As parents, it aches to see our kids experience fears and anxieties. Whether they’re facing smaller fears like spiders, snakes, or creepy clowns, or larger fears like war, school shootings, or other tragedies, we want to help. What do we do when they go white as a sheet, their hands get clammy, their heart pounds, or they just lose it?
Help your kid R.O.B. fears and anxieties of their power:
R: Recognize their fear.
Comfort your child and calmly help them recognize what they’re really afraid of. Ask them what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking about, and what they’re afraid might happen. See if you can figure out what the root of their fears and anxieties are so you can identify appropriate tools to combat them.
When I was a kid, I was teased a lot and worried about fitting in at school. This impacted other areas of my life. I felt fear when I tried to order a burger from the stranger running the burger joint. Would he think I was weird—or worse—tell me I was weird?
Maybe ordering burgers isn’t your kid’s struggle. No worries! Look through this list. It’s not all-inclusive, but it might help you and your child get to the root of the fears and anxieties they’re experiencing.
- Being excluded, being alone, not fitting in
- Animals, creepy crawlies, monsters
- Failing, not measuring up
- Losing a loved person or object, moving to a new home, getting lost
- Violent weather, loud noises, sounds in the dark
- Speaking in front of a group, interactions with new people
- Supernatural creatures or events, nightmares
- War or terrorism; pain, bleeding, or getting hurt
- Being powerless, losing control, death
O: Open their mind to truth.
Gather information and truth about your child’s fears and anxieties to open their mind up and see them for what they really are—a lie. For instance, if your child is afraid of the dark, check closets and under the bed to show nothing’s there, and gently teach them God has not given us a spirit of fear. Going over both practical and spiritual knowledge can open up your kid’s brain to loop on truth instead of getting stuck in a loop of fears and anxieties.
In my situation, my mom had to talk me through what the truth really was: It was unlikely the man at the burger place would make fun of me. What really matters is what God thinks of me, I am His beloved child, and He made me amazing and wonderful. He will always be there to give me strength to do what I need to do, even when I am afraid.
B: Battle it out.
Include your child in developing a plan to fight fears and anxieties each time they come up. It may be as simple as saying out loud what they’re afraid of, what the truth is, then doing the thing they’re afraid of. They might need to exercise their body physically to regroup before they face the fear. Some kids just need someone to face the fear with them. Some find success after watching other people do the thing they’re afraid to do.
What I needed as a kid was a pep talk, the truth in my mind, and the confidence of knowing my mom was right there to step in if things got hairy. I ordered that burger, and guess what? No one made fun of me!
Was that the end of my fear? No. Winning a battle one time doesn’t end the war. But after that, I had tools and experience. I learned to use them to tap into God’s power on my own. Similarly, when you hold your kid’s hand through their fear, they learn to trust you. You have a beautiful opportunity to turn your child’s trust toward God and His truth each time they’re afraid. When you’re not around, your child will know God is by their side. They can lean on and trust in Him to experience peace and victory over fear.
On a final note, if your child is in an overwhelming, relentless cycle of constant worry and anxiety, their physical health is affected, they’re constantly losing sleep, missing out, feeling sad, having violent outbursts over their fear, or you just feel like something is “off,” look for additional help. Experiencing fears and anxieties is different from clinical anxiety. Therapy, medication, and treatment may help your child’s mind and body reach a healthier state that is more able to use knowledge and God’s truth as tools to overcome fear.