Family Ministry

advice, thoughts, and discussion

There’s no monster under your bed

on November 11, 2012

I used to be such a fearful child! I remember calling to my parents in the middle of the night, one of them usually ending up sleeping in my bed because I was too fearful to sleep alone. I was scared of everything; the dark, the possibility of a fire or storm, strangers, the possibility of people breaking into our home, my parents’ finances…you name it. I was scared of it. As I got older, I became less scared of those things and was more scared about divorce, death of a loved one, and failing in school.

After many years of studies and testing, Psychologists have discovered that distinguishing between fear and anxiety is often difficult in children. What is the difference? Fear is a response to a situation or a reaction to a set of circumstances (a neighbor’s dog), while anxiety is being worried about something that hasn’t happened yet or anticipating a possible outcome of a situation (a shot at the doctor’s office). Once parents realize this difference, they can better help their child cope.

Here are some tips from focus on the family:

  • The first and most important thing is to believe your child’s fear. Talking about and affirming the existence of their fear will help your child. But be careful not to over-talk the fear or express your own fears. If your child doesn’t want to discuss it, encourage them to write a fictional story about another person with the same fears or draw a picture of what could happen.
  • Fears can often be removed or reasoned through to a logical conclusion after evaluating reality. Make a plan of action if a mean dog comes too close. Practice on dolls the day before a visit to the dentist. Memorize certain Bible verses that fit your child’s fear (check out Psalm 27:1, Psalm 31:24 and John 14:27). The more independent your child feels, the smaller the fear can become. Some verses to work with:
  1. “The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
    The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1
  2. “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 31:24
  3. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27
  • Try to recognize your child’s signs of anxiety in order to quickly help. Some children may become introverted. Others will misbehave, and still others will have sleeping problems, headaches or stomach-aches.
  • Know the fine line between being a protective parent and being overprotective. Your child should feel safe but shouldn’t be so insecure as to never want to be alone. Shielding unpleasant situations is part of a parent’s responsibility, but children also must have the freedom to learn from their experiences and their mistakes.

In my childhood, I had to go to counseling and listen to relaxation tapes in order to calm my nerves and anxieties. It also helped that my parents were open to talking about my stress triggers instead of just brushing me off or telling me that my fears aren’t legitimate or valid.

If your child’s anxiety repeatedly interrupts their daily life, consider consulting a counselor, pediatrician or pastor for advice on minimizing these heart-pounding fears.

What do you do when your kids are scared? And, what were your fears as a child?

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