Remember the story “The Monster at the End of This Book“? Grover begs the children not to turn the page because he is scared of the monster in the book, but it ends up being none other than himself. This is what I think my children believe sometimes. They are so scared, even scared at the anticipation of being scared, that they are prevented from doing certain things that seem very simple to me.
- Going downstairs to their rooms on their own (the 4 year old)
- Getting sucked on by a tick (the 7 year old, who claimed he probably shouldn’t go outside for the rest of the summer just so he could avoid ticks)
- Sleeping in their own rooms, unless the lights are on and music is blaring (also the 4 year old, below you can see a picture of her having fallen asleep in such a way!)
- Seeing bugs, even tiny ones, on their arms or legs or the screen door (although they often ask, “the bugs are more scared of us than we are of them, right?)
Now admittedly, I still freak out when I see a spider, except daddy long legs which don’t bother me for some reason. But sometimes I have a hard time knowing how to handle my kids’ fears, because they aren’t my fears.
How to Help Your Child When They’re Scared
I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to address my children when they are scared. We don’t want to shame them for their fears but at the same time we want to teach them coping methods that will hopefully allow them to eventually conquer these fears. I don’t have all the answers, but there are a few things we’re trying that seem to be helping (at least a little).
Praying and reading Scripture before bed.
This is probably an obvious tip, but we think this is the best thing to do! We pray about their fears and encourage them to pray out loud. Some of the Scriptures we have them say out loud or say to them are Psalm 4:8, Isaiah 41:13 and 2 Timothy 1:7. We like to hang Scripture verses in their rooms and I actually need to switch out my daughter’s verses for those I listed!
Talking out their fears.
Identifying our fears and where they come from helps our children take their thoughts captive to Christ. It’s not a one-and-done deal, because it seems like it takes awhile to get to the bottom of why they are afraid. A sudden change in behaviors, like bedwetting, crying, etc, can be big signs that our kids need help with a fear of some sort. We’ve had some good discussions and it’s helped me to be more sensitive to their needs.
Being aware of what they read and watch on TV.
When we go to the library, I quickly flip through the books my kids choose. Even if something is on their “intellectual level” doesn’t mean it’s good for them on an emotional level. We all have different things we look for in children’s books but I’d encourage you to get to know your child’s sensitivities and try to avoid them until they can properly deal with them. Same goes with TV programs, of course!
We figured out that my 7 1/2 year old, who is a voracious reader but also very sensitive, was getting scared from some of the material in his Boxcar Children books. We don’t avoid them altogether but I do look through them and talk to him about the subject matter if it’s making him nervous.
*As a side note, I find that my children are actually drawn to things that make them afraid. I don’t know exactly why, but I remember being that way too. Something tempting about things that mom makes off limits!
Finding techniques that help them manage their fears.
Along with reading Scripture, we look for books or the occasional video that our kids can learn from. Where’s God When I’m Scared from VeggieTales is one my kids really like. They’ve also really been helped by the Franklin the Turtle books (Franklin in the Dark, Franklin and the Thunderstorm, etc). I like that the books acknowledge what they’re afraid of and also explain the “what” and “why” behind the source of the fear.
A book called There’s an Alligator Under the Bed by Mercer Mayer is a great one too!
We’re not big on the “spraying under the bed for monsters” but right now we let our daughter have her overhead light on when she’s falling asleep and explain to her that we’ll turn if off later (leaving only the night light).
It’s working! A couple of weeks ago, she wouldn’t even stay in her own bed, she just cried until we got her and let her sleep in our bed.
Temporary solutions that aren’t ideal are sometimes necessary, as long as we work towards resolving the fear.
How do you help your child when they’re scared?
photo credit: Thoth, via Flickr