Many of us are familiar with Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew telling us not to worry. He reminds us that God will take care of us, just like God takes care of the birds and flowers. But for kids who struggle with anxiety, being told not to worry isn’t always comforting.
It’s not that they want to worry; their worries seem to have a mind all their own. And once they start up, it can be difficult to know how to turn off the switch.
In its most basic form, anxiety is fear of the future and all its unknowns. Given the uncertainties we face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, children and adults alike are experiencing abnormal amounts of it. Psychologists note that fear can be helpful because it can protect us from harm, whether that’s taking precautions to wear a helmet while riding a bike or maintaining the recommended 6 feet distance from neighbors to avoid contagion.
Your empathy helps kids understand that anxiety isn’t a weakness but a regular emotion we all experience.
Whether it’s fear of the dark, fear of performing in front of others or fear of the coronavirus, a helpful starting point to managing your children’s anxiety is to listen to and honor their concerns when they share them. Your empathy helps kids understand that anxiety isn’t a weakness but a regular emotion we all experience.
Together, you might brainstorm ideas of things that your children could do when they start to feel anxious, such as snuggling a favorite stuffed animal. You could discuss what to do if their fears come to fruition and role-play possible responses.
Before bed one night, my daughter told me, “I keep having a bad thought, but I don’t want to talk about it.” I wondered if this was a stall tactic, but I found myself saying, “Imagine you are taking that thought and placing it in the hands of Jesus.” I reminded her that God is big enough to handle all our concerns, big and small.
It wasn’t long before my daughter fell asleep. As I left her room, I got to thinking how this is a good reminder for all of us, whether we struggle with anxiety or not. God is big enough to handle it all.
- Try square breathing: Breathe in for four counts, then exhale for four counts, and repeat.
- Come up with a plan of what to do the next time your child’s “worry brain” starts to take over. Focus on baby steps and determine a few small rewards for progress.
- Pray together. Remind your child that no matter what, God is with them, and they can cast their cares on God because God cares for them (1 Peter 5:7).