A Letter to Parents from Pastor Ty
As a parent, dropping my children off to school today took on new meaning as I am sure it has for many of you. The news about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas is absolutely horrifying and has produced waves of grief, anger, and fear in me. Likely, the national commentary will move from the immediate shock and horror toward longer discussions on gun reform, disaffected young men and mental health. These will be important conversations and will be ongoing for months and even years.
Tragically, this is not the first time something like this has happened. I keenly remember grappling with news of the Sandy Hook shooting when my kids were very young, so as your pastor, I wanted to reach out in order to share a few thoughts related to some of the more immediate questions that may be arising for you.
Question #1. Should we talk about this with our kids?
It is natural to want to protect all of our children from ever seeing or hearing of terrible news like this. Our instincts might be to do whatever we can to keep them from ever knowing things like this. Certainly in the case of our youngest kids, it is probably the wisest course of action to try to avoid the subject altogether. My wife and I tend to watch very little “news” and have never had it playing unmonitored in our house especially when our kids were quite young. Still, for some of our kids, they may be attending schools or riding buses or playing on sports teams where other children will bring up the subject. If that is the case, then it may be wise to consider telling our kids about it ourselves.
Question #2. How would we talk to our kids about this?
There are a few things we have learned in talking to our children about these kinds of issues. The first is that we try to tell our kids individually rather than as a group in order to tailor the messaging to their specific maturity and sensitivity. The younger they are, the less we say. As they have gotten older, our conversations have gotten more mature. The second thing we have learned is that timing is really important. Talking to a child as they are about to go to bed or right before they go into school is not the ideal time to have these conversations. These talks tend to happen best in late afternoon or very early evening, when going to bed or school the next day still seems “far” away. This gives the child some time to process and ask questions and gives them a better chance to sleep. The third thing we have learned is that every kid can respond incredibly differently. One may express terror and another complete indifference. We try to not overreact to their processing, but rather give them time and space continually pointing them to God especially in scary or sad times. A fourth thing we have learned is that it is wise to check in with the child again in a day or 2 to see if they have heard anything at school or have any other thoughts on the subject. Sometimes the answer is a simple “no”, and we generally leave it alone at that point recognizing that they can only “handle” so much. Other times, they have much to say, and we have found that the second conversation is often more important than the first. We always try to end the conversation making sure they know that ultimately it is God who cares, protects, and provides, and that faith in Jesus is the only way to have life forever.
Question #3. What can I do to protect my kids?
Every time I leave my kids at school or soccer practice or youth group, I am aware that I can only do so much to protect them from threats “out there”. My wife and I continue to pray for them and train them to look for signs of trouble and trust their gut.
The threats “out there” are real, but we also need to beware of the threats that may be closer to home. All of us must work to stay in tune with the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of our children. This requires consistent monitoring of their online activity, their friendships and their attitudes. If any sign of danger should surface, we must act. For example, if your child ever said or wrote anything that was threatening violence to others or themselves, take that seriously! Seek immediate help and wise counsel. If you have guns in your home, lock them and your ammunition safely away. If you find your child withdrawing and taking a “me against the world” attitude, take a step. Tell a trusted friend. Reach out to a counselor. Annoy your child with questions. Pray like crazy. Stay vigilant.
Question #4. What does the church do to protect our children?
As you know we have a check in system in order to keep track of our children, and we are moving towards building a kids’ wing that will be securable with a couple locked doors. I am sure you have also see that we have a police officer who directs traffic at the road and can assist in the case of an emergency. What may be less obvious to you on a typical Sunday is that we also have safety team members located around the building who are in communication with each other, some of whom have extensive training. There are also ongoing trainings, conversions and communications between staff and team members to try to provide as safe of an environment as we can.
There are no easy answers in times like these, and my heart hurts with yours. May God’s mercy, healing and care roll down and cover the families of Texas, and may we experience His tender loving comfort as well.
Psalm 103:3 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.