Fear. Shock. Grief.
These are some of the emotions the people of the Upper Cumberland woke last March after violent tornadoes tore across communities in Middle Tennessee. Close to home, parts of Cookeville and Putnam County were devastated: businesses were lost, homes were destroyed, people were injured, and lives were lost. Within a month, a damaging system came through White County, with severe straight line winds, and an EF-3 passed through Chattanooga.
As the pictures and details of the devastation were just coming to light, it brought many emotions to the surface. It was horrifying to think of such a tragedy happening in a place where you travel, work, and live, and it was shocking when it touched your friends, neighbors, and family. There just aren’t words that can adequately express those gut-wrenching feelings. Many of those feelings are newly repeated this year, with each new tornado watch or thunderstorm warning that arrives on your weather radio.
For families with children, there is added difficulty that comes in the aftermaths of these tragedies of severe magnitude. If we, as adults, find it difficult to deal with these big emotions even a year later, think how challenging it can be for children. Children may have seen pictures and heard stories that they didn’t and still don’t understand, and it can be frightening and confusing.
Don’t be afraid to discuss difficult events with your children that happened last year or that could happen this year. Take the opportunity to reinforce your family’s values and to foster hope and resilience in your children by communicating before, during, and after difficult situations arise. Consider these four “P’s” to help you teach your children about coping with natural disasters and other emergencies.
Building strong families is not just about spending happy, quality time together. Strong families work together to cope with tragedies, too. By helping our children process, pray, prepare, and participate, we’re equipping them with tools to help them navigate the difficulties of life.
When faced with the reality of a broken world where terrible things can happen, I’m sometimes tempted to despair. I’d like to leave you with the closing words of Psalm 27, which has often encouraged me to hope. I pray that you will help your children see the goodness of the Lord, even in the midst of terrible times.
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” - Psalm 27:13-14