My children became aware of the trauma of tragedy as babies when their father died in a car accident. It especially impacted my son who was two years old at the time. He watched as his mother turned into a slave of grief filled with extreme emotion and stress-infused outbursts of crying and sometimes rage.
Even though our lives are much happier today and stress levels have decreased significantly, my now-tween son still worries when he sees me shed a tear or hears the slightest change in my tone. No matter what he’s thinking about at the time, he stops to study my face. “What’s wrong, Mom?” he asks. “Are you crying? What’s wrong?” The deep pain of grief is forever impressed in his soul.
Protecting their innocence
Those years of anguish showed me how emotionally tied children are to their parents. Our children study us as they seek to know the way the world works. They also want us to be happy and content, and when we’re not, they feel insecure.
I was a stay-at-home mom during the preschool years, and I sometimes left the TV on a 24-hour news channel during the day just to give me some adult company. Soon I realized my son was picking up on all the horrors of the world. He heard about the shootings, mangling, and persecution, the arguing and the doomsday predictions, and he became fearful.
He didn’t understand those stories could be happening anywhere in the world. To him, it was all down the street.
He had already experienced so much tragedy in his life, so I decided to turn it all off. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was best to shelter him from the news or help him face the realities of the world. But looking back, I feel I did the right thing.
There are several reasons as both a mother and a Christian I believe sheltering my young children is the best option. Obviously, as they mature, parents should introduce them to more mature topics, all the while being there to discuss and explain. But for children under 10, here are two reasons why I think sheltering is best.
Kids learn things from television.
I want my children to learn about the world from my perspective, not the media’s. The news is competing for viewers with other news outlets. And they’re competing with movies, television dramas, and sitcoms—essentially everything on television 24 hours a day. So they feel the need to present news in a dramatic way—anything gruesome, exciting, or dangerous. As the old saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
But fearful, gruesome tragedies aren’t the only things going on in the world. There are grand and wonderful things happening too. Even when tragedy does come, the news certainly isn’t reported from a Christian point of view.
Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” We should present the problems of the world from this perspective to our children. No need to fear when we trust in God. Always love, even our enemies. And make judgments with wisdom—a sound mind and self-discipline.
We should strive to protect a child’s innocence from evil as long as we can.
You wouldn’t tell a young child about sex or let them see an R-rated movie before they were old enough to understand. So why let them be privy to every evil in the world in television and media?
I believe childhood innocence is the closest thing we have to heaven in this world. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
That natural innocence is what we parents should do our very best to protect, so our children can have some glimpse of heaven—a place that is beautiful, carefree, and full of wonder.
There are many ways you can shelter your kids from the cares of this world. Here are four ways we have learned to do this in our household.
1. Turn off the news until after the kids go to bed.
Children don’t need television all day, and you don’t either. You’ll notice how their attitude changes and yours does too.
2. Discuss heavyweight issues like finances and work problems outside of their presence.
Kids can’t offer any solutions to these problems, and their knowledge of these things only makes them worry for you. When you are with your children, tell them you are struggling but everything is going to be alright because we trust in God.
3. Limit your children’s computer and smartphone time, and filter as much of it as possible.
A smartphone is a privilege. And it should only be given to a child if a parent has the capacity to regulate it. If children need a computer for school, they don’t have to have a private personal computer. Let them do homework on a shared family computer in a high-traffic area in the house. The average age a child in the U.S. is exposed to pornography is eight. The average age that a child gets a smartphone is eight. Coincidence? You decide.
4. Encourage your children to come to you with questions.
Your children will hear about world issues at school, from friends, or by overhearing conversations. If you stop them from talking about certain things, they will look to others for the answers. But as their parent, you can talk to them about the issues on a level they can understand and from a biblical perspective. You can’t depend on church, private school, or youth group to teach that for you.
You set the tone
As the parent, you set the tone for your family. If your children sense fear or worry in you, they will feel the same. Throughout the ages God has proven He takes care of His people. Look at the children of Israel who were spared from the plagues of Egypt. Look at how they were saved and provided for in the wilderness. And look at how God saved Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God could have just left Noah and his sons to drown, but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
We have the same promise through the covenant of Christ’s blood. We don’t have to live in worry or fear. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
No matter what we go through, God will be there with us, carrying us through the whole time, providing manna, if necessary, to bring us through to His will. As parents, we can keep assuring our children we are God’s children, and He has our best interest at heart even when we go through struggles.
Innocence is precious. It’s a parent’s job to protect a it until the child has the wisdom to make good character choices. Just like you don’t expect a newborn baby’s body to walk and eat as an adult, a child’s mind is the same. It needs a foundation of inner peace, trust, and security before being sent into the world. The Lord cares about the innocence of the youngest of His family. We should certainly do our best to protect them from the world that does it’s best to corrupt them.