Sickness. Violence. Economy. Weather. Political divisions.
Tragedy is on the news every night and all throughout the day. We talk about it at the dinner table. And, as fun and engaging as it can be, we can thank social media for keeping us constantly informed of all the bad things happening in our world.
As I type this the Coronavirus is one of the leading news stories. Someone said fear is spreading faster than the virus.
And it doesn’t only impact us. It impacts our children.
Our children are not immune from fear. In an Information Age hey know what we know – filtered through their childlike mind.
Childhood can naturally be a scary time of life, but especially these days. We should never diminish a child’s fear or the impact the news of the day is having on them. It may even be totally irrational fear – something you know is completely impossible — but it’s very real to them.
How should a parent or teacher address a child’s fear?
Here are 7 thoughts to help children deal with fear:
Don’t assume their thoughts
Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what has happened or is happening that they don’t know about it or care. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it. Assure them there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid — even a recent time.
Limit their exposure
You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations more frequently. What are they covering right now? Remember children process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. Make sure there our times you turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance than their time with you.
Ask them questions
You may think children are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address their fear if you know the roots of them. Getting them to talk about what they are afraid of can help them learn to better rationalize and seek comfort and assurance from you.
Assure them they are safe
Let children know they are safe. Don’t lie to them or give them false assurance, but remember the chances of what they see on the news happening to them is rare — very rare. Remind them you will do anything to protect them. Show them ways you’ve already provided for their safety. (If crime is one of their fears, for example, let them help you lock the doors or turn on the alarm.) You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.
Live a normal life as much as possible
As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to muster the faith to move forward.
Be calm around them
Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Our children need to see us walking by faith and trusting God. Watch what you say in front of them. Discuss the world events, and especially your fears of them, outside of their listening ears. Let the home be their “safe place”. (I also contend parents should rarely fight in front of kids, but especially during a time of uncertainty.) In scary seasons it’s good for parents to renew their own faith and their commitment to each other. Children often get their faith through parents.
Read them Scripture
Children need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word of God, which will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often. Help them memorize some. (When our boys were young we played Scripture music appropriate for their age. Steve Green’s “Hide ’em in Your Heart series was great for this. You can find them online.)