Speaking to Your Children about Tragedies

written by Leslie Chambers

Alan and I were in Washington DC Sunday when we first heard the horrific news about the Pulse Orlando shootings. We’d been in DC for a couple of days and were planning to head home that evening. As is typical for us, at the end of the trip, we longed to be home with our children – to hug their necks and kiss their cheeks and feel their warmth. While sitting in the taxi, going through the TSA line, loading the plane, precariously shoving my purple carry on under the seat in front of me, and watching the glorious sun set out of a small rounded rectangle window, while doing all of these things I’ve done a million times before, I longed to breathe the same air as my children. I imagined what they smelled like and what their beating hearts felt like as I drew them close. I imagined the cold sterile hospital waiting rooms full of mothers and fathers and loved ones waiting to do the same. I imagined the mothers and fathers and loved ones of those who were killed and who are left desperately clinging to only memories.

During the last few days, our family has snuggled, giggled, watched the news, and had numerous conversations about our feelings and thoughts, about what a gay bar is and how we are to love others. We’ve attended vigils and had pancakes for dinner.

This morning we went swimming at our neighborhood pool and I couldn’t help but hear a conversation between two fellow moms. They talked boisterously about swim lessons and camps their kids are attending this summer. Then with hushed tones, they began to speak of the tragedy. Adamantly, one shared she’s chosen to keep the news from her kids. As her toddler circled her ankles, I grinned. Then she said her other daughter was 10 and going into the 5th grade. “I just don’t think she needs to know and I’m afraid she’ll flip out,” she said. I was surprised and wondered what she would think if she suddenly became privy to the conversations we’ve been having with our 10 and 11 year olds. Knowing nothing else about their family, I have to trust the mom’s heart knows what is best for her child.

But it got me thinking.

It made me thankful for all of the bites of hard conversations we’ve already had with our kids. This week they’ve been given some really difficult information to digest. And because we are teaching them to chew on tough matters, to slow down and to process, they’re not choking.

I’m thankful we’ve been intentional about always pointing to God as a Good Father, even when we don’t understand the world we live in or why things happen the way they do.

I’m thankful we’ve learned to follow the advice of angels and to fear not and that we can pass that on to our kids.

So, whether or not your kids know about this particular tragedy, may I encourage you to fear not as you raise them. Be on purpose about giving them bite size pieces of meat – of grand concepts and hard realities – to chew on. Wrap them in your arms, let them feel your heart beat and breathe your air - even if your heart is saddened and breathing is labored.


Parents, please share your thoughts and experiences below in the comment box.


Grace Church offers free counseling and funeral services for those affected by the Orlando tragedy. Please email us at info@graceorlando.com or call us at (407)998-5050 for more information. 

Alan Chambers spoke at the Washington National Cathedral this week as part of its Pride Week. He shared his heavy heart following the Pulse shooting and spoke about God's lavish grace, the LGBTQ+ community and the role of the church to pursue to love and welcome all people. Read More>