Talking to Kids About Japan’s Earthquake
By Sylvia Cochran
Mom, why did God allow the earthquake to happen?
There is a good chance that your child has seen more than her fill of the horrific pictures in the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami. She now wants to know why a loving God would allow the earthquake to happen. Part and parcel of her gradually shaping faith, you also recognize that there is some very real “here and now fear.’ So, how do you answer?
Colorado’s Children’s Hospital offers excellent advice for parents wondering how to address the heartbreak, devastation and loss of life with children of all ages. The tips are simple and succinct:
— Remain factual. Explain seismic activity in age-appropriate terms. Use a globe to show Japan’s location.
— Personalize the facts. (I must confess that I do not agree with this step but for the sake of completion, I am listing it here.)
— Reassure the child of her personal safety. Show that you are not located in an earthquake-prone area. Explain that tsunamis do not affect you personally where you are sitting.
— Stress randomness of events. There is no deeper reason why Japan (and Haiti or New Orleans) got affected by natural disasters. The forces of nature are unpredictable and in some parts of the world, earthquakes are a very real part of daily life.
While this may appear to be a rather clinical approach that does little for preschoolers, it will also not satisfy your budding Christian. It will, however, ensure that your child recognizes that she is physically safe and therefore will not suffer anxiety over a similar disaster happening to her.
So, how do you respond to the child wondering about God?
— Reinforce God’s goodness. He loves the people in Japan, and many missionaries and agencies who proclaim Christian values are rushing to help the devastated country recover.
— Highlight mankind’s condition. When Eve and Adam took that blasted fruit, humankind was thrown out of Paradise. As a consequence, everyone now lives in a world apart from God’s direct care and influence. Earthquakes, floods, devastations and storms are just part of this world.
— Emphasize God’s love. Some Christians have taken to blaming Haiti’s residents for a supposed devilish pact that brought God’s wrath. Steer clear of this type of explanation for Haiti, Japan or any future natural disasters. If God were truly in the smiting business, he would have taken out Nazi Germany or Cambodia’s killing fields well before getting around to Haiti.
— Remind the child that suffering is part of life. Do not forget to also point out that God can use the suffering that people experience to turn it into personal victories and growth. Romans 8:28 speaks to this effect.
— Help the child to look to the future. Jesus has promised that heaven will once again give humankind the ability to live in a paradise. Revelation 21:3-4 talks about the time that God will again live among us.
Now translate your understanding of God’s love and grace into action. Encourage the child to be the change she wants to see happen and partner with the youngster in relief efforts that benefit Japan and other areas ravaged by quakes, storms and floods.
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