Two years ago I was in Uganda on a photo assignment. We were in Northern Uganda on the Sudan border in villages that looked like your stereotypical Africa with mud huts and thatched roofs.
I live in Africa, so I’m used to being around those beautiful brown-skinned children. It never occurred to me that, in those remote villages, pale skin was uncommon, to say the least. One look at me would send those children into a terrifying, bloodcurdling scream.
Here’s what I realized: Circumstances may be different, but the emotion of fear is universal. All children experience it.
Trusting God in the midst of scary circumstances is hard.
My kids are only 12 and 10. In their short lives, they have had many circumstances where they’ve been faced with fear…moving from the United States to South Africa, thieves coming during the night and stealing a car right outside their bedroom windows, adjusting to a new school where you’re a foreigner. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
As a parent, I wish I could take all the scariness and eliminate it. Unfortunately I can’t. We live in a scary world. Instead of futile attempts at shielding our kids, as parents, we have the huge opportunity to teach them what to do with their fear. Here are some tips that have been useful for me in helping my children deal with fear:
1. Acknowledge that their fear is real. I have a phrase that I use, and it goes something like this, “I understand how such and such would make you feel scared.” Telling them that you understand how it would be scary helps bring a peace to their hearts and helps them feel heard.
2. Tell them that Jesus is right there with them. Jesus sees the scary circumstance, and He wants them to know that His presence is closer and more real than a brick wall.
For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:13
3. Encourage them to pray. When my kids feel afraid, I always talk to them about it and pray with them. I also encourage them to pray to Jesus and call on Him. It’s amazing how quickly the fear seems to dissipate after they’ve personally talked to Jesus and heard from Him.
4. Have open conversations about fear and things that can feel scary. I find that letting my kids talk about things that are scary for them helps them process it. Reading books is also helpful to open up conversation about scary circumstances. It Will Be Ok is a great kid’s book about Little Seed and Little Fox who are facing changes which produces fear in them.
1 John 4:18 tells us that, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
Some versions interchange punishment with torment. Fear can torment our lives and our kids’ lives, but the Bible tells us that Jesus’ perfect love casts out the fear. In order for our kids to learn to navigate scary circumstances, we must continually point them back to Jesus. His perfect love is the rock we need to hold onto when fear is rushing around us.
How do you help your kids through scary circumstances? What principles do you instill in them for dealing with fear?