What do you do when your kids are afraid? Do you find it difficult to get them to go to a new taekwondo class, push through long division, or go to a birthday party when they only know a couple of the kids that will be there? As humans, we would all prefer to stay in our “comfort zones” rather than jumping into something that makes our hearts pound and our stomachs queasy. But as adults, we know that to achieve many important goals in our lives, we have to push through fear. So because fear is a thing we will face all our lives, we have to help kids learn to overcome fear when they are young.
Talk to your kids about what scares them
To try something they’ve never done before. If they’re apprehensive, talk about it. Draw your child out a bit and find out exactly what’s scary to him.
To do this most effectively, stop what you’re doing and look him in the eye, getting down on his level if he’s a little guy. Ask him what exactly about the situation scares him. Be patient and don’t rush him. Sometimes it takes a while to get to the bottom of his fear. Sometimes just putting his fears into words will help him be less anxious.
Make sure never to belittle his fear by laughing at it or saying he’s silly!
Instead, matter-of-factly validate what he says with something like I remember feeling that way as a child, or I know a lot of kids feel that way at first. Then pray about it together. (See more about that in a minute.)
If he’s old enough, ask for his help and brainstorm together what could be done to ease his fears. Does he have a friend who can join the new taekwondo class with him? Alternatively, can you meet a few of the kids and moms before class starts?
If it’s a fear of a homeschool thing, like long division, assure your son that he WILL get it, and you’ll help him through it at his own pace. Believe in him and let him know it.
He’ll handle fear better if you don’t make a big thing out of it. In other words, do not say Oh you poor baby, come and sit on my lap and I’ll protect you from everything for the rest of your life.
I know, that’s extreme, but you get the idea. And you probably know kids who are raised that way and consequently are afraid of everything. And some kids are more prone to be afraid than others, no matter how they are raised!
Gently but regularly encourage your children to face their fears and do hard things. Children do better when we encourage them to try things even when they’re afraid and praise them for their bravery and effort. You did great by working hard to get up that climbing wall! I bet next time you try, you’ll go even higher.
It may be that we have to help kids work up to doing something that scares them by doing it in stages. Is she afraid of dogs? Start by looking at dog pictures, videos, or through a window at a dog. Then have her see one that’s down the street. Then get closer. Work up to having her pet a small, friendly dog that you’re holding. Praise and encouragement go a long way in helping children move through this process.
Use encouraging verses to help your child
Of course, we can use Scripture to encourage ourselves and our kids not to be afraid.
In fact, I recently put together a free printable of verses that will strengthen and encourage you and your kids. These verses were sent to me by the sweet homeschool moms on my mailing list You can access the three printable pages by clicking on the graphic below.
Use these verses when praying for your kids. You can also use them for memory and copywork with your kids when they are struggling with fear. Both preemptively and when in the middle of a fearful situation!
New children’s book that can help your children learn to act even when they’re afraid
The following links are affiliate links. Should you buy this book, Train up a Child Publishing may receive a few cents at no additional cost to you.
There’s also a just-published, sweet children’s book that can help kids overcome fear. How Big is Your Brave? was written by best-selling author Ruth Soukup, illustrated by Alison Friend, and published by Zondervan Kids.
I was blessed with a review copy of this brand new book just before it was published. I loved it! It’s about a darling little bunny, Zippy. The story will draw your kids in right away with the gorgeous illustrations and relatable characters.
As the book begins, Zippy is lying in the grass in her backyard at night, gazing at the stars, and dreaming about shooting into space. The next day, she sees an advertisement for Space Camp! But she’s totally intimidated by the other, larger (and probably smarter) animals that are going.
Help your kids overcome fear by focusing on their goals.
Then Zippy remembers what her grandma used to say: Your why must be bigger than your fear. Remembering this helps Zippy overcome her fear of going to Space Camp. She reasons that if she dreams of going into space someday, she just must go to Space Camp, despite her fear.
Zippy has made it through her first hurdle by signing up for Space Camp, but there are other scary situations in the book that she has to push through to reach her goals. In the process of feeling afraid, but choosing to act anyway, Zippy learns that action is the antidote to fear.
This is a fantastic book for you to use to help teach kids to overcome fear. Kids need to know that there are some fears we need to listen to (like being afraid to walk in the street), and some we need to evaluate and decide to ignore (like tackling long division). And you can help them understand more about what scares them by reading this book and talking about it.
Help your kids overcome fear by teaching them they can decide to act anyway, despite how they feel.
You can tell them that it’s okay to be afraid of new things; most people are. But we can teach kids to overcome their fear by letting them know they can choose not to let fear hold them back. We have the freedom to decide we want to take that scary step anyway. And then we learn that what we were afraid of turns out not to be so scary after all.
Possible questions to use with the story:
- What was Zippy afraid of near the beginning of the story?
- Something helped her to decide to go to Space Camp anyway – what was it?
- What advice did Zippy’s mom give her just before they arrived at Space Camp?
- Look at the pictures of Space Camp. Do you think Zippy is enjoying it?
- Why is it helpful to have other people working with you to get something done, like Zippy and her two friends from Space Camp?
- What happened to Zippy’s rocket?
- How would you have felt if it had been your rocket?
- What decision did Zippy make about the rocket?
- What happened after she made that decision?
- Do you think Zippy learned anything in the story? What?
- What was your favorite part of the story?
I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did! And even more importantly, I hope you use this opportunity to talk to your kids when they are fearful. Again, make sure never to giggle at their fears, as silly as they might sometimes sound to you. If you validate your children’s feelings without overreacting and then encourage them to move forward anyway at their own pace, you will be helping them learn a valuable life lesson.
Start teaching your kids to overcome fear while they are young. You’ll be helping to prepare them for the many new situations and decisions they’ll have to face throughout their lives.
P.S. Pick up this book today and use it to talk to your kids about how Zippy was fearful and how she handled it.