How Do You Explain Suffering and War to Your Kids? Light a Candle.

How do you talk with a child about the hard things in our world—like violence and war? How do you invite them into the sacred work of mending what is broken?

As parents, we want to protect our kids from the world. But we also want them to understand it, to experience it, and to discover the part they can play in remaking it.

It’s not easy, especially when there are little eyes watching your every move. Little voices asking “why,” often before you have what feels like a good answer.

So what do you do when words fail you? Light a candle.

That’s what our friend Parker Sanchez did with her 3-year-old daughter recently. Parker is a teacher, a dancer, a wife, a mother, and a peacemaker. Like a lot of you, she’s pressing into the hard work of raising her kids to wage peace and to love those on the margins.

The other day, she ordered one of our Sisterhood Candles, made by women in Iraq whose lives have been disrupted by war. She wasn’t ready for the question her daughter’s question when noticed the hand-poured candle. But Parker pressed in anyway. Here’s the story of what happened next, in her own words…

My beautiful Sisterhood Collection candle arrived today. My daughter was immediately taken with it, and asked, in one of those intense moments of insight that all parents recognize, “Who made this?”

I froze, because who knows how to explain warfare and suffering and despair to a three year-old?

But there are three year-olds all over this world facing exactly those things. However much I want to shelter my children from the horrors of this world, I want to raise caring, thoughtful people more. 

Parker Sanchez and her family

So I explained. I told her that a lady in a country called Iraq had made this candle. A lady who was forced to run away from her home by some scary people. How frightened she must have been and how much she wanted to keep her family safe. And how his candle helps her earn money for her family so that she can keep them healthy and happy.

I don’t know if I did the explanation justice, but I tried. I tried to share with my child just how lucky we are, and that it’s only luck that separates us from the family who ran from their home. I don’t know if she understood it all. (How could she? How can I understand it?) But I’m starting the conversation with her.

So thank you to the woman who made this candle for your bravery and resilience. Thank you for the gift of your artistry. Thank you for helping me start teaching my child about preemptive love. I’ll think of you and your family every time I light it.

To all the moms like Parker who are inviting their kids into this journey, thank you. We see you leading the charge in your homes and communities to open doors and extend tables. We see you leaning into the challenge of teaching your kids about the world—about the good things and the hard things too, about what it looks like to bridge gaps and hold hands.

And to those wondering how to take that next step with your children, light a candle. The words will come.  

Kendall Trout contributed to this post.