Several years ago, I had an encounter with one of the biggest childhood fears facing mankind. Let me explain. My family stayed at a hotel with an indoor water park. As a dad, I watched my kids run to each of the water areas including the pool, lazy river, and the kiddie slides.
My son, who was eight at the time, wanted to make sure I saw everything that he did. “Dad, watch me. Dad, watch this. Dad, I just peed in the lazy river.” What? If you’re the parent of a young elementary boy, chances are high you’ve experienced the same thing.
After being knee-deep in water for most of the day, I decided to introduce my oldest son to the big slides. I was thinking, If you think that’s fun, wait until you try this.
As we climbed the steps of the big slide, my son was excited and nervous, and he had lots of questions: “Dad, is it fast? Dad, is it dark? Dad, will it flip us over?” Our trip to the top of the slide was going well until we reached the final three steps. That’s when his excitement turned into panic. “Dad, I can’t do this. Dad, I’m too scared. Dad, I don’t want to do this.” His eyes filled up with tears. He turned around and tried to force his way past me back down the stairs. Fear was keeping him from going forward.
As a parent, what was I supposed to do? If I let my son run from his childhood fears, I was confident he’d run from other things in life too: run from rejection, run from responsibility, run from relationships. I didn’t want my son to run from his fear (and I didn’t want to walk back down the four flights of stairs we just climbed), so I asked him a question: “Would I let something bad happen to you?”
Before revealing what happened next, I think it’s important to see what God, the perfect heavenly Father, said to the people of Israel through the prophet, Isaiah, when they were afraid:
… “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3 MSG
This leads to the parenting principle I learned that day: Our job as parents is not to protect our kids from their fears—our job is to walk them through their fears. This was an opportunity for my son to overcome a fear. My job was to walk him through the fear.
That day, my son hopped on the raft because his dad was with him. He knew I was going to take care of him. After reaching the bottom of the slide (with his dad screaming like a little girl the whole ride), my son had a change of heart. For the rest of the day, he rode the big slides with a big smile. He had conquered a fear.
Whatever childhood fears your kid is facing—fear of failure, fear of the dark, or anything in between—we have the opportunity to walk them through those fears together. I encourage those of us parents facing a fear right now, trying to get the courage to go down the big slide, to do two things:
- Read Isaiah 43:1-3 again, and let God’s words sink in.
- Read this fun post about fear and the YouVersion Bible Plan it recommends.
Don’t let fear keep you or your kids from going forward. Today, we ride the slide together.
Resources and Discussion Questions for Talking to Your Kid About Fear and Anxiety at Any Age
Here are some quick links to free resources about dealing with fear and anxiety for your kids at each developmental level. You can also try these discussion starters to begin a conversation with your kid about identity.
For Your Preschoolers (Or Verbal Toddlers—It’s Never Too Early to Start!)
- Start this Bible Plan together.
- Go on the Bible Adventure called “A Roaring Rescue” together with your little ones. Each time they watch it, they’ll pick up new things.
- As you work through this topic together, try asking some of these questions:
- Is it okay if you get afraid sometimes?
- What’s stronger: God, or scary things?
- If something scary happens, is God always strong enough to help you?
For Your Elementary Kids
- Start this Bible Plan about fear.
- Watch the “You Scared?” Konnect HQ episodes with your child.
- As you work through this topic together, use these questions as a jumping-off place:
- When do you think feeling afraid is a good thing? When is it a bad thing?
- When you’re feeling afraid, how do you think God will help you?
- Who can you talk with to get help when you’re feeling afraid?
For Your Preteens
- Start this Bible Plan about fear with your preteen. If they have their own Bible App account, invite them to join you in a Plan with Friends.
- Watch these great episodes of The Loop Show about fear.
- As you work through this topic together, ask the questions below:
- Some fears are helpful, but others aren’t. Do you have any fears that aren’t helping you? How can you give those over to God?
- Psalm 55:22 NIV says you’re supposed to “cast your cares on the Lord.” Why should we do this? What happens when we do?
- Have you ever heard the phrase “courage is not the absence of fear”? What does that mean to you?
For Your Teenagers
- Encourage your teen to start a Bible Plan with their friends. Here are a few plans they could try: Dealing with Anxiety, Anxious for Nothing, Switch: Fight Fear, and Hope in the Dark.
- Ask your teen if they’ve seen the Switch episodes about anxiety.
- Talk to your teen about what anxiety is all about. Try asking the questions below:
- Read 1 Peter 5:7. What worries, fears, anxieties, or trials are you dealing with? What would it look like to give those to God? What does it even mean to give your cares to God?
- Have you ever experienced peace in a situation where it didn’t make sense? What happened?
- What’s one thing you can learn from the suffering you have gone through? How can you use what you’ve learned to help other people who may be suffering?