What to say when there are no words

As I was sitting in car line Monday, listening to the radio and madly following the #boston stream on Twitter, I realized I didn’t know what to say.

(i do now…)

I didn’t know what to say to my kids to help them make sense of something senseless.

I didn’t know what to say to God.

I didn’t know what to say to you.

what to say when there are no words

In an ideal world, I would have the option of pressing PAUSE on life to figure out a great parenting strategy.  I’d have a phone-a-friend option.  I’d be able to sort out my own head before talking to my kids.

Sometimes, real life is messy.  By the time my kids climbed in the car after school, they already knew.

They knew, they needed answers, and I had no words.

I asked God for a quick dose of wisdom and had to hope for the best.

So here’s what I told my kids.

1.  A bad thing happened.  Far away.  To people you don’t know.

I answered their questions and gave them a few details.  They know it was on a crowded street in Boston.  They know someone was killed.  They know that adults are angry about it and working to catch the bad guys.

2.  They are safe.  And loved.

Even though I might take it for granted, hearing those words give my kids a sense of security and reassurance.

3.  Praying helps.

I prayed out loud for my kids.  I told God about how the news was scary and that it made me angry.  I told God that it didn’t make sense and it was confusing.  And then I thanked God for how He protects us and loves us.

It was a short, kid appropriate prayer, but it helped them (and me!).

Here’s what we did next.

My kids are 7 and 8.  They process things at a very personal (and age appropriate) level.

4. They wanted to know that there were no bombs in our house. 

They took me at my word, but I was prepared to do a room to room search with them.  I also reminded them that we have fire detectors, a security system, and door locks.

5.  They wanted to know if it was OK to rescue our kitty in a fire.

(No.)  We reviewed our family fire drill plan and meeting place.   I told them stories about fire fighters saving kitties and about dogs rescuing kids (think Bolt).

Since that upset my youngest, we agreed that if a cat was in his arms when the fire started, he could carry the cat out with him.  And based on that, we did something concrete.

6.  We made a rescue plan.

There’s now a sign in my window that tells Mr Fireman that we have a kitty and to please rescue the cat in the instance of a fire.

While that doesn’t seem related to me, I understand that it was to my kids.  That was how they processed what I told them.  It was what they needed to do to feel secure.

In many ways, it was the kid version of adults donating blood.  We feel helpless, and we need to do something concrete.

What do you say when you don’t know what to say?

You open your mouth and let God speak.

In the process of being a mom and meeting my kids where they were, I was able to talk to God.

And then I knew what to say to you.

1.  You are loved.  God loves you and knows your heart.  He cares deeply about what is happening right now.

2. Prayer helps.  Nothing you could say right now would shock God.  Telling Him how you feel will make things a little better.  Remembering that God is in control helps even more.

3. You aren’t alone.  If you’re overwhelmed, ask for help.  You have friends and family who can help you.

4.  Do something concrete.  It takes away the feeling of helplessness.  Find some small something you can do.  In case you’re wondering, prayer can be VERY concrete.

As I post this, I’m saying a prayer for every mom and dad.  I’m praying that God gives us all a quick dose of wisdom as we talk to our kids and try to help them make sense of the senseless.

Blessings, Susan.

Edited to add:  here’s a link to a great post on 10 ways to talk to kids when something bad happens.

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. Melinda Stanton says:

    Thank you Susan. This is just perfect.

  2. This is wonderful. Even us grownups sometimes need someone to help up process and deal with these things. Thanks for doing that for me tonight.
    Joy in the Wilderness recently posted..Five Minute Friday – HereMy Profile

  3. Stephanie says:

    Beautifully written Susan. I love that you were able to reassure your children, even though you thought you had no words. I love that God was able to speak through you and that you prayed with your children. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
    Stephanie recently posted..My Thoughts on the Boston Marathon BombingMy Profile

    • Stephanie, I loved your post too. You gave a runner’s perspective that I didn’t have. I love your challenge to wear a running shirt this week and to just go out and run (or walk). It’s such a healing idea – exactly what we are all searching for right now.

  4. {Melinda} What a beautiful post. My kids are teens, but they still had a difficult time processing, especially my daughter who feels things very deeply. Also, since she remembers 9/11, she was immediately concerned that it was terrorism and what did that mean for the country? I don\’t have all the answers. None of us do. As you said, we just have to keep pointing them back to the comfort and wisdom of the one who does.

    • Thank you Melinda. This post IS my “do something.”
      I’m so thankful I can point my kids to God to find comfort and wisdom when I have none. I may not have answers, but I always know who does.

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