girltalk Blog

Sep 27

Q&A: Helping a Fearful Child

2017 at 8:37 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety | Motherhood

Anne asks:

I have a 4-year-old daughter who is very emotional and very sensitive (your story about Caly was so encouraging because I see so many similarities) but these are dramatically intensified by the fact that she is tremendously fearful. Many of the outbursts we deal with stem from situations in which she is so afraid of something that she is just unable to function along with dramatic outbursts. This could be something as simple as hearing a rumble of thunder or even seeing a bug. I wondered if you could speak more specifically to a good approach to dealing with a very fearful child.

Yep, I hear ya. This past week we’ve had fears about ants and ticks and Baby Einstein puppets. For my emotional Caly-girl, fear was a massive issue when she was your daughter’s age, but thankfully, as God has helped her to grow in self-control, she can now talk calmly about her fears and receive our help.

To answer your question, we had a little girltalk huddle and came up with a few starter-suggestions for helping children deal with fear.

1. First Lessons in Fighting Fear – Our children’s fears present a precious opportunity to teach them how to turn to God in trouble. It doesn’t need to be complicated or elaborate. We can simply pray a little prayer with them when they are scared or teach them a one-line verse, such as Ps. 56:3: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” When we comfort and reassure them of our protective presence, it will give them a taste of the comfort of God. Little songs, sung by mom, also go along way to soothing big fears.

2. Self-Control (again) – I know we keep talking about self-control, but especially for the emotional child, this is one of the best ways to help them deal with fear. When Caly was a toddler, she would scream and go into hysterics over a bug. Now she can come and calmly tell us she is afraid of the bug, and receive our assurances that there is nothing to fear. Although we should always comfort a young child when they are afraid, we also want to gently but firmly help them get a grip on their emotions, and resist the temptation to submit to fear.

3. Laugh in the Face of Fear – One of the best ways to help children overcome fear is to teach them not to take their fears too seriously. The brave laugh at fear! So, for example, (and you have to get your timing right) if your child freaks out about a noise in the basement, you might smile and tell them not to worry—it is only the mouse family brushing their teeth before bed! Cheesy, but that’s the idea. Being nonchalant, cheerful, and even funny about fear has gone a long way toward abating Caly’s fears.

3. Laugh in the Face of Fear – One of the best ways to help children overcome fear is to teach them not to take their fears too seriously. The brave laugh at fear! So, for example, (and you have to get your timing right) if your child freaks out about a noise in the basement, you might smile and tell them not to worry—it is only the mouse family brushing their teeth before bed! Cheesy, but that’s the idea. Being nonchalant, cheerful, and even funny about fear has gone a long way toward abating Caly’s fears.

4. Brave Mamas Make for Brave Children – How we react to our children’s fears teaches them how they should react. If we take our cues from our children’s emotions and go into panic mode or freak out right along with them, we only reinforce the habit of fear. But if we model tranquil and cheerful emotions, appropriate to the situation, we are showing them what it looks like to be reasonable, and even brave. The stronger our own trust in God, the better we model it for our children.

5. Turn off the Tube – Sheltering can have a bad reputation, but as parents we must be especially discerning about the temptations to fear that can arise from exposure to television, media, even conversations between adults or other children that are scary. Often, we can underestimate the effect of media on a small child’s psyche; even if they aren’t scared of a particular character or scene in a show, the seriousness of the subject matter can have an outsized effect on a small child’s emotions and generate fresh fears.

6. Avoid Lobster Tanks – When I was little, I had nightmares about lobsters, so my mom made a point of avoiding the seafood section of the grocery store. What temptations to fear can you minimize for your child? Maybe you need to buy a night-light or avoid the street with the scary Halloween decorations. Strategic decisions to avoid unnecessary temptations to fear can help make it easier to deal with the many unavoidable situations. And some fears are better left un-faced. For example, I was also afraid of sleeping at other people’s houses when I was a child (you see where Caly got her propensity to fear!), but my Mom wasn’t big on sleepovers anyway, so she never insisted I run into this fear.

7. Hold Their Hands – Once our children have learned to respond with a measure of self-control to fearful situations, we can, carefully and wisely, begin to help them face and overcome specific fears. It is helpful to talk ahead of time about why this is important, explain clearly what small step we want them to take, and pray with them that God would help them to be brave. Then hold their hand until they can do it on their own. By being proactive to help our children overcome one fear, we will teach them how to face many more.

These are just a few ideas. Start small and keep the big picture in view. Our goal isn’t just to raise composed children—we want to give them training wheels to learn how to trust in God. Bugs and thunder can be scary. But by the grace of God, our children can learn how to face their fears.

