Talking with Your Kids about Tornadoes and Other Disasters

For a church our size, we have a lot of young children. In fact, many of our members have joined our church, in part, to give their children a strong theological foundation that will (hopefully) serve them well as they grow up and take on the world.

So what is a parent to do when things like tornadoes and hurricanes and crazed shooters and mad bombers show up on the news and close to home? How do we help our children deal with and make sense of something that we don’t even understand?

There are no easy answers, but here are some suggested responses to questions that might come up in the wake of the tragic tornadoes that hit our neighboring state of Oklahoma.

Why did God do this? 

God didn’t do this to the people of Oklahoma because they were bad or because they didn’t pray in school or because God needed another angel in heaven. God didn’t do this, period.  Weather Wiz Kids is a great site for children to learn about what actually causes bad weather.

Why didn’t God stop it? 

God is not a cosmic bellhop who comes to do our bidding when we snap our fingers, nor is God a super hero standing ready to stop any speeding bullet or tornado or hurricane that happens to be moving in our direction.  Why not? We don’t really know, because we are not God. We are not always going to understand God, but we can be sure that God understands us.

If God doesn’t keep bad things from happening, then what good is God? 

 God is good. All the time. God is always with us, and God always loves us. God is right there in the rubble, in the first responders, in the teachers who risked their own safety for that of their students, in the ambulances and the hospitals and the temporary shelters for those who have lost everything. No matter what happens, we are never alone. And we know because of what God did for us through Jesus Christ, God knows exactly what it feels like to be human and hurting. God may not always give us the answers we want, but God always hears us when we call.

Will this happen to us?

We can’t promise our kids nothing bad is going to happen, but we can make sure they know what to do in case it does. Make sure your child knows what the plan for your household is for a tornado or other disaster. Kids (like adults) are not fans of uncertainty. Even though you can’t say for sure what will and what won’t happen, having a plan of action in case it does is not only smart, it’s comforting and empowering.

How can We Help?

Let your child text PDA to 20222 and give $10 to the relief efforts via Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Tell them that our church has already begun to support the effort through our donation to One Great Hour of Sharing, and that Presbyterians who volunteer for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance are preparing to head out to help as soon as the first responders have finished their jobs. If your child attended Camp Ferncliff last summer, there’s a good chance that one of the disaster kits they assembled will be sent to the folks affected by this tragedy.

What Should We Pray? 

One of the greatest lessons you can teach your child in the wake of this tragedy is that prayer is important. There have been many quotes being tossed around the world wide interweb and twitterverse and facebooksphere that call for action rather than prayer. My favorite has been, “prayer is fine, but these people are really hurting!”  We do need to take action, and as Christians, prayer is a part of that. Here’s a prayer you can pray with your family tonight.

Dear God,

We pray for the people of Oklahoma. Those who have been hurt by the tornado. Those who are helping now that the tornado is gone. Those who are still searching for people and pets they love. We hope that they can feel your love in this terrible time,  because we know that you are with them all. Thank you God for all the people who have shown up and will show up to help.  Help us to find ways we can make a difference to the people who were in the path of the storm.

In the name of Jesus Christ, who knows what it is like to be human and hurting,


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