My five year old daughter’s biggest fear right now is that she would be taken away from my husband and I (more specifically, that someone will come through her window at night and take her). I blame this specific fear on the movie Hook, but the deeper fear here is separation from loved ones–safety. How many of us could also say this is our biggest fear? I sure could. When she wakes us up at night, crying and scared, my instinct is to tell her, “No one will hurt you. You’re safe. There’s no one here.” Is that likely true? Yes. But, you and I know the unfortunate truth: we live in a sinful, broken world and despite our best efforts as parents, we cannot keep our children 100% safe. Should I lead with that when talking to her? Probably not. But, fear does offer a wonderful opportunity to talk to our children about a God who is both bigger and stronger than our fears and has the power to overcome them even when we don’t. So, how do we take advantage of the opportunity to shine light on who God is?
1. Lay the foundation of who God is.
Describe God’s character of light, goodness, and love to your child. Also, explain His might and strength against those who oppose Him. God is not just their protector (Psalm 18:2) but also their judge (Matthew 10:28). Set up the foundation that our God is full of love and grace for us (despite our sin) and also is full of wrath with a heart for justice.
2. Choose helpful Scriptures for your child.
It’s not enough to simply memorize the verses, but we also need to help them write verses on their heart. You can teach your child what they mean. Help them understand that God never told us we wouldn’t go through scary, hard things but that instead He promised to always be with us. Here are a few examples: Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 34:4-5, Psalm 23, Isaiah 43:1, or Matthew 10:28.
3. Listen when they bring their fears to you.
Acknowledge their fears are scary. Empathize by sharing fears you have, and then share how your faith gets you through those fears. Reference the verses your child has learned and talk through them. Remind your child that God will never forsake or leave them and that we can trust Him with our lives.
4. Pray with your child.
Ask God to take away their fears and give them courage and strength to face them with His presence.
As children grow, their fears change. When my daughter was smaller, her fears revolved around monsters. When she’s older, the fear may be rejection by her peers. Instead of discussing fear with your child based around the fears themselves, focus the conversation around our unchangeable God. When you detail who He is and how He loves them, you will be preparing your child to understand not just the answer to their fear but also the answer to salvation and life everlasting.