Last week my oldest son and a couple friends were talking about ceiling fans—specifically ceiling fans falling out of the ceiling and hitting them on the head. I did my best to assure them that falling ceiling fans isn’t something they need to think or worry about. We talked about studs and sturdy construction and I think that squelched further discussion and rising anxieties. But I related to that worry because I, too, as a child, gazed up at my ceiling fan and wondered if it would randomly come down on my head as I slept. Okay, let’s be honest—I’ve sometimes had that thought as an adult.
Then later that same son loudly announced at bedtime, “I don’t need to be scared!” I asked why not. “Because GOD is with me!” I assured him that yes, God is with him. I was encouraged by faith taking deeper and deeper root in his heart.
But it also made me think about the times that I was afraid last week, yesterday, today. The world as we know it is uncertain. Viruses, the economy, toilet paper shortages. I haven’t shared my fears with my son (he’s only 4) but kids everywhere will figure out (if they haven’t already) that something drastic is changing in their worlds. Many kids are experiencing their schools and extra curricular activities closing for an extended break. For those old enough to understand news reports, they will no doubt have questions and concerns.
So how can we, the adults in their lives, help them navigate anxious times, especially when it’s so easy to be anxious ourselves? Here are 5 ideas and some resources that have helped us. They’re nothing earth-shattering and nothing you probably aren’t already doing. But when the world is an anxious place sometimes it’s good to remember what we already know.
1. Validate their feelings.
Just because they’re little kids doesn’t mean their worries are little too. The possibility of a falling ceiling fan sounds a little silly, but to a little kid that could be a big worry. Or being scared of the dark, or being scared of getting sick. Their feelings are real. Even if you feel like chuckling, don’t. You were a little kid once too! Maybe you can even share with your kids that you get scared sometimes. There are very real things to be afraid of and adults aren’t immune from fear. Talking to each other about anxious and fearful feelings can help bring those fears into the light and somehow they lose some of their power. If anxiousness is a continual pattern, it’s good to find someone for your child (or you) to talk to who can offer practical help too. Check out Nathan’s article “10 Ways To Love Kids In Crisis” for some helpful talking points.
2. Keep reminding them of God’s presence.
Deuteronomy 6 talks about teaching our children about God at all times, everywhere, while doing all the things. Are you going on a walk? Talk about how God is there and point out things He’s made. Are you driving in the car? Talk about how God knows everything that you’re doing and that He’s with you. And when those worries come knocking? Assure them of God’s presence, love, and care for them. If you create a culture of enjoying Jesus at all times, everywhere, it will be natural for you to point kids to Jesus when they are scared, overwhelmed, worried, or even angry. Jesus is there at those times and we have the privilege of helping kids know He is.
We try to focus on God and His presence in the morning while we eat breakfast (my son says, “It’s time for the Bible!”). Right now we’re using The Jesus Storybook Bible as we anticipate Easter, but our next book is going to be I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God. It walks through the Bible while focusing on a name of God as seen in that story. I am super excited to start it!
And of course there’s the Enjoying God My Creator! FREE activity guide that is stuffed full of activities to help kids know their Creator even better. If you have kids home from school for an extended time, consider downloading and using this free digital guide. Most of the needed supplies you already probably have in your house (no toilet paper required 😉)! Here’s an example of one of the activities from this fantastic book that will help kids marvel at how awesome and powerful God is–even during anxious times. (P.S. You can easily find pictures of things from outer space to use with this activity online.)
3. Help them learn God’s Word.
God’s Word can constantly remind us of God’s presence and help in uncertainty. One of my favorite ways to learn God’s Word is through songs, and some of our favorite Scripture songs are by Slugs & Bugs. “Do You Not Know?” from Isaiah 40:28-31 is one of my personal favorites. When my own heart starts becoming anxious, the words and melody float to my mind as I dwell on the fact that the Lord is the everlasting God—for always and forever!
While this verse song doesn’t directly have to do with worry or anxiousness, it’s also applicable for uncertain times when the temptation is oh-so-real to look out for ourselves first. The song “Above Yourselves” from Philippians 2:3 has become a code between my son and I as we seek to “value others above ourselves.” I’ll ask him, “Are you valuing (sibling, friend, etc.) above yourself right now?” Or sometimes it’s a game as we use words from the song to put the other person first (“you first, you first!”). Anxious times can make our hearts turn inward in selfish ways as we seek self-preservation. It’s good to remember that Jesus always put others first and He calls us to do the same. Looking out for others is a great antidote to focusing on our own anxious thoughts too!
One more favorite of mine that my kids love too is the Sing! Psalms: Ancient + Modern album by Keith & Kristyn Getty (I found it free through our library’s Hoopla service). The melodies are beautiful and easy enough that my oldest can sing along. I put it on when my heart is anxious and it points my heart to the One who is in control of everything. And I dare you to listen to Andrew Peterson’s “Is He Worthy?” without crying.
4. Take worries to God in prayer.
This one can follow pretty naturally if you’re helping children recognize God’s presence everywhere. You can thank Jesus for pancakes for dinner, for the frogs in the pond, and the beautiful rainbow after the storm. Just as Jesus wants to hear from children about the fun things, He wants to hear about worries too. Nothing is too small for Jesus to notice. He knows it all anyway! Creating a culture of prayer in your home or class helps children develop a vibrant relationship with Jesus.
We have two jars on our dining room table with large popsicle sticks in them. Each stick has the name of people we love and pray for on it. And usually each person represented is dealing with at least one big worry at any given time. We try to use those every day (my plan usually gets foiled by little kids dumping them out so my system of prayed for/ waiting to be prayed for is always changing), which is another way to value others and remember that we’re not the only ones who have worries and concerns too.
5. Read about Christian heroes.
When the world is crazy and disruptions to our lives and safety are unprecedented, it’s easy for me to think the sky is falling. But then I remember that we aren’t the only generation to have faced hardship, sickness, or other calamities. Reading or listening to stories of those who have gone before (see Hebrews 11 for an awesome list of Biblical examples!) also helps reorient my heart to remember how God has worked in the past. One of my favorite series of biographies for children, “Christian Heroes Then & Now”, is by Janet and Geoff Benge. The audio versions of the books are top-notch. Our library Hoopla has a lot of audio versions for free (can you tell I like free? Free is my favorite price!).
Since this week is St. Patrick’s Day, another FREE resource is the ready-to-tell true story of St. Patrick, a man who loved and served Jesus. Patrick also endured incredible hardships throughout his life and ministry. It’s an amazing story and one that deserves to be told as you eat green things and maybe dance an Irish jig.
Those are just some thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been watching current events and trying to prepare myself and my kids. What ideas have you used to help kids enjoy and trust Jesus in anxious times?