~From the archives, Series: Helping Children Handle Their Emotions

Jul 22

No Grace for Your Imagination

2015 at 6:09 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety | Motherhood

(We’re in the throes of book writing at the moment, thus the recent slow-down in blogging. Here’s a recent archive written by Mom that continues to serve my soul.)

Where There is No Grace

by Carolyn Mahaney

What do our mothering fears have in common? They are all in our imagination. Our fertile minds generate countless scenarios whereby one calamity or another befalls our children: What if my son rebels when he hits the teenage years? What if my daughter doesn’t want to be my friend when she grows up? What if my son gets in a car accident? What if my daughter is diagnosed with leukemia?

After thirty-eight years of mothering, I’ve discovered that most of the bad things I imagined never actually came true. But there have been other trials—ones I never anticipated.

That’s why Elisabeth Elliot’s wise advice has been invaluable to me in fighting fear: “There is no grace for your imagination.”

God does not sprinkle grace over every path my fear takes. He does not rush in with support and encouragement for every doomsday scenario I can imagine.

No, instead He warns me to stay off those paths: “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (Ps. 37:8).

There is no grace for our imagination. That’s why our fearful imaginings produce bad fruit: anxiety, lack of joy, futile attempts to control.

There is no grace for our imagination. But God does promise sufficient, abundant grace for every real moment of our lives. That’s why the Proverbs 31 woman can “laugh at the future in contrast with being worried or fearful about it” (ESV Study Bible note on Pr. 31:25)

There is no grace for our imagination. But there will be grace for our mothering future, the moment it arrives.

There is not grace for our imagination. But there is grace for today’s mothering trials. Not tomorrow’s imaginary trouble or next year’s envisaged problems. Just for today.

That’s why Jesus tells us: “[D]o not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34)

Moms of all people know this to be true: each day really does have sufficient trouble without adding tomorrow’s worries!

But for today’s sufficient trouble there is God’s more-than-sufficient grace: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

“As your days” it says in Deuteronomy, “so shall your strength be” (33:25).

What’s more, for the Christian mother, goodness and mercy are behind every moment of today’s trouble. Our trouble isn’t meaningless. God is pursuing us with goodness and mercytoday and all the days of our lives (Ps. 23:6).

“Courage, dear friend” encourages Charles Spurgeon, “The Lord, the ever-merciful, has appointed every moment of sorrow and pang of suffering. If He ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, nor should you desire that it shrink to nine” (emphasis mine).

God is busy working today’s mothering trouble for our good. So do not worry about tomorrow but look to Him today.

Nov 6

Fear-Fighting Strategies for Moms, Pt. 2

2014 at 7:09 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety | Emotions | Motherhood

“[T]ake the…sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:17-18).

To fight fear we are to “pray at all times.” But we have another weapon in our arsenal: the promises of God. We are to wield the Word against the onslaught of mothering fears.

We are to ”take” the Word of God and use it. To do this, we need to have it nearby. This means we need to be daily reading the Word and consistently meditating on it.

And we need to pull out the promises and put them into action. We have to pick up the sword and fight. A sword must be swung in order to deliver a blow.

We have a legacy of faithful, fear-fighting, women to follow: “And you are [Sarah’s] children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6).

John Piper writes: “[T]he daughters of Sarah fight the anxiety that rises in their hearts. They wage war on fear, and they defeat it with the promises of God.”

Let’s be daughters of Sarah and fight our mothering fears with the promises of God.

To conclude: Our two, fear-fighting, strategies are:

Prayer: “...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

Promises: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

Saints throughout the centuries have leaned on God’s promises and called out to Him in prayer. And each and every time, they have found Him to be faithful. “I sought the Lord,” David tells us, “and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4).

So, let’s follow the example of David and that great cloud of witnesses. Let’s seek God through constant prayer, and in the space of His promises, let’s park our souls.

Previous Posts:

Fear-Fighting Strategies for Moms, Pt. 1

Where There is No Grace

Mommy Worries

Nov 4

Fear-Fighting Strategies for Moms, Pt. 1

2014 at 6:22 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety | Emotions | Motherhood

When feelings of fear for our children overwhelm our souls, we often look for something “new” to help us deal with them. But instead, we must rely on the true and the tried strategies from God’s Word. The first, never-failing, fear-fighting, strategy is prayer.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7 ESV).

For the anxious mother, God has provided a solution in His Word. It is simple: Pray. Give Thanks. Repeat.

It covers all of life: Don’t be anxious about ANYTHING. Pray about EVERYTHING.

