the problem of evil

Parenting in Tragic Moments

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I have a good friend with serious cancer. Chemo has even taken her eyebrows and eyelashes. She’s a loving wife and devoted mom of 2 elementary age kids. I give her whatever I can offer to help, but she’s given me so much more. An act of courage on display towards her family, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. She refuses to crumble under the weight. I have another friend whose husband died unexpectedly in the prime of their lives. She parents 3 young children under the cloud of deep mourning.

Tragedy enters our homes in varied forms and nuances. It leaves us asking, “How am I going to explain this to the kids?”. Our kids look to us for reassurance that they are secure. How do we communicate the truth of the situation and the problem of evil in the world, while also providing a blanket of much-needed security? Let’s look at 3 different types of tragedies and how to parent in those moments.

Natural Disasters

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires bring chaos to family life. My family recently had to evacuate for a monster hurricane. In one SUV, we packed 4 humans, 1 dog, important documents, luggage, and just a few sentimental items. We left with the understanding that all else was likely to be lost. We were fortunate and the storm veered. But what if it didn’t? As a dad, teach that stuff can be replaced, but their lives cannot. Your job is to keep them safe. When you see disasters coming, get your family out of harm’s way and deal with the aftermath later. If it’s sudden, the same priority is in place. Secure the safety of your family to the best of your ability in the moment. As for what to say to a child that has lost all she knows? You don’t say much. You hug and hold. You love. You secure. After all, home is wherever your family is together.

Man-Made Horror

These are the moments that feel like gut punches. Unexplained forms of pure evil. Someone opens fire on a crowd of innocent and defenseless people. A kid snaps and shoots up a school. We all know the scenarios. How do you explain them to a child? When they plead, “Why would someone do this?” Honestly discuss exactly what happened and tell them how you feel. Talk about the daily choice we all make between the paths of good and evil. The responsibility we have to actively choose good. Something that I do with my daughters is hold their hands and lead prayer together. It’s alright to not have answers. But make your actions intentional. Display love, strength, and perseverance to rise above the evil in the world. Being a dependable presence, devoting your time, and living your life as an example will help you be a source of stability amidst the chaos.

Death and Disease

My friend, whose husband died had 3 children staring at her saying, “What now?” I call my widowed friend, “Oak Tree.” Her roots are so deeply planted in faith and family, that even in the fiercest winds, she has withstood. It’s good to be a realist with your children about the hardships of life. Don’t breed false hope. I would recommend looking to God for true hope. Everything rests on our reaction to tragedy and having that hope provides strength. Although she is deeply wounded inside, I believe God has given her the strength she and her family needs. They see her as a true hero every single day. Be like that for your family. Be an oak tree. That is the deepest calling of a parent.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the scariest thing you have ever seen in real life?”