Children ask, “Why are people mad at each other?”

mad demonstrationIf children are hearing news reports of recent national and international events, some of them want to talk about feeling upset by the anger and tension they sense between opposing groups.

Pediatricians, child psychologists and others make available solid advice to guide us through these conversations. We offer additional ideas if you choose to bring in the moral dimension.

Sometimes groups of people are mad at each other because…

  • They perceive that something is not right and, without moral concern, the world would be a dreadful place indeed.
  • They perceive that nothing is being done about the wrong. An important purpose for anger is to motivate us to take constructive action.
  • People are insensitive to their opinions and beliefs. Their most important opinions or beliefs are being shouted down or ignored. They’re afraid that harm is going to come to them and those they care about.
  • They cannot make other people change and they feel like they don’t have the power, energy or force to produce any effect or change.
  • What other reasons can you add to this list?

Know when to stand firm for your beliefs.

mad speak upAt times, people need to take a stand and do it publicly. They are ready to do this when they’ve learned how to remain composed when others do not share their convictions. Otherwise their public demonstrations can become belligerent and bitter and onlookers lose the message they intended to convey.

Being right can lead to being wrong.

It is possible to be so filled with good opinions that those opinions seem to justify unloving outbursts and actions. People become judgmental and rage, taking revenge, picking up weapons, or any other number of harmful acts.

Speak up with love

  • Hold firmly to your convictions while refusing to enter a power struggle. True assertiveness is anchored in the positive message you want to communicate, not in what’s wrong with the other group’s viewpoint.
  • Find balance when your anger is linked to a reasonable issue and you communicate it responsibly.
  • Aha! Parenting reminds us that “In a democracy, through a long and respectable history of peaceful protest and civil disobedience, change was created in the face of entrenched power structures.”

Tweetable: Ideas for responding to kids who are unsettled by their perception that people are so mad at each other lately. Click to Tweet

Communication with God can help kids regain optimism

communication roller coaster fear“My biggest fear used to be of heights. I never went on roller coasters. I was deathly afraid of ski lifts… I’m still afraid of heights. But this is no longer my biggest fear. For a year or two in high school, I guiltily admit that the zombie apocalypse was my biggest fear….As a college student, my biggest fear is a school shooting.” –Jennifer Jaklevic

Jennifer echos many students’ fears.

If a student looks to you for comfort, consider whether some of Molly Wigand’s ideas could be adapted in your conversation, along with the ideas from last week’s post.

communication prayerSpiritual Tool: Communication with God

God is the only one who understands everything you feel. Talk to God about your fears and in return you will receive peace of mind. That peace can guard your mind and heart from excessive worry. Return to God time and time again. God enjoys you and every conversation the two of you have.

“Since nobody really knows what death is like, a caring adult might want to introduce the idea of ‘heaven’ to the child,” suggests author Molly Wigand. “Many people believe death is the beginning of a brand-new life in a beautiful place called heaven.” One mom, whose 7-year-old boy prayed and asked God to show him about heaven, reports that when he woke up the next morning he told her he dreamed about heaven and he’s no longer afraid to go there.

Spiritual Tool: Communication with yourself and others

You can learn to face your fears and worries by talking to yourself. Tell yourself that you can handle it, and you will.”  Molly continues, “Teens can think about some of the fears they had when they were younger and feel proud for getting over those fears.”

Use your creativity to face your fears. Fears may look and feel less scary when a child puts them on paper. If teens fear a school shooting, they can use creative expression to depict the shooting scene, placing themselves in it and in safety.

Find a relaxing place

communication with GodMake a special place (in your bedroom, yard, etc.) to relax your mind and body. Do your breathing and feel yourself calming down. Imagine your favorite people all around you Imagine God protecting you with an umbrella of love.insert link

Talk with a trusted friend, parent or other adult. Sometimes when you realize you’re surrounded by others with similar feelings, your fears fade away. Ask them how they handle their fears. You might pick up a new tool to try.”

“Guide [young people] through the uncertainties of these complicated times and empower them to find courage and face their fears.” –Molly Wigand

Click to Tweet: Among the many spiritual resources available to kids is communication with God, others and one’s self.  Here are specific ideas to adapt as conversation starters with children. Click to Tweet

Offer specific reassurance when kids fear dying

reassurance about dying“Even more desirable than being able to die peacefully is being able to live fearlessly.”—Dr. Alex Lickerman. Fear, worry and anxiety are so complex in their origins and in the ways each of us manages these emotions best for ourselves. But as adults, we can adapt and offer two spiritual tools to kids that may be helpful for them in managing their fear of death: 1) loving reassurance, 2) communication with God, others and self. In today’s post, we look at the first of these tools.

