- Make myself approachable– It may sound obvious, but this is something we parents need to be aware of BEFORE crises occur. With how busy we all are these days, I have to be deliberate about allowing my kids to interrupt me when I am engaged in something non-essential. This means that I ask how they are doing, make direct eye contact, and allow them to speak to me when I am working at my desk, making a meal, or relaxing for the night. I even invite them to accompany me if I am doing a mundane task. I want to be the person they come to FIRST when life gets hard.
- Listen to their concerns– Don’t half-listen, fully listen. Notice their demeanor, their facial expressions, their tone. Follow their logic (or lack thereof) to its conclusion. This not only helps you to get a reading on where your child is at, it validates them.
- Don’t dismiss or belittle their concerns – While children’s worries can seem irrational, they are not necessarily irrational to them. They are kids. Confirm that you can see how they might believe what they are believing. This increases the chance that your child will feel more comfortable coming to you the next time they are worried.
- Talk through their worries with reassurance – It is important to stay at an age appropriate level when discussing world events or big concerns with our children. You are the visible presence of a Sovereign God to your kids. Offering them the comfort that you and other important adults are doing everything possible to keep them safe is something they need to know.
- Offer physical reassurance– Hugs, holding, and sometimes just the proximity of being together in the same room can help your child to gain a sense of groundedness in uncertain times. Touch is an essential human need. Your touch is, again, God’s presence to your child.
- Usher them into God’s matchless Sovereignty with Scripture – One of my children has a medical diagnosis that requires me to talk him through repeated pain. From even his toddler years, I spoke Scripture into him for reassurance. “Be anxious for nothing,” (Phil 4:6, NKJV); “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” (Phil 4:13, NKJV); “This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56: 9b-11, ESV) are all easy passages for kids to memorize and internalize. Remember, God PROMISES those words will accomplish His purposes when we speak them to our children.
- Know when to bring in reinforcements – If your child is losing sleep, constantly jittery, suddenly bed-wetting when they weren’t before, complaining of stomach pain or headaches, or generally stuck in worry, do not be afraid to talk to your pediatrician for a referral to a mental health professional. Our family has successfully used Cognitive Behavior Therapy to get unstuck from difficult, persistent anxiety. It is time and money well spent for the child you love.
© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.