When I became a believer in my thirties, getting to know Christ led me to freedom from anxiety. But my transformation did not stop my daughter’s scourge of irrational and unfounded fear, and I was faced with the daunting task of helping her come out on the other side.
Nothing says love like a good listening ear. Proverbs 18:15 says, “The ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Really listen to your child. Nod your head, repeat back to them what they said, make eye contact, and sit quietly.
This is not the time to offer advice. Just let them talk, and make sure they know that you have heard them.
2. Acknowledge their fear.
Honesty, indeed, is the best policy. There is no need to deny or sugarcoat the intensity of the irrational fear of an anxiety attack. But while you are acknowledging the fear, don’t give it credence. Help them to see that God is bigger. Teach your children to push through it, facing the fear head on. Don’t resist it. Rather, ride it out. It will pass.
You might have them recite Philippians 4:13 with you: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Like all emotions, fear and anxiety are more than just mental experiences; there is always a bodily aspect. Simply encouraging them to breathe deeply and slowly in through their nose and exhale through the mouth may help tremendously. Remind your children that they can do this any time they feel afraid, and to meditate on the truth of what they are saying.
3. Keep perspective, and keep moving.
“Anxiety is a golden opportunity to help them realize the importance of prayer.”Whenever my daughter would become stricken with anxiety, I would say to her, “Tell yourself the truth.” In other words, it is important in anxiety attacks to keep perspective. Look around — look outside yourself — and see what is really happening. Is there really anything in that moment to be afraid of? Together, list everything in that moment that you know as truth.
Remind your children their Enemy is “the father of lies” (John 8:44), and that their heavenly Father is the only one whose voice is worth listening to. Teach your children that their strength comes from Christ, while fear is from the enemy (2 Timothy 1:7). Tell them about Peter and the waves, encouraging them to focus on Christ, so they can walk on the water of joy and freedom from fear (Matthew 14:28–33).
4. Pray with your child, rehearsing God’s word.
When your children start to feel anxious, stop everything and pray with them. This is a golden opportunity to help them realize the importance of prayer. It’s a good reminder for us as parents, too. Teach your children to go to God with their fears. Instill in them Scriptures that they can hearken back to when they are anxious.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
Work together to commit these Scriptures to memory. My daughter told me that memorizing key verses, particularly Philippians 4:6, was pivotal in helping her calm down and keep moving whenever anxiety threatened to paralyze her.
5. Keep Christ at the center.
Modern culture places children square at the center of the universe — both their own and everyone else’s. But this is not biblical. Our children must be taught that Christ is the center, that everything we do must glorify him, and that in doing so, we will be given great joy and peace. When we model for our children confidence in Christ (as opposed to modeling a spirit of fear and self-focus), we are training them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).
“Show your children that God is more real than their fears.”Being allowed to exit life (staying home from school, isolating from friends, ceasing all activity) in response to anxiety is, I feel, an error too many parents make. It has been my daughter’s and my experience that when we stay in the game, focusing on Christ and telling ourselves the truth, we come out the other side stronger, more resilient, and closer to our only Source of peace.
Every attempt must be made to show your children that God is more real than their fears. He loves them and will delight in quieting and quelling their fears with the unsurpassable love of Christ. Freedom from fear through focus on Christ is a gateway to joy, the only joy permanent and powerful enough to overcome stubborn strongholds like fear.