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December 21, 2012



Thank you, Kim, for sharing this with Christopherus readers.

One thing I just want to add: one of the hardest things for us as parents when faced with enormously difficult issues which threaten our children - whether directly or indirectly - is to be able to lovingly differentiate between what is our pain and our fear, and what is our child's. Sometimes we fear for them - and they, sensing our deep emotions, react, not out of their own place, but out of their connection with us. Other times our fears and anxieties can get in the way of their process. As Kim says, different children react and deal with trauma in different ways. It can be hard for a parent to know how to respond to a child who does not react in a way that they, the parent, finds familiar or comfortable.

Indeed, children can seem callously indifferent or have wildly inappropriate reactions to tragedies. But inappropriate only from a point of view which forgets 1) to take full cognisance of the child's age and 2) to truly understand that children are not small adults and that their emotional life is very, very different from our own.

So the key in all this is to struggle with our own pain and, whilst always being authentic and never pretending to feel or think what is not true for us, to be clear about the boundary between our own confusion and pain and our child's. This can mean that we say to a child "I just don't know why someone could kill children - some things are so big that Daddy and I and other grown-ups just have to work very hard to understand them." Or we might need to say "I am crying right now because of the children who were killed. It's ok to feel really sad about that".

And of course one's own spiritual path can be a source of comfort during such times. It is important for children to see their parents praying and to feel the certainty that surrounds those who have a strong faith life. And for those who don't? Then faith and trust in the basic goodness of human beings, despite - or even because - of wrongs and tragedies, can shore one up in an uncertain world. And the stronger we are in our inner life, in our convictions and trust, then the stronger our children will grow as they experience the safety of adult's boundaries and adult's sureness in the basic goodness of the world.And then they will be able to face the tragedies of life, and not be overwhelmed by them.

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