Fears are a terrifying and inevitable aspect of childhood. Kids must learn how to recognize, regulate, and overcome these fears as they grow up. Parents can provide comfort while also raising them to independently manage these fears in a healthy way.
The most frequent command God gives His people in the Bible is: "do not fear". There are 365 verses that mention this command. Perhaps it's one reminder for every day of the year. It's really important that we do not let fear drive our lives and keep us from fulfilling our purpose in life.
But does this mean God is telling us to "never be scared"? Of course not. For children, it's vital to clarify that "feeling scared" is a natural emotion that is healthy and helpful. Being scared is often a feeling that keeps us from being hurt. What God is saying is that we cannot let our fears overtake our lives. God will often follow up His command of "do not fear" with a promise: "for I will be with you".
Parents play an important role in helping a child overcome their fears. Many people have an unhealthy relationship with fear. They make it their goal to never be scared and to avoid their fears. However, true bravery isn't the avoidance of fears. Bravery is doing the right thing, even when we are scared.
Here are some practical strategies for parents to help guide their children in their fears:
1. Be patient and validate. Even if their fear is trivial to you, it’s real to them. Treat their experience and emotions as valid. This is a great way to convey respect for your kid’s viewpoint. Maintain a position of being a safe person to talk to about their fears, no matter how irrational their fears might be.
2. Talk about it. Kids may know what they’re scared of, but they might need help putting it into words. Asking specific questions can help. Children are scared for all sorts of reasons: some real and some imaginary. Don't pretend like nothing bad can ever happen to them, but also remind them of the truth: that they are cared for and protected by their parents.
3. Take little steps. Encourage and praise the smallest of steps your child takes in facing their fears. Don’t let their attempts go unnoticed.
4. Be open. Allow your child to see you work through a real fear in your life. You cannot lead your child to a place where you have not been yourself. Your child will have a difficult time overcoming their fears if they don't see it modeled for them.
5. Introduce role models. Find real-life examples of others who have their same fears and help show a potential solution to overcome it. This helps your child know they aren’t alone and that they can communicate about their fears.