When tornados stir things up – what to say to kids

Aerial shot of damage in Dexter, MI 2012 tornado

Why didn’t God save their house? Why was it destroyed?

How do you answer the tough questions?

Rather than panic, take a moment to marvel! Isn’t it wonderful that God created your child with a unsuppressed, passionate sense of wonder and curiosity! (How will they find out about the world without cross-examination?) Thank God for their questioning nature!

But, there is this hard question hanging in the air. Perhaps in your household due to the recent Oklahoma tornado. (Which for me, stirred up memories of our own close-at-hand destruction in March 2012.)

The nature of the question asked may be different, but at any rate a response is required. What will you say? Here are some things to consider in formulating your reply:

  • Ask them what they know about the situation. You want to be able to provide them with answers that are specific to what they are looking for. (No need to go into details beyond what they have wondered about.)
  • Perhaps you need time to think about what you will say. It is okay to say: “I would like to continue talking about this, but I need time to think it over.” (But remember to reintroduce the topic later! Saying: “Remember when you asked me about…”)
  • Use age-appropriate words to describe what has happened. Give them a name for their feelings. “You sound frightened” or “You seem worried.”
  • It is okay to say that you don’t have all the answers! Words like: “I don’t know. God’s world is sometimes really hard to understand. We can’t see the reasons for why things happen. Sometimes we have to live in the mystery. All we can know is that God always loves us. God wants us to be safe.”
  • For specific questions:
    • Where was God?
      Your religious thinking may differ but Methodists don’t believe that God creates storms or other natural disasters to punish people. Reassure them that God weeps right along with those who suffer loss. God’s love never ends! And nothing that happens can separate us from his love. (See Romans 8:38-39.)
    • Why didn’t God stop this from happening?
      Back in the beginning of time God set in motion the creation of our world. God created our world to be ruled by natural laws. Take, for example, gravity: gravity is good – it keeps us from floating out of control! But gravity can also be bad – such as when an airplane looses power and falls to earth. It would be nice if God could save the airplane and temporarily suspend the law of gravity. But if that were to happen, we’d all go spinning off into space! Specifics in the case of a tornado: we have an unsettling mix of hot and cold air. Yet individually, hot and cold serve purposeful parts of our physical world. God doesn’t arbitrarily manipulate the laws of nature!
    • I’m wondering if I can trust God?
      A valid concern! God gives us a choice. Point to Bible stories such as Joseph in Egypt; Joseph chose to trust God in spite of difficult situations he faced. He eventually saw a purpose for his suffering. (See Genesis 45:4-7.) Trusting God doesn’t make troubles go away; it does make troubles easier to handle.
  • Point out the helpers. God always sends helpers. (Especially when you are looking for them!) Ask your children how they think that they can be a helper? (Prayer for victims is always one answer.)
  • Create a family plan for what to do in a similar situation. Calmly hold a family drill.

Are there questions you have or topics you’d like to see addressed? Fill out the form below to let me know.

Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Damage in Dexter, MI March 2012 tornado by Andy Fowler, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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