Stories of war and terrorism fill the headlines, TV news, and the minds of our children. The fear of terrorism hasn't turned out to be a short-term deviation from the norm, but a lasting reality of daily life.
Do you know how it impacts your kids?
As a research fellow with the George H. Gallup International Institute, I helped design a Gallup Youth Survey to determine what today's kids, "the Millennials" (children born from 1982 to 2002), say are their biggest needs. The top two results didn't surprise us—our kids want to be trusted and loved (92.7% for trust and 92.2% for love report these as "important" or "very important" needs). But what astonished us was the third need—a desire to feel safe and secure where they live and go to school. This came in at 92.1 percent, statistically almost the same as the top two.
Define the Cry
A cry for security is a deep need for predicatability, safety, and protection, as well as a desire for normalcy. So what can we as parents do to help our kids feel secure? Here are nine ways to offer your child stability.
- Share your feelings with your kids and encourage them to share with you.
- Spend extra, unhurried time together.
- Assure your children that they are loved and safe. Affirm their feelings as being normal in an abnormal situation.
- Balance personal discussion about the violence with exposure to media. Limit exposure to TV and Internet information.
- Inform your child with accurate, honest, and age-appropriate facts.
- Listen to your child. Tune into verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Initiate family safety procedures to help children feel prepared in a time of emergency. Children feel empowered if they know there's a plan.
- Increase the amount of reassuring touch. A hug communicates love and security.
- Determine normalcy. In the event of a security scare, seek to return your family to a normal routine as quickly as possible. As the parent, you set the tone by your behavior and example.
Help Your Child Feel Secure
As Christians, we have a distinct advantage when it comes to building security into our children. We know true security doesn't lie in metal detectors, video surveillance, community resources, or law enforcement. True security lies in a personal relationship with an almighty, sovereign God. Nothing surprises him. He doesn't wake up one morning and wring his hands, wondering, "Oh, my. What shall I do?"
With that in mind, help your child discover the following:
- God is our refuge. "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge" (Proverbs 14:26 NLT). Tell your child, "Even if I'm not with you, God is. When you're afraid, you can talk to him."
- God is our protector. "For he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones" (Proverbs 2:8). Make a collage from magazine clippings and labels from products that promise to "protect." Write this scripture in bold letters with a marker across the collage.
- God is our powerful shepherd. "See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arms rule for him. See his reward is with him and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young" (Isaiah 40:10-11). This is a compelling picture of our tough and tender leader.
Ask your child to describe some things that are both "tough" and "tender." Then read the verse and describe how a shepherd needs to be tough enough to take on mountain lions, but tender enough to take care of a lamb.
When we build these powerful concepts into the lives of our kids, we are building emotional and spiritual fences of protection and security around their lives. These boundaries don't lead to bondage; they lead to freedom. As the Psalmist wrote: "I run in the paths of your commands, for you have set my heart free" (Psalms 119:32).
Tim Smith is a family coach, speaker, and author of Connecting With Your Kids (Bethany). He lives in California with his wife and two daughters.
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