Helping Children Deal With Fears & Anxiety

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I have a confession to make. I am a recovering worrier, which led to much anxiety in my life while robbing me of joy.  From as early as I can remember, I was a fearful child, worrying about almost everything.  My life was filled with many terrible misfortunes, most of which have never happened.  Unfortunately, this faulty thinking did not go away with age, rather it intensified and often consumed me. Prior to personally knowing God, most of my fears, fretting, and worrying were caused by calculating my life without a God.  Thankfully, somewhere between thirty and forty, after hours of professional counseling, biblical studies, praying, and continually surrendering, I began living a life of true faith.

George Muller said,” The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith.  The beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

Anxiety is another word for fear.  Less intense forms of anxiety are worry, apprehension, and uneasiness. While panic, distress and dread are more intensive manifestations. Fear in response to real danger is helpful. However, perceived fear can be destructive when the threat of pain, danger, or evil is imaginary.

I’ve grown tremendously in this area by accumulating many tools to help me lead a life of less stress, anxiety, and fear.  Thankfully, because of my previous journey, I was able to detect the tell tale signs in our twelve year old gradually emerging.  How I handled her fears daily both real and imaginary will impact her greatly.

Fear can suddenly overwhelm and/or gradually paralyze, as was Cayley’s recent experience while attending a Taylor Swift concert.  The massive crowds, loud music, bright lights, screaming fans, etc. overly stimulated her, creating stress which lead to a panic attack almost robbing her of the joy of seeing someone she greatly admired.  Fear surfaces at the most inopportune times turning my daughter into someone she doesn’t want to be.  The results of fear are guilt, loneliness, and at times missed opportunities.  I asked Cayley to describe what fear/anxiety feels like and she said, “Sometime I feel tingling or numbness in my legs and feet and I’m afraid I’ll faint.  I start sweating or I sometimes get really hot or cold.  I feel like I’m not really there, as I can’t feel my legs; it all feels so unreal.  And worst of all, I’m afraid that I’m going crazy and will die! I hate the way I feel and don’t want these feelings.”

It’s disheartening to see your child respond to everyday events that once brought joy now causing panic and fear. My role is to reassure her that she is healthy and dearly loved while helping her navigate this season of life.

10 remedies for dealing with fear or anxiety

1) Help your child to evaluate their thought process since fear usually begins with a thought, rather than circumstances.  Ask if their thoughts are positive or negative? Teach them the power of correct thinking, especially in the moment. When they dwell on uncertainties and negative possibilities, help them to flood their thoughts with positive messages. Recall and record how God carried them through past challenges and uncertainties.  See Philippians 4:8.

Cayley has travel extensively but during our recent trip to London she was paralyzed by the fear of flying.  I had her verbalize all the places she had flown to, the benefits of flying, and the outcome of each time she flew. After landing she was able to record another success in her journal.

2) Evaluate what you are doing that could possibly be creating stress (media choices, diet, lifestyle, routine, etc.)

3) Speak life into your child.  Proverbs 12:25 states “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.”  I don’t belittled Cayley or make her wrong for how she feels, instead we talk about the feelings while trying to find solutions.

4) Educate yourself and your child about anxiety.  As I have shared my past experiences with Cayley she feels less apprehensive. She is better able to cope the more she understands.

5) Memorize what God’s word says about worry, fear, anxiety, peace, etc.  Jesus commands us to avoid anxiety in Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything.” In Matthew 6:25-34 we are commanded, “do not worry.”  After all, worry says, “ we don’t trust God, He is not able to care for me.” 

6) Maintain a healthy diet while getting plenty of rest along with exercise which we have found to be imperative.

7) Incorporate various coping strategies.  Find a calm environment and take deep, slow breaths to help your body settle down, your muscles relax, and your mind to think more clearly. Take a long walk if possible. Rate the fear 1(manageable) – 5(unbearable).   Create a “tool box.” Cayley carries a purse that contains items that are soothing (lavender, mints, Bible verses, music, journal, etc. )

8) Serve others as acts of kindness toward others will shift one’s focus and lift their spirits, reminding them of their own blessings and encouraging connection with those around you.

9) Listen, listen, listen, and reassure them that they are normal. Seek professional help if necessary but there are times when you know what’s best for your child so listen to the Holy Spirit.  While we have sought professional help, some recommendations made we’ve not agreed with.

10) Create an anxiety journal. Together, Cayley and I have started a “Fear No More” journal. We’ve listed various bible verses in regards to what Jesus said about worry, anxiety, fear, and peace. We’ve also included various quotes we’ve found about worry or anxiety. Cayley records the various events in her life where she has succeed, such as making it through the entire Taylor Swift concert and flying to London without incident. She also keeps track of all she is grateful for. Lastly, there is a reflective section for Cayley to share her thoughts and feelings.

Using the above suggestions has tremendously helped us deal with some of the fears and anxieties as we seek to overcome them.  Daily we implement 1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because He care for you.  Are you able to say that you are living a life of true faith as defined by George Muller?

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