Helping Kids in Crisis
- Natural disasters
- Flooding of home or community
- House fire or fire affecting the community
- Hurricane affecting community
- Man-made situations
- Terrorism – school shooting
- Parent in the military
- Accident that injured the child himself or a family member
- Personal and family issues
- Parents divorcing or separating
- In foster care
- Exposure to pornography
- Domestic violence in the home
- Abuse or neglect
- Severe illness and/or hospitalization
- Death of a close family member or friend
- Parent in jail or prison
- Parent out of work – economic hardship
- Parent with mental health issues
What can you do to help the hurting children?
You can C.A.R.E.
C ommunicate Concern
– Hurting children need to know that someone cares.
Show genuine empathy towards the child who is hurting. Be sensitive. This isn’t always easy. Hurting children often respond to a crisis by acting out, becoming angry and frustrated as they feel out of control of their circumstances.
Alex returned from summer vacation a different boy. He was angry, bitter, and constantly starting fights with his friends. The teacher couldn’t understand the change in Alex who used to be easy going and compliant. Then she found out that his parents were going through a divorce. Alex was hurting deeply and didn’t know how to deal with his grief. His fear came out as anger and rebellion.
Hurting children aren’t usually the easiest children in our classes. In fact, they may be the hardest to handle and the ones who test our love and commitment. A child in foster care, for example, may seem aggressive or insensitive to the needs of others. A child who is grieving or suffering neglect may be needing constant attention.
Ask the Lord to give you love and concern for the hurting child and pray that he will sense that love from you. Look past the child’s actions to see his hurting heart. As you communicate sincere concern, the child will trust you as someone who can help him through his struggles.
Hurting children often respond to a crisis by acting out, becoming angry and frustrated as they feel out of control of their circumstances.
You also need to:
A llow the child to express emotions or ask questions
– Hurting children need someone to listen to them. Encourage expression of feelings and be accepting of them.
Mrs. Hannah, will you pray that God gives my Daddy a clean heart? He yells all the time and then breaks stuff around my mom. He doesn’t know I see him, but my heart gets knots inside. Jesus can give him a new heart Mrs. Hannah, right?”
The child could have questions about what she is going through, some you may not know how to answer. “Why did God let this happen?” “Can God heal my grandma’s cancer?” Ask the Lord for discernment in responding to the child’s questions.
There is a very helpful booklet from Child Evangelism Fellowship® called “Do You Wonder Why?” that is on a child’s level and helps answer questions like “Why do so many bad things happen in the world?” and “How can I get through this terrible time?” Reading through a booklet like this with the child will give biblical answers to questions that he has and ones perhaps no one else has taken the time to answer.
Try this: Allow the child to express his feelings by drawing a picture or writing a poem or story about how he feels.
Once a child has shared with you a difficult situation he is going through,
R emember to point the child to Jesus and Scripture
– Hurting children need to have a relationship with the Lord and to know the promises in Scripture they can hold on to in hard times.
Check to see that the child has trusted in Jesus alone for salvation. You can ask, “Have you ever believed in Jesus to save you from your sin?” If the child answers “no,” then share the Gospel with him and invite him to trust in Jesus to save him. The unsaved child will have no peace and no assurance of God’s presence during crises until he has a relationship with God through believing in Jesus.
After checking to see if the child has believed in Jesus, then share promises from Scripture that will be a comfort to her.
Two 9-year old girls, best friends, came to the camp nurse with stomach pain. On Monday the nurse tried to analyze what might be wrong. They didn’t seem sick enough to go home but didn’t feel well enough to participate in the camp activities. The nurse tried calling the parents and left a voicemail with no response back. Through Tuesday and then Wednesday the girls were brought often to the nurse. When they came again on Wednesday evening, the nurse knelt before them and asked, “Is there something that is troubling your heart?” To which both girls started sobbing. Their story came out through tears – one girl’s mom had left the family, and the other’s family was in turmoil. Their stomach pain was a result of the hurt and fear in their hearts. The nurse found out both girls were saved, so she taught them Proverbs 3:5, 6 explaining how to trust in the Lord through the hard things. The nurse then prayed for the girls. They seemed instantly better. The next night at testimony time one little girl shared with the group: “This week I learned to trust in the Lord.”
Think of verses that God has used in your own life to comfort you in hard times. Those verses will also be an encouragement to the children. Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 26:3, I Peter 5:7, Psalm 118:6, Philippians 4:6,7, Hebrews 13:5b and 6a are some of the great promises you can share. Be sure to apply the Scripture to the child’s situation.
Pray with the child asking God to give her strength, help, and peace. Encourage the child to also pray asking God for help.
Never underestimate the importance of what sharing Scripture and praying for the child can do to help.
The unsaved child will have no peace and no assurance of God’s presence during crises until he has a relationship with God through believing in Jesus.
E ncourage the child by giving him practical helps and keeping in touch
– Hurting children need something to remind them of God’s help and that you still care. Continue to encourage as time goes by – checking on the child and asking how things are going.
A first-grade boy shared with his Good News Club teacher that he was angry at God because of the seizures he often had. It was embarrassing for him when a seizure would happen at school in front of his classmates. He struggled with God not healing him. The teacher shared with the little boy that there were hard things she was going through, too, and so she would keep verses in her pocket to read during the day to remind her of God’s help. The little boy asked, “Can I have some pocket verses, too?” That night the teacher wrote out several verses on business cards and gave them to the boy. One day while they were passing in the hall at school, he pulled his verses from his pocket, waved them at the teacher and smiled big. The verses were a comfort to him and reminded him that God did care.
If you have been through a crisis like the child’s or any other difficult life event, share with the child how God has helped you. The child will gain confidence knowing that someone else has experienced trauma and survived. This is a biblical concept found in II Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction,so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (ESV) Allow God to use what you have experienced to encourage the child.
Try this: Have the other members of the class make cards for a child going through a crisis.
“…so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
- If a child shares with you about being abused, ask if they have told anyone else or if it has been reported. (Sometimes a child shares an old situation and it has been cared for, so it is important to get clarification.) If there doesn’t seem to be evidence that authorities have been contacted, then by law you are required to do so. Call the Child Abuse Hotline in your state and report what you know. Do not panic in front of the child or confront anyone on your own.
- Keep a confidence when the child shares something personal with you unless it involves the child’s safety.
C.A.R.E. – Communicate Concern, Allow the child to express emotions or ask questions, Remember to point the child to Jesus and Scripture, and Encourage the child by giving him practical helps and keeping in touch.