Helping Our Children Navigate Fears and Anxiety

anxiety or faith

Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. If fear is left unresolved, it can become detrimental.  As a mom it’s disheartening to watch a child experience fear and anxiety. A child’s fear may seem irrational but yet it tenaciously grips their soul impeding the child to think and act at times.

Fear can suddenly overwhelm and paralyze its victims as experienced by our daughter while attending her first concert to see Taylor Swift, whom she greatly admires.  I’m unsure if she was overwhelmed with excitement or the massive crowds, loud music, bright lights, screaming fans, etc. Regardless, she was gripped by a fear, which can surface at the most inopportune times resulting in guilt, loneliness and even missed opportunities.  My daughter wanted to leave a concert she had begged for months to attend. I held her hand, offered comfort and refrained from criticizing or minimizing her fear, which, in turn, helped us to stay for the duration of the event.

In the past she became anxious when faced with new or unpredictable situations. Some of her fears escalated into phobias such as flying and driving over high bridges.

Anxiety is another word for fear.  Less intense forms of anxiety are worry, apprehension, and uneasiness. 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. This is the type of fear we were dealing with.

Below are a few ways we have helped our daughter navigate her fears and even overcome many of them.  I hope this encourages you.

13 suggestions for helping children naviagate 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, teach them to instead flood their thoughts with positive messages.  See Philippians 4:8.
  2. Recall and record how God carried them through past challenges and uncertainties. We recount events that were stressful but that she persevered through such as playing and singing in front of others, flying on recent vacation and hanging out with new friends.
  3. Evaluate and deal with possible life stressors such as a lack of routine, major changes (moves, new school), parental disharmony, world news, inappropriate media choices, etc. In our home we rarely have the TV on and don’t watch the news, as it’s typically not up lifting.
  4. Never belittle the fear as a way of trying to get your child to over come it.  Saying, “Don’t be ridiculous! Flying is safer than driving” might have gotten my daughter on the plane but it won’t make the fear vanish.
  5. Don’t give into their fears, as it will only reinforce the fear. We’ve continued to travel and fly while providing lots of support and care as we prepare her for upcoming trips.
  6. Celebrate milestones and speak life into your child. This summer we flew several times and after each trip we praised our daughter for her accomplishment. Proverbs 12:25 states “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.”
  7. Educate yourself and your child about anxiety.  My daughter is better able to cope the more she understands what anxiety is and how to keep external stressors to a minimum.
  8. 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.”  1 John 4:18 teaches “perfect love drives out fear.”
  9. Maintain a healthy diet while getting plenty of rest along with exercise. Personally we have found this to be imperative.
  10. 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. We’ve taught our daughter to rate her fear 1 (manageable) – 5 (unbearable).   Create a “tool box”. Our daughter carries a purse that contains items that she finds soothing (lavender, mints, Bible verses, music, journal, etc.)
  11. Be other focused, as acts of kindness toward others will shift one’s focus and lift their spirits, reminding them of their own blessings and encourage connection with others.
  12. Listen sympathetically and reassure them that they are normal. As trivial as a fear may seem to you, remember it feels real for your child. By allowing them to talk about it often it becomes less powerful. 1 John 4:18 teaches “perfect love drives out fear.” Perfect love is expressed though being present and caring.
  13. Seek professional help if necessary but remember there are times when you know what’s best for your child so listen to the Holy Spirit.

The key to resolving fears and anxieties is faith in God which is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see according to Hebrews 11:1.

When your child is afraid or anxious what are some ways you have helped them navigate their emotions?

Waiting Until Marriage to Kiss and Be Intimate

Today’s post is by Lisa Johnson, a young lady I have had the privilege of knowing for many years.  She and her husband Jeshua were married in March 2008.  

Lisa wanted to share why they decided to wait until marriage to exchange their first kiss and to be sexually intimate. 

Lisa is now transitioning from teaching full time into being a stay at home mom as on July 23, 2014, Lisa and Jesh welcomed their precious daughter, Adelyn Sofia, into the world.

Jeshua and Lisa Johnson2

Why we saved our first kiss and sexual intimacy for our wedding day.

“First of all, we want you to know that we are nothing special because of the choices we made. We had past mistakes in relationships and screwed up like many teens and college kids do. We have fallen short of His glory. But it is because of God’s great grace and love for us that we have been forgiven and redeemed. And it is because of His kindness and mercy on our lives that led us to decide to forgo all physical intimacy until our wedding night. Yeah, people thought we were weird. Family members didn’t believe our moms when they shared our choices with them. But that’s okay. This is something that the Lord called us to, and we embraced it, and were blessed with so much freedom to just enjoy each other during our time of dating and engagement. There was no pressure to be physically intimate because we both knew that would come later. We just got to hangout and deepen our friendship and it was awesome! It doesn’t mean there weren’t times when both of us were tempted, but because of our commitment to the Lord and one another, it was never an issue. God gave us freedom to enjoy each other and enjoy Him!

