Leading Our Kids (and Ourselves) Through Anxiety

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:6-9 NIV

Although anxiety is thought of as a negative emotion that we want to completely remove from our lives, it is a normal emotion to experience in our fallen world. Anxiety does an important job for us and our kiddos; it helps us anticipate and prepare for future needs. To lead our kids through times of fear and anxiety we use the following steps to apply Philippians 4:6-9 to our lives. 

Today, we will address the third and fourth steps. Please read the first and second steps here:

We help our children:

1. Recognize that they are feeling anxious or fearful
2. Use words to express their fear to us and to God
3. Ask us and God for what they anticipate they will need and thank God for how he has helped them in the past
4. Choose to think about positive things if/when the fear and anxiety tries to come back

Ask us and God for what they anticipate they will need and thank God for how he has helped them in the past

The next step is to lead our kids to what they might need for the future situation and ask for help from us and God. And also, to thank God for his help like Philippians 4:6 says to do. 

“What would help you feel more confident about tomorrow?” If your child says they don’t know, try asking them if they would like some suggestions. “Would you like to hear some ideas? You can tell me which ones sound good, and which ones don’t sound helpful.” When your child picks an idea or several ideas, you might say, “Great! Now, what do you want to ask me for to help make those things happen? What do you want to ask God for to help make those things happen?” After your child asks you can lead them to the thanking part like this, “Fantastic! Now let’s say ‘thank you’ to God for his help and for all the times he has helped you before and for being a God we can trust to help us.” 

Consider incorporating Psalm 94:19 into your prayer of thanksgiving. 

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 94:19 NIV

Choose to think about positive things if/when the fear and anxiety tries to come back

Philippians 4:8 has a list of categories of positive things to choose to think about if the fear and anxiety try to return about a situation we have already dealt with. Help your kiddo plan ahead of time for things to think about that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Maybe your child has a favorite book, movie, or Bible story they could choose to “press play on” in their mind, or the two of you together could find some way to help or serve someone else as a positive distraction. If the anxiety keeps returning, maybe there is more to the fear that has not yet been expressed or another anticipated need that your child wants to ask for help with. Just repeat the process and try again!

These practical steps are how we go about obeying Jesus’ instruction to, “do not worry about your life” in Matthew 6:25-34.  

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 

Matthew 6:25 NIV

And again, modeling these steps for our children is an important part of how they learn. One idea for modeling is processing some of your own anxious feelings out loud where they can hear you. It might sound like this:
“I’ve noticed that I’m feeling anxious. My body feels shaky, and like I need to move faster, and like I can’t slow down my breath. When I pay attention to that I start thinking about this project that’s due at work soon. I think I’m realizing that I want to ask for help from my co-workers, and maybe also ask Daddy to cook dinner tomorrow night. I also want to ask God for inspiration for the project and the discipline to focus on it until it is done. I’m so thankful that God is always here to help me and that he gives me calm and peace. I’m glad I can trust him to show up for me. I’m also thankful that Daddy is here to help me too. Now I’m noticing that my body feels calmer and slower and my mind has peace!”

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