Helping Children When They Have “Trouble with God”
How can we help children who are having “trouble with God?”
Here are some ideas that will prove helpful in such situations.
Choose your words carefully. Don’t say, “God needed a good singer in heaven, so He took your grandmother because she had such a beautiful voice.” Rather, assure the child that he or she will see grandmother again in God’s Kingdom, so that he or she will not be led to believe that God is an enemy who takes away the people and things we love most. In the same vein, don’t tell a child that seeing grandma again will only happen “if you are good.” Offer reassurance.
Let grieving happen naturally. After major loss, children need time to grieve, and it’s better to be sympathetic than to try to “jolly them” out of sadness, or to encourage them to smile when they may not be ready to do so. Realize, too, that a child may need to revisit and retell the sad event. Talking about it a single time might not be enough.
Share some of your own experiences of having “trouble with God.” Knowing that you pray and have faith when you have doubted or felt unsure of God’s presence will help children to do likewise.
Prayer. Encourage troubled children to pray during the day. Basic to our Tradition is “Lord, have mercy.” Assure them that you are praying for them. If possible, get in touch with them during the week to remind them that you are praying, and that you hope they are praying, too.
Be approachable. Let children know that you won’t be shocked or turned off by anything they want to tell you. The teacher of the seven-year-old who was having trouble with God was like this. As a result, the teacher was able to give comfort and to say that we can trust God even when we don’t understand things. The adult’s willingness to listen was a model of God’s care and trust for that student.
“Listen and repeat!” Tell children over and over again that God loves them, no matter what. We will never “get” everything that happens in life – as children or as adults – but He knows everything and is always working for our good. That is His promise, and it is our sure hope.
Some excerpts from Valerie G. Zahirsky’s useful article