How did we get to that place? Unfortunately we both made mistakes in past relationships. In our minds both of us would say that we went “too far.” Regardless of details, by the time we came into each other’s lives, we were tired of making those mistakes. I found out early in our relationship that Jesh decided in college that the next girl he kissed would be his wife on his wedding day. I appreciated so much that he was bold enough to tell me his commitment without reservation. He was strong in his commitment to the Lord and to me, and I was so thankful for that. When he told me about his decision, it was so early on in our relationship that we hadn’t even dug into our pasts yet. Jesh didn’t even know that I struggled so much with making out all the time in relationships, and that it was something I wasn’t proud of nor wanted to do anymore. How cool is the Lord to bring a man into my life whose commitment was so strong that it would provide protection for me in our relationship? When I met Jesh, neither of us had dated for almost 2 years. I had already decided that I didn’t want to kiss until at least engagement. I got what I wanted, and it was all in God’s timing and His sovereignty.

I want to mention a couple of things:

First of all, every young man and young lady is worthy of someone who will honor a commitment that they’ve made to save physical intimacy until marriage. Every single one. If you’re with someone right now and they think an idea like that is crazy and they’d break up with you over it, then you’re better off without them. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. And truth is the only thing that matters. Truth from God’s Word (Psalm 119:9-11). So just know that you are worthy. You are worthy because you are God’s child, if you know Him as your Savior and you’ve been redeemed by His blood. You are His first and foremost before you ever belong to your spouse. Your identity in Christ should define your worth (Galatians 2:20). Don’t sell yourself short or think you’re weird because you want to be wise.

The second thing I want to mention is that when it comes to living for the Lord and making decisions, you cannot mix the “wisdom” of the world with the wisdom from the Word. There’s no blending (James 3:13-17). If you’re trying to make a decision in your relationship based on what the world tells you, you’re going to get some mixed reviews and some real jacked up “advice.” You’ll hear things like this: (These are ALL lies! Do not be deceived!)

  1. You need to know each other sexually, so you can see if you’re compatible or not.
  2. Kissing and touching aren’t wrong, because that’s not sex.
  3. You have to “put out” or your boyfriend/girlfriend will break up with you
  4. If you just hangout and never get physical you’ll get bored (Trust me, marriage is not having sex all the time. Nor is life in general!).

**The list could go on and on. The important thing to remember is what you’ve been called to: holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16). Because of our sinful nature we will never be completely holy until heaven, but at least here on Earth we have a chance to strive for holiness. Verses like Hebrews 12:1-2 talk about “throwing off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…” Trust me, when it comes to physical intimacy, that is sin that is easily entangling. And it’s interacting with the opposite sex in ways that were designed to get you ready for sex. You’re interacting in ways that make it very hard to stop. They are ways that promote “oneness.” Becoming one should only be reserved for marriage. (Genesis 2:24)

I cannot tell you the number of friends I’ve talked to who didn’t set boundaries in their dating and engagement, and ended up doing things they weren’t planning on. Things reserved for the marriage bed. If sin is so easily entangling, be wise about your interactions. If you have a line, don’t do things that make you get right up next to the line, but interact in a way where you can be comfortably behind that line. Remember, God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. And He will provide a way out so you can STAND! (I Cor. 10:13) I can confidently say that Jesh and I spent our 9 month relationship comfortably behind the line, and it was a blessing to be able to enjoy a completely new part of our relationship on our wedding day, free from guilt or shame. And all glory be to God because it’s by His grace alone.

If we had the decision to make all over again, hands down we would do that again. This is a story we will share with our kids someday when they get into their teen years. We will definitely encourage them to do the same.

Last thing: Think of intimacy as a gift that you have to offer your future spouse. And I’m not just talking about sex. I’m talking about kissing and everything else. If you’re not sure you’re going to marry this person (and most relationships in high school do not end up in marriage), then why would you want someone to start opening that gift? Do you want someone to open that gift multiple times? Or do you want to give that gift to someone who’s equally committed to the Lord and to you; someone you’ve exchanged your vows with in front of the Lord and your family, and someone who you’ve now committed your life to? I’m telling you, it’s so worth waiting for!