And it comes with a promise: God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

As we pray and give thanks IN EVERYTHING, our trust in God deepens and His peace pervades our lives. Anxious thoughts don’t have the same sticking power.

“Prayer is the unfailing resource of anxious mothers,” to paraphrase Charles Spurgeon:

“If they are driven to their wits’ end, they may still go to the mercy-seat….Let us never forget to pray, and let us never doubt the success of prayer… Mirth and carnal amusements are a sorry prescription for a mind distracted and despairing. Prayer will succeed where all else fails.”

We are often “at our wits’ end” with our children. We feel like we’ve tried everything and we don’t know what else to do. So we worry and fret.

Instead of giving way to fear, we must cry to the Lord on behalf of our children. We must pray. We must never forget to pray. And we must not doubt the success of prayer. We must believe that prayer works.

Prayer will succeed where all our mothering efforts fail.

“They…were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Ps. 107:27, 28

Previous Posts:

Where There is No Grace

Mommy Worries

When You Feel Like a Failure

Oct 30

Where There is No Grace

2014 at 5:12 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety | Emotions | Motherhood

What do our mothering fears have in common? They are all in our imagination. Our fertile minds generate countless scenarios whereby one calamity or another befalls our children: What if my son rebels when he hits the teenage years? What if my daughter doesn’t want to be my friend when she grows up? What if my son gets in a car accident? What if my daughter is diagnosed with leukemia?

After thirty-eight years of mothering, I’ve discovered that most of the bad things I imagined never actually came true. But there have been other trials—ones I never anticipated.

That’s why Elisabeth Elliot’s wise advice has been invaluable to me in fighting fear: “There is no grace for your imagination.”

God does not sprinkle grace over every path my fear takes. He does not rush in with support and encouragement for every doomsday scenario I can imagine.

No, instead He warns me to stay off those paths: “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (Ps. 37:8).

There is no grace for our imagination. That’s why our fearful imaginings produce bad fruit: anxiety, lack of joy, futile attempts to control.

There is no grace for our imagination. But God does promise sufficient, abundant grace for every real moment of our lives. That’s why the Proverbs 31 woman can “laugh at the future in contrast with being worried or fearful about it” (ESV Study Bible note on Pr. 31:25)

There is no grace for our imagination. But there will be grace for our mothering future, the moment it arrives.

There is not grace for our imagination. But there is grace for today’s mothering trials. Not tomorrow’s imaginary trouble or next year’s envisaged problems. Just for today.

That’s why Jesus tells us: “[D]o not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34)

Moms of all people know this to be true: each day really does have sufficient trouble without adding tomorrow’s worries!

But for today’s sufficient trouble there is God’s more-than-sufficient grace: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

“As your days” it says in Deuteronomy, “so shall your strength be” (33:25).

What’s more, for the Christian mother, goodness and mercy are behind every moment of today’s trouble. Our trouble isn’t meaningless. God is pursuing us with goodness and mercy today and all the days of our lives (Ps. 23:6).

“Courage, dear friend” encourages Charles Spurgeon, “The Lord, the ever-merciful, has appointed every moment of sorrow and pang of suffering. If He ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, nor should you desire that it shrink to nine” (emphasis mine).

God is busy working today’s mothering trouble for our good. So do not worry about tomorrow but look to Him today.

Previous Posts:

Mommy Worries

When You Feel Like a Failure

How to Deal with Mommy Guilt

Jun 25

Thunder and Bugs: Helping Children Deal with Fear

2014 at 7:58 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety | Emotions | Motherhood

Anne asks:

I have a 4-year-old daughter who is very emotional and very sensitive (your story about Caly was so encouraging because I see so many similarities) but these are dramatically intensified by the fact that she is tremendously fearful. Many of the outbursts we deal with stem from situations in which she is so afraid of something that she is just unable to function along with dramatic outbursts. This could be something as simple as hearing a rumble of thunder or even seeing a bug. I wondered if you could speak more specifically to a good approach to dealing with a very fearful child.

Yep, I hear ya. This past week we’ve had fears about ants and ticks and Baby Einstein puppets. For my emotional Caly-girl, fear was a massive issue when she was your daughter’s age, and still is. But thankfully, as God has helped her to grow in self-control, she can now talk calmly about her fears and receive our help.

To answer your question, we had a little girltalk huddle and came up with a few starter-suggestions for helping children deal with fear.

1. First Lessons in Fighting Fear – Our children’s fears present a precious opportunity to teach them how to turn to God in trouble. It doesn’t need to be complicated or elaborate. We can simply pray a little prayer with them when they are scared or teach them a one-line verse, such as Ps. 56:3: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” When we comfort and reassure them of our protective presence, it will give them a taste of the comfort of God. Little songs, sung by mom, also go along way to soothing big fears.

