** This article originally appeared in the Fall 2020 CBWC magazine “Connections”.
COVID-19 has proven to be a significant disrupter in the lives of SBC’s youngest members. School, church, youth group and other socializing activities all look very different. No one likes to watch their kids struggle, but it is comforting to recognize that, while the circumstances are unique, the feelings your children are processing are normal.
All of us – including kids — experience anxiety. A healthy amount of anxiety can actually help kids, whether it pushes them to try something new, get an assignment done, or protect them from danger. I bet Esther had some anxiety as she prepared to talk with the King, but because she did, the Jews were saved. But when anxiety is heightened and moves into unhealthy levels, we need to help our kids.
As parents, our first instinct might be to protect or solve the problem. Think of Rebekah, who received wisdom from the Lord about the babies wrestling in her womb. Instead of trusting God with her sons, she tried to protect Isaac from anything that might be hard. Our kids need us to help them learn to manage stress, not for us to swoop in and x everything or dismiss their feelings. So, how do we help? When dealing with big conversations with our kids it’s helpful to think of the end goal. Ask yourself this question: “When my son or daughter graduates, how do I want them to manage their stress?”
is the first step. Just like adults, the symptoms of kid’s anxiety may present itself physically (stomach aches, trouble sleeping). When we suspect anxiety, ask questions like, “could you draw me a picture of what is making you worried or upset? Is something making you scared? What is the worrying telling you? What was the hardest thing about your day?”
Our bodies need to be taught to slow down so we can think logically again. It’s best to practice these when your child is calm and relaxed. Then when anxieties kick in, they will be prepared. Some examples of anxiety helper activities include breathing exercises, get- ting active, redirect thinking activities and praying.
They need to be able to manage it themselves. The Bible is full of stories of everyday people who had anxiety and trusted God (and those who didn’t). Read the stories together, using them as jumping points for conversations about anxiety. Our kids need to see that they can trust God with their worries, fears, and what ifs.
As they experience that God is a safe place to share how they are feeling, they will learn that He is trustworthy.