What Should You Say To Your Kids About Terrorism At The Ariana Grande Concert?

As people were leaving an Ariana Grande concert on Monday, May 22nd in Manchester, England, a bomb went off killing 22 people and injuring another 59. The British authorities have identified Salman Abedi as the suicide bomber. ISIS has claimed responsibility. Intelligence services are investigating.

Unfortunately, we are no longer shocked by stories like this. There have been similar ones in the past and no doubt there will be more in the future. This incident got my attention because so many of the victims that have been identified are young kids and their moms. I read that some of the victims were moms waiting to pick up their daughters after the concert.

Because Ariana Grande’s fans are typically younger and because of the pervasiveness of social media, I think it’s reasonable to believe that most American kids have heard of the bombing even though it happened in England.

That raises the question: “What should I tell my son or daughter about an incident like this?”

1. I’d initiate the conversation instead of waiting to see if they bring it up. If you have a kid with a phone, then they already know about it. They are going to process it with you or without you. I vote that talking about it with you is the better option.

2. Events like this tell us there’s something wrong with us and our world. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. People are supposed to be able to go to a concert or a school or a theater without being shot and killed. Tell your kids that sin has wreaked damage on human beings and in a broken world there will always be people who do evil things.

But it’s important that your kids understand that sin isn’t only out there in the world but also in our own hearts. Now I’m not saying that all of us are one step away from bombing a concert. But the difference between us and a terrorist is in degree not in kind.

Sufjan Stevens in his masterful song ‘John Wayne Gacy’, meditating on the mass murderer in Chicago in the 1970’s, closes with this haunting confession:

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him.
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid

Maybe it’s uncomfortable for you to admit, but it’s healthy for you (and your kids) to see that the problem isn’t only “out there”, but also “in here.” You’re never too young (or old) to learn that you need a Savior.

3. Your kid might ask you if they’re safe. I think that most parents’ first impulse is to say, “Yes, of course you’re safe. I’d never let anything happen to you.” I don’t know if that’s the right answer because I don’t know if it’s the truth. Depending on the age of your child and his or her temperament, it might be best to be more honest. Yes, bombings at concerts and shootings at school are rare, but this might be a good time to tell them that this world isn’t always safe. It might be a good time to tell them that as much as you love them and wish to protect them the reality is that you can’t protect them the way you’d like. Only God can do that.

4. It’s good to long for a world that no longer has this sort of evil and injustice in it. And the Bible promises that God will bring about that very world where there is “no more death or sorrow or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).” In the end Jesus wins.

5. Worry isn’t the answer. While we live in this world, we put our trust in Jesus. He is the one who loves us and watches over us. Nothing can happen to us apart from the will of our heavenly Father.

6. Weep with those who weep. Christians are called to mourn with those in pain. Warn your kids to not harden their heart toward the hurting. Tell them that the temptation will be to look the other way or to numb their pain a thousand different ways including diving back into their phone. Instead, take a moment to pray with them for those who are mourning the loss of a loved one or who are fighting for their life in a hospital.

If you’re like me, these conversations with your kids never go as well as you planned. Maybe you get tongue tied or forget to make a point or get stumped by one of their questions. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. If you’ll just engage with your kids on these kind of sensitive and difficult topics good things will happen. They’ll see that your faith is real and that Jesus makes a difference in their day to day life. That might be the most important thing to come out of the conversation.

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