Monday, October 26, 2015

9 Christian Strategies for Helping Kids Overcome Fear

The shadows on the wall as they try to sleep; hurricanes, earthquakes and shootings on the news; bullies at school; learning to read a bike and don't forget Halloween.  If you're a kid, life is scary.

I’ve seen all kinds of parenting posts about how to comfort kids and help them overcome their fears.   None of them were terrible.  Well, ok, I found the ones that suggested lying to your kids pretty horrifying.  But it seems to me that Christian parents have a whole different playbook for solving these kinds of problems. 



  • Don’t indulge in scary entertainment.  Mom confession: Once upon a time I showed my 3 year old the ancient Disney version of the “Jungle book.”  She was afraid of tigers for a year. The smaller a child is the more likely it is that the violence in books and movies will be disturbing to him or her. 


  • Bolster faith and courage with Bible stories. God demands that we focus our thoughts on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and of good repute (Philippians 4:8).  How much more should we be filling our kids’ minds with good material? Stories like Daniel in the Lions’ Den, David and Goliath, Paul and the Shipwreck, and Esther the Queen encourage kids to lean on God and trust Him when they are afraid.  


  • Don’t lie.  Although there is no need in my opinion to expose a 6 year old to endless hours of news coverage of a terror attack, it doesn’t help to lie. If frightening things like disasters, divorce, and death are real possibilities, don’t pretend like they are not. Parents of integrity keep their children’s trust.


  • Prayer.  Not only should you pray for your child, but you should pray with a scared child.  Of course, you expect them as adults to bring their fears to the throne of God to receive His peace. So why not begin today? Teach them that prayer is the first step to deal with any fear. Hezekiah’s prayers in Isaiah 36-38, Nehemiah’s prayers in Nehemiah 1-2 and Daniel and his friend’s prayers in Daniel 2 provide examples of prayer in times of great fear.  


  • Hymns.  When we rock a toddler facing vaccinations, or comfort a child in a meltdown before the first day of school, we croon songs to quiet the tears.  Why not make it a hymn?  Childhood favorites like “Jesus Loves Me” and “My God is So Big!” are great choices.  For more grown-up choices try “The Battle belongs to the Lord” or “Precious Lord, Hold my Hand.”


  • Recitation.  Take one of the wonderful promises of the Bible and encourage your child to recite it when they are frightened. Pick a verse that is appropriate to the fear. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” is a good verse for a child fearing a new activity (Philippians 4:13).  “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” can be a comforting verse for a lonely child, a child who is afraid of the dark or of getting lost (Hebrews 13:5).


  • Don’t be the cause of your child’s fear.  Not only should we repent of any sin in our lives for our own sake, but also for the damage our sin does to our children.  Drug/alcohol abuse, dissolving marriages, angry outbursts and various kinds of sin can cause chaos and fear in a child’s life.  


  • Be compassionate.  As adults it is easy to write off a child’s fears.  We know there are no monsters lurking under the bed.  Yet we have our share of imaginary fears too.  We can work ourselves up over many a tragedy or illness that has not happened and in fact may never happen.  These “what ifs” cause us a great deal of anxiety and are not all that different from the “monsters” that haunt our children.  


  • We can’t give what we don’t have. If anxiety is something that we indulge in (please understand I am not talking about mental illness but sinful worrying), we will cause our children to be fearful.  If we are overly cautious of their safety, we will convey that the world is a terrifying place and they can’t trust God to care for them (again I am not talking about reasonable safety precautions).  Develop your own faith and courage so that your children can “catch” that instead.  


The next time you are facing off with a little one afraid to go down the slide, sleepover at a friend’s house, or take a vaccination, I hope you see an opportunity to develop faith and Christian character. Leave us a comment and let us know what you do to help a scared kid!  

4 comments:

  1. This post totally ministered to me! I just printed it out to read over and over again. Solid truth - thank you so much!

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    1. Christy, I am so glad you ran across it and had a chance to soak it in. Be sure and look back a couple of days and find the post on defeating fear as an adult as well!

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  2. Discernment is first for parents I feel. Young children should not be exposed to unnecessary scary, violent or disturbing books, movies and even cartoons. Older children, again, discernment and be ready to have a teachable moments. Thanks for sharing this with us on Tuesday Talk today, just in time for the scary Halloween (not a fan). Do come back next week for our Cookie Swap.

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    1. Michelle, discernment is just the right word. We need to carefully judge our kids entertainment! And be ready to guide their thinking. Thanks for the encouraging comments.

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