If your child is showing signs of anxiety, it wouldn’t be unusual or unexpected. A lot has changed recently with their routine. They aren’t able to interact with their friends from school or church. All of their scheduled events have been canceled for the time being. Their worlds have been turned upside down, and it’s hard for them to understand why. Plus, kids can also pick up on their parents’ anxiety. Have you been uneasy about your job, finances, keeping safe and healthy, or any number of things during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The best way to help your child is for you to know how God “comforts us in all our troubles so we can comfort others” (2 Corinthians 1:4). As you talk with your child about anxiety, ask the Lord to teach you at the same time how to trust him in a world of troubles. Then you can share with your child the comfort you receive. Here are some things to remember that will bring comfort to you and your child amid fear and anxiety.
1. We have good reasons to be anxious and afraid.
Stress and anxiety are universal human struggles. We live in a broken world where things can and do go wrong. On our own we don’t have the power to fix others, our world, or ourselves. Your children may not be able to articulate these truths, but they do feel them—just as you do. Jesus acknowledges this when he reminds his disciples (and us) that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33).
2. The most frequent command in the Bible is “Don’t be afraid.”
God knows our human tendency to be fearful and he responds by telling us not to fear. This is not a command with a warning attached to disobeying it (like the Ten Commandments). It’s a command with promises attached to it. It’s those promises that you can remember and share with your child.
3. The Lord gives us better reasons for trusting him.
God, in his Word, gives us imperishable reasons (promises) for responding to the troubles of life with faith. You can learn to remember that God is near in the midst of trouble (Philippians 4:5–6). You can learn to remember that he is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). You can teach your child to remember these things as well.
4. Help your child identify the source of anxiety.
It’s important for parents to have “listening ears.” Just as God listens to our troubles, moms and dads need to listen and hear what their children are afraid of and understand how their kids deal with their fears.
5. Remind your child that the Lord has listening ears.
Because the Lord is near, he is also listening to us. “I love the Lord because he hears my voice” (Psalm 116:1). Encourage your children to tell God specifically about the troubles that are filling their minds and hearts. Pray with and for them.
6. Remind your child that the Lord is speaking to them about their fears.
Think with your child about what God says to us when we are anxious. Remember with them that Jesus is with them and will never leave them (Hebrews 13:5). Perhaps you have some favorite Bible verses you can remind them of when they are anxious. Here are a few suggestions:
“The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:5–6).
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).
“The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever” (Psalm 121:7–8).
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1).
7. Look for specific ways to help your child remember what God says to them when they are afraid.
You can give your child a verse to put into his or her pocket—a very concrete way for a child (or anyone!) to remember God’s promise of help during trouble. Help them pick a verse that they can understand and use it as a way to help you and your child remember when you are anxious that the Lord is near. Or think of other ways to help. Perhaps post a Bible promise somewhere for your whole family to see or even memorizing a psalm together (Psalm 23 and 121 are short and full of comfort for worried children and adults).
8. Notice God’s world with your child.
Jesus encourages us to consider the beauty of the lilies and God’s care for even the smallest bird (Matthew 6:25–33). As you walk around your yard or neighborhood, help your children notice God’s world around them. Being out in God’s world reminds us that God is bigger than us and cares for us.
9. Encourage your child to say “sorry” to God and others when appropriate.
Sometimes in our fear, we may strike out at others or may not behave as we should. In those times, we need to say, “I’m sorry.” God is faithful to forgive all who say “sorry” (1 John 1:9). Remind your child that asking and receiving forgiveness is just an everyday part of life as God’s child.
10. Encourage your child to take one small step of faith and love.
Anxiety may be holding your child back. There are times where we may need to do things we do not want to or are afraid to do. What small, constructive thing might you encourage your child to do today?
The above content was adapted from Zoe’s Hiding Place: When You are Anxious.
ZOE’S HIDING PLACE: WHEN YOU ARE ANXIOUS
This beautifully illustrated book invites children to remember the Lord is near when they are anxious. Zoe, a fearful mouse, is worried about a class trip. As she talks with her parents, Zoe realizes she can turn to God for help. Papa Mouse gives her a verse from the “Great Book” that she can read when she is afraid.