The hardest question our kids ask.

The hardest question our kids ask.

The hardest question our kids ask.

Sometimes I hear sociologists, journalists, or economists talk about how we have been living in a time of “relative peace.” I guess that’s true, but for the folks in Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, the World Trade Center, or most recently, Ukraine, “relative” is not relevant. They have been the victims of war.

Because Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch and our outpatient clinic, Dakota Family Services, are filled with experts on children’s mental health, we are often contacted by various media outlets for interviews on “How to talk to a child about war.” It’s not an easy subject for parents. We all want to shelter our own children from the horrors we imperfect humans create in this world. But, we can’t. So, we struggle to find ways to make sure they know they are safe, but teach them to be alert, and be honest yet hopeful. That’s a lot.

Our professionals at the Ranch do a good job laying out the format for conversation. The first step is always to find out what they already know and believe and where they learned it. Second, we need to make sure that we keep our information appropriate to their age. And so on through the process.

I was listening to a non-Ranch professional the other day on a podcast. As she went through the standard advice I had heard from our experts, she told parents to explain the purpose of war to their children. No explanation as to how to do that. No guidance or insight. It was just simply a step, probably around 7, of the dozen or so she had mapped out.


One of the hardest questions Ranch children ask is “Why did this happen to me?” They want to give meaning to the abuse, violence, molestation, or neglect they have experienced. They want us to explain the purpose of the personal war they have been in.

Again, yikes.

We know there is sin in the world and sin hurts innocent people. Sin creates war. Sin creates trauma. For me, that explains the “how” it happens, but “why” the children of Ukraine… or the precious children of the Ranch. Why is it them?

I am sure there are great social science theories and I can even spout a few. But, when you look a child in the eye and try to help them, those theories don’t matter.

What matters is what our Chaplain at the Ranch, Rev. Rick Jones, has told hundreds of children in his time here. “I don’t know all the answers, but I do know for sure that God has been with you through it all. He has been beside you, He has felt your pain, and He will be with you through your healing and for your whole life. That doesn’t change what happened to you, but it does mean it doesn’t define you. You have His unconditional love.”

What is the purpose of war? I know why wars start, but certainly not their “purpose.” So, I rely on the One who will always be beside me. My hope is that our children lean on Him, too.

Please pray for the kids and staff of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch.

In His love,

Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

Send a message of hope to a child at the Ranch

Hope is a very powerful thing. For kids at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, hope can mean the difference between successful treatment and giving up on life. You can provide hope for our kids. Your message will let a boy or girl know that someone cares and wants them to succeed. It's easy to do and takes just a few minutes! Send a message of hope to a child at the Ranch by clicking on the link above.


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