The news about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan is nearly unavoidable, and rightly so. We are watching a horrific human rights atrocity happen before our very eyes. Our children are likely seeing the images but are not as tuned in to this historic event, and that’s OK. But as Christian parents, it’s important that we teach our children to mourn with those who mourn. Here are three things my husband and I did with our children to help them understand what is happening right now and how Christians should respond.
Find a good news source
I’ve found that listening to news for children can be an effective way to introduce them to complex world topics. While we will often show them video footage of current news at times, some events feel too weighty for children to watch. So, we chose to listen to this podcast from the BBC while we ate supper. A podcast allows us all to listen while doing something else (like eating a meal) which makes it seem more natural and less forced.
We listened to the first 10 minutes or so of the episode and paused when needed. This segment included a few fascinating interviews with those being directing affected by these events, including a female activist who refuses to leave Afghanistan out of a commitment to the women and girls that she has mentored and led over the years; and a journalist in neighboring Pakistan. The news felt even more real and pressing to them because of the ability to hear from people halfway around the world.
Allow plenty of time for questions
Our children are 13, 11, and 9, and they had a lot of questions. Who are the Taliban? Are they like Al Qaeda? Why are the U.S. troops leaving the country? Why are we in Afghanistan? My husband and I had read a few articles that day and watched several clips online about the horror happening, so we tried our best to explain what we were seeing. But most of the questions they asked were not cut and dry. We had to answer “I don’t know” several times and explain to them that some things are more complicated than we’d like them to be.
Ultimately, we made every effort to point our children back to the fact that we need to pray for the Afghan people because God is the only one who can fully understand and deliver them. We also tried to humanize things for them so that they could better understand how to pray for the Afghans. We told them that some people were so desperate to leave the country that they held onto the tires of evacuation planes in hopes that they would be able to survive, only to fall to their deaths. We wanted them to think about what it would be like to feel that desperate. We’ve found that it’s always good to help children cultivate empathy for others, especially in a crisis like this.
The final thing we did as a family was to pray. My husband read Micah 6:8 and talked to our children about the injustice that is happening in Afghanistan and why it’s right that we pray for justice. I then picked five things we could pray for and let each member of the family pick their topic. Since we have five people in our family, it made sense to identify that number of topics. This makes praying a bit easier and helps us avoid generalities.
These are the things each one of us prayed:
- The U.S. government, military, and President Biden: Our 11-year-old son prayed that God would give President Biden and the generals involved in the military wisdom to do what is best and to help the people of Afghanistan.
- The Taliban: Our 9-year-old son prayed that these people would stop doing wicked things and that God would soften their hearts toward the Christians living in Afghanistan.
- Women and children: Our 13-year-old daughter prayed for women and children to be protected and that their value would be seen by those who seek their harm.
- The church in Afghanistan: I prayed for our brothers and sisters in Christ that live in Afghanistan and asked for the Lord’s protection, while also asking God to give them courage to endure and face possible persecution and execution.
- The country of Afghanistan: Jesse prayed for the Afghan government, for justice, and for God to bring structure to the chaos. He closed our time in prayer with some reiterations of what we all had said, thanking God for his sovereignty in this moment and always.
If you are a parent, especially a parent of elementary age children and older, I encourage you to talk to your children about big world news like this. If you’re like me, you will probably feel inadequate. But, we can trust that God is working on our children’s hearts through our imperfect efforts.
Our time together didn’t go as I’d planned, though. While listening to the podcast, we still had to deal with real family issues. We had to stop a few times to deal with relational conflicts that occur at any family dinner table. And in between listening to the podcast and our prayer time, we had to deal with a child that was mad about someone eating their food. This is real-life parenting.The kids were not perfectly enraptured with the podcast or our answers. Sometimes I could tell their minds had wandered off. But we were faithful in the moment to model empathy for another people group, and to take those concerns to the Lord. That is all we can do as parents. I encourage you to trust God with your inadequacies as you walk your kids through important moments in our culture.