“Mom, I’m scared.”
There are few moms and dads who haven’t at least once been awakened in the middle of the night by a child’s trembling plea for comfort.
What’s a Christ-following parent to do? How can we help our kids overcome fear?
As with most aspects of raising children, there’s no quick fix. But I’ve found these five steps to be helpful as I train my kids to conquer their fears.
Fear is a real emotion. Minimizing it is not helpful, because it puts your child in a position of defending her feelings. She also may decide it’s not worth confiding in you about her emotions if you treat them lightly. Instead, embrace her tenderly let her know that you’ve been afraid, too, so you know how terrible it feels.
2.)Discuss the root sin.
When the immediate fear passes, it’s important to talk with your child about why he’s afraid, in terms according to his level of understanding. While kids ought not be shamed for feeling afraid, it’s helpful to recognize that fear is the fruit of a much deeper issue: the sin of unbelief.
When a child is able to recognize that fear is a result of not believing in some aspect of God’s character or His Word, it gives him an opportunity to confess that sin to God and ask God to help him believe.
Again, it’s critical to wait until after the fear passes before having this kind of discussion. Kids (and adults) who are afraid aren’t typically capable of having this level of conversation.
3.)Teach them to control their thoughts.
One of the most pervasive lies in our culture is that we can’t control our thoughts. Scripture tells us the truth: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
The fact that God commands us to “think about these things” strongly implies that we can control what we think about.
It’s helpful to offer specific examples of different thoughts that fall into the categories described in Philippians 4:8. Instead of focusing their thoughts on what they’re afraid of, they might choose instead to:
- Recite Scripture in their minds.
- Think back on a happy memory.
- List their blessings.
- Look ahead to an anticipated event.
- Praise God for various aspects of His character.
4.)Help them memorize Scripture.
Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is extremely powerful, but nothing is more powerful that filling our minds with the truth of the Bible. Here are some verses that may be helpful for a fearful child:
- Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- Psalm 56:3 – “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
- Psalm 34:4 – “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”
- I Peter 5:7 – “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
- Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
- John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
- Psalm 27:1 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Your child might also find it comforting to have one or more of these verses hanging near her bed. She can even draw a picture illustrating the verse to strengthen her understanding of God’s care for her.
5.)Share with them God’s plan for peace.
God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
God’s plan for peace, though not easy, is quite simple. “Don’t worry. Pray instead.”
This isn’t a magic formula, because it does require us to believe. Empty words thrown up to God will not bring peace, but heartfelt words conveying the belief in our hearts will. Encourage your kids to leave their requests in God’s hands, trusting in His care for them, and choosing to not worry anymore.