In times of seemingly constant disaster, we’re aware that it’s difficult to how to respond. Here are some quick tips of what to say…and what not to say—as you minister to these children and families, from Group’s Emergency Response Handbook for Children’s Ministry.
What Not to Say When Responding to Disaster
1. “You should be grateful. There are children who have it worse than you.”
This might be true. However, it sends the message to the child that he or she never has the right to complain or feel loss. If a child buys into this line of thinking, he or she will learn to repress instead of express feelings.
2. “This can’t happen again.”
Avoid making false assurances. Instead, redirect kids to see God as their forever friend who will never leave them and who will be with them during every trial.
3. “It will all be better tomorrow.”
Reassure the child, but don’t give false hope. It will take a while for things to get back to normal and for the child to start feeling better—it’s better to be upfront about that.
4. “Be brave.”
It’s natural for a child to have fears after a tragic event. Telling the child to be brave can give the impression that those fears are not OK to have.
What to Say When Responding to Disaster
1. “I’m right here.”
Your physical presence is just as important as your words. Let the child know that you are here to help with whatever he or she needs.
2. “I’m so upset about what happened, but I’m glad you’re OK.”
Acknowledge the event and don’t minimize it, but also try to offer some positive thoughts.
3. “May I pray with you?”
Prayer connects us to God, and that’s where a fearful or grieving family needs to be. God is the only one who can truly calm our fears or heal our broken hearts. Offer to pray with a child and family, or pray for them if they’re unable.
4.”What do you need?”
At a time like this, everyday life can be overwhelming. Don’t assume you know what the child or family needs. Ask and then be prepared to deliver.
For more insight into ministering to these children and families, check out Group’s Emergency Response Handbook for Children’s Ministry.
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