I imagine many households with children are having hard conversations surrounding the news of what is happening in Ukraine. My counsel always includes helping our children hear the right amount of news. As literal, concrete learners, it matters what they hear, from whom they hear it, and how it is delivered. At the same time, it is important for our children to be aware of global injustices and conflicts taking place. I have paused with my grandchildren to pray for the people in Ukraine and specifically for our friend Andriy, who is living right in the midst of attack.
Dema Kohen, one of our children’s ministry colleagues who is from Ukraine, penned these words recently:
I hardly slept last night.
The news of Russian invasion into my home country kept me awake.
I read the news.
I read more news.
I was scared.
I talked to one of my cousins back in Ukraine. (I have a lot of relatives there.) His calm was comforting.
He’s keeping his eyes on Jesus and told me he was hoping for the best.
While he and I were talking, his wife was packing go-bags. She was getting the family ready to hide in their cellar. Bombs were exploding a mere 20 miles away. . . .
I think the most timely and consistent word we can pass along to our children right now is: “Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” These are not magic words. They do not fix everything in an instant. Nonetheless, they are powerful words. And while adult followers of Jesus may understand what it means (at least in theory), perhaps we could unpack it for children and discuss ways to practice what it looks like to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
I think the most timely and consistent word we can pass along to our children right now is: “Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
What do we remember about the character of Jesus? What do we remember about the past and the faithfulness of God—even as we sit in the midst of unpredictable and anxious days? What do we do with our fear? What will it look like for our family to keep our eyes (and minds) fixed on Jesus? How does Scripture help us? Is there a verse we could memorize together for such a time as this? How can we remember to breathe this scripture throughout the day as we seek to trust the past, present, and future God?
In times like these, there is a chance our children will hear something at school or other places outside the home. You may want to intentionally create space at home for them to unpack what they’ve heard.
Children who hear unsettling news may need extra hugs, desire a little more snuggling, may wake in the night and want to be in your room, or may feel uneasy about leaving your side. Pay attention to these longings or responses and what your child’s behavior might be communicating about how they’re feeling. Some children draw, some write, some sing, some shut down, some wait until weeks have passed before they can or want to discuss current events. Know how your children operate and communicate, and create space for them to get their thoughts from their insides to their outsides.
Author Brene Brown writes about the ways we make up stories in our head when we don’t know how to fill in the blanks. Making up stories is a great temptation when it feels like we are moving into unfamiliar and uncharted territory. Retelling whatever is true and right matters deeply in times like these.
When you pray together, resist the urge to describe in detail all of the things that are going on or that could happen. Perhaps you might focus on asking Jesus to protect the children who are afraid, to be close to parents who are doing their best to keep their families safe, and to give wisdom to all of the involved world leaders to act in ways that seek peace and safety for all humans.
May our greatest urges be to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Lord, in your mercy, hear the prayers of our people.