Tuesday evening my six-year-old Eden saw the rusty smoke billowing from the World Trade Center towers and she asked, "Mom what happened? Was somebody smoking and it got bigger and bigger?" I tried to gently explain the act of terror and my eight year old said, "The guys who did that (the terrorists) are in hell now, aren't they?"
Wednesday morning, September 12, I walked onto the playground of a little Christian School in south central Pennsylvania, armed with my Bible and songbooks to help lead children into worship for the school's morning chapel. A third grader with freckles on his nose ran to greet me. We hugged and he looked up at me with anxious eyes and said, "Didn't you hear, Mrs. Flinchbaugh? Don't you know what happened yesterday?" "Well, yes, I know what happened, Tyson." He shook my arm, pointed to the sky and said, "There are highjackers! Today I'm looking for highjackers in the sky." "Well, Tyson, you don't need to worry about highjackers today," I answered. "President Bush told all the airplanes to stay on the ground today." "But Jacob said there are bombs." Jacob is a shy African American second grader who approached me with obvious fear on his face. "There are bombs, right Jacob?" said Tyson. Jacob nodded and said, "Secret bombs. Nobody knows where they are." I hugged both of the boys as a crowd of children gathered and prayed for wisdom in how to answer.
They all had questions on their faces. "Boys, God has given you your mom and dad and teachers - and me. We're going to take care of you and God is going to take care of you. Don't be afraid." That same morning, I was taken with the magnitude of the answer of a red headed third grade student named Dustin during our school's chapel. The school principal and administrator asked students in Kindergarten through third grades, "Jesus is here, but we can't see Him. Who do you look to?" "You," Dustin answered after being called on. A startling truth. Young children have not yet learned to think through complex problems, and as the foundations of their learning and reasoning develop, they are very much concrete in their thinking and their conversation.
My eight year old, Johnathan, gasped when he saw the plane crash into the twin towers and the towers fall to pieces. "It's not fair! They didn't get a chance to get Jesus in their hearts so they can go to heaven." Of course, I told him that God put it inside of people to look for Him and we can rest assured that God gave each one of those trapped in the buildings a chance to receive Him at some time in their lives before Tuesday.
On school parking lots, in church prayer meetings, and in grocery stores parents are asking one another, "How do I help my child deal with this?" I'm not a psychologist, but I'm a mom who helps my husband lead a small flock of three - a four, six, and eight year old. I'd like to offer, with God's help, a short list of things that have helped me or helped my friends in coping with children who are observing this crisis:
1. As a Christian parent, the first place I point my children to for answers is the Word of God. I showed them Psalm 113:7 and together we prayed this verse for those still alive underneath the rubble in Washington DC and New York City. "He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap."
2. It's important that our children are reassured that we are watching over them and they do not need to feel that they should protect themselves. Of course, we encourage them to trust God as well.
3. I encouraged my children to express their thoughts to me. My six year old said she felt sad for all the people who died, my eight year old was more concerned about their eternal well being, and little Judah - well, she sang all day on Tuesday, "Alive, alive, alive forevermore. My Jesus is alive, alive forevermore."
4. I have a friend who takes her seven-year-old daughter to art therapy once a week to help her work through the grief of her parents' divorce. Sitting with a young child to draw a picture of how he or she feels will help them express what they perhaps cannot put into words. Incidentally, if they want to tear it up afterward, that's okay. It may be a way for them to "throw away" their sad feelings.
5. Turn off the TV. Our nation craves information - there's almost a lust for knowledge, as though gathering more knowledge will bring security to us. Watching any television for any length of time can put the viewer in a position of letting what they're watching become bigger than God.
6. Control our response. I've been trying to control my response to the tragedy in front of my children. Although I've wept while viewing the heartbreaking personal stories reported on during the tragedy, I've saved those tears for personal moments when I'm alone.
7. Support the leadership of our country. I've pointed to the flags at half-mast and explained the significance of that to my children. When President Bush called Americans to a national day of prayer and remembrance on Friday, September 14, all four of us knelt at the couch before school that morning and prayed for our nation's security, families who were sad, and for wisdom for our president.
My four-year-old Judah shared her child like wisdom as we watched on television the prayer and remembrance service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The choir was singing and NBC showed shots of the rescue workers digging thru the white ash remains at the WTC tower under the rainy gray sky. Judah asked, "Mommy, is Jesus bigger than buildings and the sky?" "Yes, Honey." "Is Jesus bigger than people?" "Yes, Judah, Jesus is bigger than people - even bad people." Simple reasoning from a little child -- I'm sure God smiled.
C. Hope Flinchbaugh is a wife, mother, and freelance writer covering stories for the international persecuted church, revivals, and family issues for magazines such as CHRISTIANITY TODAY, CHARISMA, CHRISTIAN READER, and all four of FOCUS ON THE FAMILY'S children and teen mags a well as their parenting insert. You may send Hope your comments on "What Are The Children Saying?" to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2001, Assist News Service. Used with permission.