How to help kids with anxiety, from a Christian faith perspective.
When your child encounters things that make her afraid, what can you tell her?
You could tell her that “everything’s going to be all right”, but is that exactly the truth?
I know from personal experience that sometimes horrible things happen, and our kids need more than platitudes to hold onto when life gets rough.
Watch the video or read the transcript below to find out what to say (and what not to say)!
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My son and I were in a store when the storm clouds rolled in. The woman at the checkout said, “I heard there’s a tornado warning.” My son’s eyes got huge. Being in a tornado is one of his worst fears, and this woman has just flipped the “on” switch on his panic.
“What if we don’t make it home?”
“What if our house flies away?”
“What if, what if, what if?”
What can we tell our kids when they become paralyzed by life’s “what if’s”?
We could say, “everything’s going to be ok”, except that we have no control over most of our lives. One dark and stormy night, my sister died in a car accident on a slippery road, so I know that I can’t tell my kids that “everything’s going to be ok”. Because sometimes it’s not.
“Everything’s going to be ok” is a platitude that won’t penetrate the fears of your anxious child. They won’t believe you because the fears are too loud in his brain. You can’t gloss over the fears – you have to engage them and talk them through.
>>RELATED READING: How to Help Your Child With Weather Anxiety Feel Secure
HOW THE BIBLE DEALS WITH ANXIETY
In the midst of a storm, what truth can we actually hold onto?
The disciples encountered several storms too, and in the midst of them, Jesus was always there. Whether sleeping in their boat, calming them with his words, standing on the waves, or literally calming the storm, Jesus was right there with them.
Later, when these same disciples were writing their stories and letters, they never said “everything’s going to be ok”, but they did say things like
“we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
“consider it our joy whoever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2, 3)
The disciples knew, just as I have discovered, that life isn’t always easy. There are many trials, storms, and frustrations. Sometimes loved ones get cancer, sometimes they die, sometimes friends develop mental illness, or tornadoes rip apart our homes.
THIS ONE THING REMAINS
But the one thing that remains true in all those situations is the presence of God.
In Psalm 23:4 we read: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
So that day, as we drove home under a black sky, with the wind pelting our minivan, I reminded my son that no matter what, God is with him.
And that same God has given us incredible gifts.
- We have a community of friends and family that could help us if our house was destroyed by a tornado.
- We have insurance to help if we need to rebuild.
- We have people that will pray for us, bring us meals, and share their homes.
All these have been provided by a God who we can trust.
And we can know that in the storms of life, God is still good, and God is still with us.
BOOKS TO HELP AN ANXIOUS CHILD
I reminded him of one of my favourite children’s books, called “Firebird: he lived for the sunshine” by Brent McCorkle and Amy Parker.
Little Firebird hates it when storms come, because he loves the sunshine more than anything. He wonders why God would let the storm take the sun away. His wise mama just keeps reminding him that there are answers above the clouds. One stormy day, he braves the terrifying thunder and lightning to find out why God let the storm take the sun away. To his surprise, he breaks out of the storm and finds that the sun has been there the whole time.
Firebird learns that the sunshine is always there, just like God’s unconditional love is always there. And it helps him learn not just to tolerate the rain, but rejoice in it.
You can find “Firebird: he lived for the sunshine” on Amazon or at your local library. If you are looking for more books like this, my own picture book will be released in early 2019, with a very similar theme.
Quinn loves her father and can’t imagine life without him. Everywhere Quinn goes, her father goes too. But sometimes Quinn gets scared her father won’t be there. What will she do? Who will be there if she gets lost? Quinn’s father gives her a special present to show her that her heavenly Father is always there and will never leave her—no matter what. When You’re Lost or Scared, God Is There.
You can order Quinn’s Promise Rock here.
GIVE YOUR CHILD THE TOOLS SHE NEEDS
If you would like some more tools to help your anxious child, I have a mini-course available until February 5, 2019. In it, I interview 3 child counseling professionals about anxiety.
Through the series, you will:
- Discover the difference between an anxious child and a child with temporary anxiety.
The course is free when you pre-order of Quinn’s Promise Rock! Click here for more details.