How to Help Your Kid Overcome Anxiety
For a lot of us, this past month was a month of firsts—the first time we attended every meeting in sweatpants, the first time we let a significant other cut our hair (thank goodness we weren’t allowed in public), and the first time we skipped going to the gym for an entire month (lol, ok, this one has happened before).
But it might have also been the first time we saw our family deal a new level of anxiety.
Some people are anxious about staying healthy and using Clorox wipes on EVERYTHING. Others are anxious about their jobs and the economy.
But how do we help our kids deal with anxiety?
Even before the pandemic, anxiety and fear disorders have been reported to be affecting 1 in 8 children nationally. These negative emotions can influence grades, sleep, relationships, and physical health. Then add on to that the normal amount of hormones and puberty that causes big shifts in middle school students and their ability to navigate emotions. Anxiety can be around school assignments, relationships with their peers, their personal appearance, and even the pressure to succeed or achieve.
Thankfully, there is a simple way for parents to help their kids process anxiety and return to Jesus as a source for safety and rest.
The main issue is that anxiety and stress are the symptoms of underlying fear. Fear about not knowing the content for the homework. Fear about losing a friendship. Fear that they won’t ever have “enough” of something to measure up with their peers. Fear that they won’t have value if they can’t achieve a certain thing.
But we know that “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) As parents, it’s not OUR love that casts out their fear. It’s God. God is love, and we can all learn how to better receive his love in order for him to help us overcome our fear, and our anxiety.
The easiest way to help your kids handle anxiety is to ask them 4 questions:
1. Who is God?
2. What has he done to prove that?
3. What is now true of us?
4. How do we get to respond?
I’ll give an example. For a child dealing with anxiety about a school assignment, there might be an underlying fear that doing poorly on this assignment will cause them to fail the class, which will cause them to fall behind in their grades, which will cause them to be considered a “bad” kid who doesn’t deserve the approval of their parents. (yeah, it gets deep fast)
They might not realize or be able to articulate all that, but if you can turn the attention back to God, you have a great chance to help them handle their anxiety.
For instance, starting with asking, “Is God anxious about how well you’re going to do on this assignment?” They might think you’re saying that God would do way better than them, since he’s super smart, and, well, he’s God. But you’re asking if God is anxious about how well THEY will do, whether he’s worried that they might do poorly and then not be worthy of his love.
And the answer to that is “of course not!” God isn’t worried whether we’ll be worthy of his love. He called us worthy when he made us! (see Genesis 1:31)
1. Who is God? He’s a loving Father, who is proud of us and loves us no matter what.
2. What has he done to prove that? He created us and called us “very good.” He sent his Son to die for us. He calls us now his “friends.”
3. What is now true of us? We are loved no matter what, so we don’t have to worry about losing God’s love. We are claimed by God and called into his family (and that extends down into our nuclear families, who also love us no matter how well or poorly we do on an assignment)
4. How do we get to respond? We can rest assurred, rather than racked with anxiety. We can tackle the difficult assignment without letting it loom over our whole identity. We can take a breath and know that God is with us.
See how this could be a powerful tool to help your kid deal with anxiety? (It also works for adults, too)
Four simple questions that focus on God and then remind us of what is true of us because of who God is, not based on how we perform or how others view us.
Next week, we’ll talk about a different type of fear: worry.
Until then, let me know what you think. I’d love to know how to be more helpful to you as we partner together to help your kid grow in their faith in Jesus and mature as members of your family and the family of God!
P.S. Here’s a pdf that covers the 4 types of fear in a simple cheat sheet for parents. It’s got a great one-page helpful look at each of the types of fear we’ll be talking about in these emails, starting with anxiety.