Helping Your Child Face Fears
“AH, a spider!” “Daddy come get this BIG bug.” “I don’t want to go upstairs by myself, it’s dark and scary!” “What if there are monsters in my closet?!?!”
In our home, these are some of the fears that we face on the daily. Easy enough. Nothing that a Kleenex pick-up or nightlight can’t fix. But what do you do when the fears are not quite so squishable or fixable? For years, two of our kids have suddenly awoken in the middle of the night in the full throws of night terrors.
There is no reasoning or quick fixing in these scenarios. Watching your child terrified while fully asleep but seemingly awake is heartwrenching. I felt helpless as our children wrestled with the fears and terrors. I felt ill-equipped as both my husband and I struggled through solution after solution to no avail. Even though we cannot stop these night terrors from coming on, we do have some “answers” that help tremendously. Hopefully these answers apply to any of the fears, worries, anxieties, or even terrors that your child may be facing.
There is a reason why it says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” This isn’t just a nice suggestion or idea; it reveals the power in prayer. Prayer relinquishes the fears to God. Prayer remembers that even in this there are lessons to be learned. Prayer replaces worry with peace. Our pastor often refers to FEAR as “False Evidence Appearing Real”. Prayer helps you move beyond your understanding of the evidence to God’s true revelation. Start here.
Stay calm and breathe. In…out…in…out. Do not overreact, especially when your child’s fears may trigger some of your very own fears. Now I am talking here well beyond spiders, monsters, and the dark. You may feel the all-consuming fear alongside your high schooler that they will get rejected by every college he/she is applying to. Your heart may begin to race with your child’s as he/she prepares to give a big speech in front of a crowd. You may be up at night worrying if your child will ever know (or come back to) the Lord. But the best thing you can do is demonstrate a sense of calm and peace. That may mean literally closing your eyes, feeling your heart slow, and breathing. Start with a calmed sense of being.
Never invalidate or minimize your child’s fears, no matter how big or small. To him/her, their worry may be magnanimous. Now that doesn’t mean, on the flip side, play into it and build it up. Simply listen to the burdens on your child’s heart. Try to ask questions to see where these concerns are coming from. Get out of the fixing mode and simply listen.
When you get to this section, you’re probably thinking THIS is where you offer the fix or solution to your child’s “irrational fear”. Wrong! In fact, quite the opposite. Instead of speaking your truth, experience, or sage wisdom to your child, speak God’s truths over your child. That may mean opening up the Bible and looking for what God has to say about your child’s specific fear or worry as a general topic. That may mean praying with and over your child in that moment. Never pass up an opportunity to pray the Spirit over and into your child’s life, especially in the midst of fear. Trust me, I have firsthand seen how God can take our thrashing son and overwhelm him with a sense of peace that is unexplainable. God can and will do mighty things if you invite Him in to do so.