Losing someone close to you is not easy for anyone, but can be especially difficult for a child. As a parent, mentor, leader, or friend, you have an opportunity to be there for a child during this pivotal time. Here are a few practical tips for walking with kids through this situation:
1. Be there to listen. A child needs to know that you are there and are going to help them process through the situation.
2. Let them talk when they’re ready. Part of listening well is being patient. Kids will process at different speeds and in different ways, so never try to force words or emotion from them. Let them know that you will listen whenever they are ready to share.
3. Help make sure they know what’s happening. Loss can be confusing, especially for younger children. Make sure that they understand the situation, but be careful to explain in a kid-friendly manner. Keep them informed and help them to understand the permanence of the situation.
4. Don’t miss this chance to share salvation. Loss will bring about a lot of questions, so don’t miss this chance to share Christ. Talk with kids about the salvation of the person they’ve lost, but take this as an opportunity to share with them the hope and life that comes from Christ in their own lives.
5. Always point them back to Scripture. As you support them, help kids understand that it is Christ they should run to in their hurt and brokeness, not just you. Explain that you will be there, but use Scripture to assure them that God is near and is our strength. 2nd Samuel 22:3 says that God is our rock, refuge, and salvation. Help them understand that people come and go, but God is constant and forever.
6. Remind them that it is okay to be sad or even angry. Share with them that it’s okay to hurt, but hope can be found in Jesus. God already knows how they are feeling, and it is okay to let Him know, so long as we trust Him and know that He will loves us and has plans for our good.
7. Be sure to stay in the Word yourself. You cannot lead out of emptiness. Caring for a child in this situation can be emotionally and spiritually draining for you, so be sure you are filling yourself up as you pour out. Remember that your role is to be strong for the child, but not to deceive them. It’s okay for them to know that you are hurting too, but lead by example as you seek Christ in your hurt.