often. Do they need to know about a murder at a school in Texas? Would it do any good to talk about the shooting in El Paso with them, or would it incite fear? Do they need to know about the sex trafficking ring that was recently busted?
On June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old white supremacist walked into a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and after sitting through a Bible study, he opened fire and murdered nine people. In the summer of 2019, a movie titled Emanuel was released which documents this horrific event and includes some of the survivors and family members of the deceased. My husband and I talked about the importance of this film and the gravity of the subject, and we decided to take our children to see it, even though we had pre-screened it and knew it was difficult to watch.
Holding the hand of my 11-year-old daughter with tears streaming down both of our faces, I wondered whether I had made the right decision. You see, three of my four kids are black, and the reality of racism and terrorist attacks against people of color hits harder in our home than maybe other homes where there are no people of color.
That night as I tucked in my daughter, we talked about the movie. She was scared and had lots of questions about what we had just watched. We discussed the injustice of the murders. We talked about how it didn’t seem right how calm the police were when they arrested the white suspect compared to other arrests we had seen of people of color. We talked about the forgiveness that a few of the victims’ family members extended to the murderer. We talked about gun violence. We talked about fear. We talked about trust. We talked about forgiveness.
Then we talked about Jesus. A lot.
In order to share the magnitude of the love of God, sometimes we need to see the depth of the darkness. In my daughter’s bed that night as we talked, I shared Jesus with her and the hope that only He can offer. I shared that His light is brighter than any darkness this world can throw at us. I told her that no matter how dark or scary this world gets, He has already won with His death and resurrection, and He is here with us now in the midst of it all.
This world is scary, and honestly, it’s not getting any better. So we have decided to talk about the light a lot in our home. And in order to talk about light, you have to talk about darkness. Here are a few things to think through when you are deciding whether something hard in the news is worth talking about with your kids:
1. You need wisdom.
Pray and ask God for wisdom in this area of parenting. Ask Him for the wisdom you need to make these decisions, the strength to walk through this with your kids, and the words to use in your conversations with them.
2. Every child is different.
You know your child best, and as their parent, you know when it is appropriate to bring them into a hard situation and when it’s not. What works for one child doesn’t always work for another, even within one family. Use the judgment that God has given you through the Holy Spirit.
3. Always, always, always point to Jesus in the end.
Hard news is difficult to talk about, but when you do (and you should!), remember that we are not victims of this world. Jesus has conquered this world. That is a truth that should permeate every conversation with your kids about the difficult things in the world.
John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”