By Janet Mylin
Immobilized. Paralyzed. Overwhelmed. Afraid.
That’s been the picture of Anxiety in my life.
I can remember laying in the fetal position on the kitchen floor, completely…unable. I just couldn’t. Couldn’t do. Couldn’t feel. Couldn’t try. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t even stand up.
Have you been there? I’m so sorry.
And, possibly even more unsettling, have your kids been there? I’m double and triple sorry.
All three of my kids battle anxiety in their own way.
One battles, “What if I make the wrong decision?”
Another battles, “What if I miss out on something?”
And the other battles unnamed, mysterious anxieties due to severe childhood trauma before becoming a part of our family.
Before I give you just three little tips that have helped my family in moments of anxiety, let me tell you my personal definition of the word. Are you ready?
Anxiety is imagining a future that is absent of God’s grace and love.
Anxiety is future-focused, whether it’s five minutes from now or five years from now. Anxiety says, “If that happened, I couldn’t handle it.” And you would be right. Apart from the love, grace and power that comes from God, you couldn’t. Neither could I.
Whether we believe God’s grace and love would show up for us in the future, is the topic of another blog post. But what about our kids? Do you believe God would show up and give your child the grace she needs to go through hard things? Or do you feel like that weight is entirely on you? Oops…stumbled on yet another future blog post.
The important thing is to make sure your child knows God gives wisdom to anyone who asks (James 1:5). And that He is an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1-3). And that He is love (1 John 4:8) and love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8)!
Now for those tips I promised you:
1. Get to the root of the fear, if you can.
One way to do this is by playing the “Then what?” game. It goes kind of like this:
Daughter: I’m scared to go to school today.
Mom: I can see that. What scary thing might happen at school today?
Daughter: I’ll have to go to Math class.
Mom: Okay. You’ll go to Math class and then what happens?
Daughter: Molly is in my class.
Mom: You’ll see Molly in Math class and then what?
Daughter: Molly makes fun of Cally.
Mom: If Molly makes fun of Cally then what happens?
Daughter: I feel terrible because I’m not sure I’m brave enough to stand up for Cally.
Sometimes our children aren’t altogether sure why they’re feeling anxious until we help them walk through it step by step. Realizing the “why” can bring much relief in and of itself.
2. Engage her logical thinking.
When anxiety is running high, all sorts of emotions are running right there with it. When emotions are high, it can be hard for our kids to think clearly and make good choices. Have your daughter count backwards from 5 slowly. Ask her to recite her favorite poem or song lyric. Can she tap out a rhythm with her hand on her leg? Maybe she wouldn’t be opposed to reciting the alphabet slowly or seeing if she can do it backwards. Think of a few brief activities that are non-emotional, linear things. Often times this can “wake up” her ability to think clearly, in spite of the emotional uprising. (This is a great tip for you and me, too!)
3. Pray for someone else.
Anxiety has a way of making us very self-focused. Our prayers often can look like, “Help me not feel so anxious!” And that’s not a bad thing to pray, of course. However, praying for someone else can shift our focus outward. I actually have one specific person I pray for (who doesn’t know Jesus) every time anxiety knocks on my door. This pulls me out of my self-absorbed fear and it lifts that very heavy feeling that comes with anxiety. I tend to think that once the Enemy sees I use anxiety attacks as a trigger for interceding for someone’s salvation, he freaks out and moves on to other things. Ask your daughter to come up with one person who doesn’t know Christ that she can pray for every time anxiety shows up.
There are about a hundred other things I do and you probably do to help combat the strangling feeling anxiety brings. But these three are a good place to start as you teach your children how to gain victory over fear of what might happen.
Disclaimer: This blog post is to give a few practical tips that may help your child in the moment of anxiety. I am not a medical or psychological professional. If your child needs professional help, there is NO SHAME in that. I’ve had all three of my kids (and myself) in different forms of counseling and I’m a big fan.
Janet Mylin (co-author of The One Year Mother-Daughter Devos and Just Call Me Kate) has been a part of the Secret Keeper Girl/True Girl writing and speaking team since the beginning! Janet understands the battle of claiming your security in Christ as you navigate the rough and smooth waters of motherhood. She and her husband, Andy, own Messenger Creative Marketing and Design.