Spiritual Tool #1: Loving reassurance of God’s protection from fearing death

In Part 1 of the discussion about children’s fears of dying, we discussed that there are no guarantees of being protected from harm. Bad things happen to good people. But God does offer children protection from fearing death.

Healthy fear protects children

Part of God’s protection is seen in the presence of healthy fear—fear that produces brain chemicals like adrenaline to propel the child out of harm’s way.

Love dispels fear

umbrella of reassuranceAnother side of God’s protection from fearing death is found in the child’s confidence that God’s love is there and love dispels unhealthy fear. “How they choose to perceive a threatening event dictates their response to the situation,” observes Becky Bailey.

Kids might relate to this word picture—God’s love is like an umbrella that can protect them from fear.  Using this spiritual tool can allow children to still see the world as a beautiful place, a friendly place.  They can think about how their family loves them and God loves then. “Love is the very best thing for making fears and worries go away,” Molly Wigand says.

When love increases, healthy thinking, good judgment and peace of mind all improve.

Children who trust in God may find themselves able to live fearlessly, even through the valley of the shadow of death.

Next week: Spiritual Tool #2 — Communication with God, others and self

Tweetable: When children look for reassurance as they face of their fears and worries, spiritual resources can play an important role, in addition to emotional and psychological helps. Here’s one such spiritual resource. Click to Tweet


Spiritual perspectives on our children’s fear of dying

scared of dyingI wrote a recent blog about children’s fear of dying. In response to that entry, a reader wrote me about the specific way school shootings play into that fear. She wrote: I think if a child asks a parent about dying these days, it is likely to be a fear of dying at school, shot to death by someone with a gun.  The Columbine massacre occurred in 1999 – the year [my twin grandsons] were born – which means there are kids who have grown from infants to legal adulthood never knowing a world where school shootings don’t happen. It might be helpful to do another blog post addressing this distressing issue. 

Here is that post.

From a spiritual perspective, a children’s fear of dying a violent death may center on two issues:

  1. I can’t count on God to protect me.
  2. How do I manage my fear and anxiety?

Issue #1 — I can’t count on God to protect me.

Yes… and no.


God is powerful and he (or she) could make people stop the violence. He could make people do what’s right. Yes, he could, if he wanted to control people’s lives. He would have to eliminate choice so that no one ever chose to do wrong or make trouble again.

What kind of world would this be if God forced people to do right? Or insisted that they feel happy all the time? Wouldn’t God become the dictator of the whole world? What kind of person would you be? Your freedom would be gone. You could not make choices.

Violence is here to stay, and with it, people’s right to think their own kind or cruel thoughts, feel their own hate or love, do good or bad. God upholds humanity’s freedom, even when humanity doesn’t like the results.

… and no.

God does provide protection for you, but God — being invisible – often acts in hidden ways or unexplained paradoxes. You might not recognize God’s presence.

For example, God’s voice of protection is heard when courageous people speak up and report danger signs, thwarting violence. God is also protecting you when good people spread love and kindness in their community, especially toward those who are difficult to love. Sometimes when “prickly” people are offered a sense of belonging and dignity, they drop their plans to do harm, and we have been protected.

God does provide protection for you, but God neither guarantees us a long life nor a trouble-free life. It’s an unexplained paradox flowing from the loving heart of this supreme being.

Stay away from simplistic answers

So whatever you do as an adult, stay away from simplistic answers, such as, “It was God’s will that those people died and these people didn’t,” or, “Those who died were being punished. If you do what God wants, that won’t happen to you.” Answers like these are not only simplistic but can be extremely damaging to children’s evolving and developing views of God.

The truth is that none of us knows why bad things happen.

And we don’t know why they happen to some people and not others. This world containing evil is not the world we were created for and designed for, and there are no easy answers or guarantees. So how do we help kids manage their fear and anxiety over the unknowns?

Read Part 2– on helping children manage their fear and anxiety– next week.

Tweetable: A spiritual perspective on school shootings. It may be a useful piece for some children as they cope with their fears and anxiety around violence. Read more. Click to Tweet