It is gut-wrenching to watch our kids suffer. When they fall and scrape their knee, we can brush them off and give them a Band-Aid, but when the pain is emotional, it can be more difficult to just kiss and make it better.
Watching my child suffer from episodes of fear has been challenging as a mother, but God has given me the tools to walk alongside her during this time of growth.
Helping our Kids Overcome Fear
Fear and anxiety were running through the adults in our home for far too many years when I finally noticed it in my daughter as well. My first reaction was that I could not handle another person I loved suffering in this way. I feared I did not have the strength to fight the mental fight any longer.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I started praying that the Lord would give my daughter a sound mind and that she would grasp who God says she is—that He has a purpose for her life, and that she is strong and beautiful. I prayed specific prayers over her and her mind. In time, God has helped me to be the parent and encourager she has needed to seek God on her own and break free from reoccurring fear.
I knew that fear and anxiety ran in our family. I also knew I was not okay with someone labeling and drugging my child, especially this early in her life. She was still young and had just experienced a season of trauma. I was not going down that road without seeking God first. I am grateful I did seek God first because He showed up.
Here are six ways God helped me as I helped my child overcome fear:
1. Allow your kids to talk. Encouraging your kids to share what they are feeling is huge. Sometimes just talking about it will make a child feel better. Give them time to form their own words and avoid suggesting what you think they are trying to say. Just let them share what comes to them. Allowing them to share their fears will also allow you to assess the situation for any real danger.
2. Listen without giving corrections. I was challenged in this area. I found myself wanting to say, “That’s not going to happen” or “It didn’t happen like that.” It was important for her to know I was listening. After all, this is about her not me. She may perceive a situation differently than I do, but if it is causing fear, I need to listen to hear the why.
3. Validate or acknowledge their fear. Sometimes real issues arise that are scary. As adults, we get scared too. Other times we fear things that have not happened and we fall into worst-case scenario thinking. This was a big one for my daughter. This can cause thoughts to spiral out of control.
As a parent, you should acknowledge your child’s feelings whether you agree with them or not. By letting them know you hear them, it does not mean you have to agree or understand, just acknowledge that you understand they feel a certain way. Validate your child’s feelings when situations are hard or scary. In all circumstances, move to the next step.
4. Share who God is and what He has done for you. Remember, a testimony is powerful. You may need to speak in language appropriate to your child’s age, but they trust you and will listen to your story and be more open to what you are sharing and how God has come through for you. The combination of sharing God’s truths from His Word and your personal walk are powerful learning tools you can pass on.
For a child, fear can come from many sources. It has been helpful for my family to remember that God made us exactly how He planned for the purpose He has called us to in life. Kids who may feel self-conscious need to know that they are perfect in God’s sight. We talk a lot about how others do not define us—only God can do that. And we discuss that hurt people hurt people, so if we see other kids acting out or mistreating us, it is likely they are hurting too.
Praying for those who hurt us is a huge step in letting go of the hurt they caused. Much bigger things were happening in her life that likely contributed to fear and anxiety in the little things, but it was the surface things like interactions at school that she fixated on. We worked through those things together and as a mom, I prayed over the big things. She was building spiritual skills to conquer bigger things later in life.
5. Pray. I usually ask my children if they want me to pray or if they want to pray. It took a long time for my daughter to take over praying, but I did not stop asking and now when she comes to me for prayer, she often leads it. It is beneficial to help your child memorize a few verses to help when moments of fear crop up. For now, just saying “Jesus” is a great start!
We made a sign for my daughter's bed that said, “When I’m afraid I trust God” – Psalm 56:3. This was very simple and easy for her to memorize in time. In the meantime, it was right on her bed so she knew where to find it quickly. These few words gave her comfort and taught her to trust God in her fear.
6. Encourage your child to seek God’s help in the moment. This has been a big one. Teaching my daughter that it does not matter where she is or if I am around or not, she can always ask God to help her. This practice has helped her develop her own relationship with God. I believe this step has had the biggest impact.
What is more likely to happen now is that I hear about a stressful or fearful situation after the fact. My daughter may come home from school and share a situation, and then share how she handled it. She will tell me that she prayed about it and handed it to God.
A few weeks ago, I picked my daughter up from school. I received a call from the nurse’s office that she was sick and needed to go home. When I saw her, I thought she must have been really sick because her face was red and her breathing was labored. As we left the school, she shared that she was not sick, but something had happened at school. Ok, time for this mamma’s heart to break.
As she shared with me the events of the day she also shared that she went into the bathroom and she prayed about it. She did her part in saying sorry and asking forgiveness, but there was still unsettled social trouble and she was adamant that she didn’t want to return to school the next day even though she did all the right things. We hugged and cried, then gave it to God. I reminded her that if she did all that she should do, then she just needed to give God time to do His thing. And He did.
She received a visit at the house from one friend then several phone calls from other friends that night and went to school the next day. My joy was not just in the social resolution, but from seeing my child pray and surrender to God and watch Him answer. It was like watching my child’s faith grow right before my eyes. God is so good!
“…In this life, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
She is a work in progress and so am I, but through prayer, God has equipped me to help her. All I did was help guide her to Jesus. Helping a child overcome fear does take patience, but God can give that. It does take wisdom, but God loves to give that too. If someone you love struggles with fear or anxiety, I encourage you to seek God first. I am confident He will direct you in the way you should assist your loved one.
We were able to make great progress with these steps. If more help is needed, that is ok too. These steps can accompany professional help if needed.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” Psalms 46:1