2. Self-Control (again) – I know we keep talking about self-control, but especially for the emotional child, this is one of the best ways to help them deal with fear. When Caly was a toddler, she would scream and go into hysterics over a bug. Now she can come and calmly tell us she is afraid of the bug, and receive our assurances that there is nothing to fear. Although we should always comfort a young child when they are afraid, we also want to gently but firmly help them get a grip on their emotions, and resist the temptation to submit to fear.

3. Laugh in the Face of Fear – One of the best ways to help children overcome fear is to teach them not to take their fears too seriously. The brave laugh at fear! So, for example, (and you have to get your timing right) if your child freaks out about a noise in the basement, you might smile and tell them not to worry—it is only the mouse family brushing their teeth before bed! Cheesy, but that’s the idea. Being nonchalant, cheerful, and even funny about fear has gone a long way toward abating Caly’s fears.

4. Brave Mamas Make for Brave Children – How we react to our children’s fears teaches them how they should react. If we take our cues from our children’s emotions and go into panic mode or freak out right along with them, we only reinforce the habit of fear. But if we model tranquil and cheerful emotions, appropriate to the situation, we are showing them what it looks like to be reasonable, and even brave. The stronger our own trust in God, the better we model it for our children. 5. Turn off the Tube – Sheltering can have a bad reputation, but as parents we must be especially discerning about the temptations to fear that can arise from exposure to television, media, even conversations between adults or other children that are scary. Often, we can underestimate the effect of media on a small child’s psyche; even if they aren’t scared of a particular character or scene in a show, the seriousness of the subject matter can have an outsized effect on a small child’s emotions and generate fresh fears.

6. Avoid Lobster Tanks – When I was little, I had nightmares about lobsters, so my mom made a point of avoiding the seafood section of the grocery store. What temptations to fear can you minimize for your child? Maybe you need to buy a night-light or avoid the street with the scary Halloween decorations. Strategic decisions to avoid unnecessary temptations to fear can help make it easier to deal with the many unavoidable situations. And some fears are better left un-faced. For example, I was also afraid of sleeping at other people’s houses when I was a child (you see where Caly got her propensity to fear!), but my Mom wasn’t big on sleepovers anyway, so she never insisted I run into this fear.

7. Hold Their Hand – Once our children have learned to respond with a measure of self-control to fearful situations, we can, carefully and wisely, begin to help them face and overcome specific fears. It is helpful to talk ahead of time about why this is important, explain clearly what small step we want them to take, and pray with them that God would help them to be brave. Then hold their hand until they can do it on their own. By being proactive to help our children overcome one fear, we will teach them how to face many more.

These are just a few ideas. Start small and keep the big picture in view. Our goal isn’t just to raise composed children—we want to give them training wheels to learn how to trust in God. Bugs and thunder can be scary. But by the grace of God, our children can learn how to face their fears.

Related Posts:

10 Ways to Help our Children be Cheerful

Helping Children Make a Habit of Cheerfulness

The Playroom as Training Ground for Joy

Nov 8

Prayer and Promises

2011 at 2:43 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety | Motherhood

When fear for our children grips us, we often look for something “new” to help us deal with it. But instead, we must rely on the true and the tried strategies from God’s Word. They are:

Prayer: “...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

AND

Promises: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

Saints throughout the centuries have leaned on God’s promises and called out to Him in prayer. And each and every time, they have found Him to be faithful. “I sought the Lord,” David tells us, “and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

So let’s follow the example of David and that “great cloud of witnesses.” Let’s seek God through constant prayer, and in the space of His promises, let’s park our souls.

~from the archives

Feb 28

A Mother’s Trust

2011 at 5:11 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God | Fear & Anxiety | Motherhood

Last week we concluded our series on fear. It began as “A Mother’s Trust”, but in the end, it was for everyone. We pray you were encouraged to trust in our wise, loving, and sovereign Savior. You can download the pdf or review the posts online. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

Feb 24

Because He Cares For You

2011 at 3:30 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“Not only will He never leave you—that’s the negative side of the promise—but He cares for you. He is not just there with you. He cares for you. His care is constant—not occasional or sporadic. His care is total—even the very hairs of your head are numbered. His care is sovereign—nothing can touch you that He does not allow. His care is infinitely wise and good so that again in the words of John Newton, ‘If it were possible for me to alter any part of his plan, I could only spoil it.’”

—Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, p.199.

Feb 22

When I Don’t Feel Like It

2011 at 2:39 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety | Emotions

Sometimes I struggle with feeling guilty that I don’t feel like doing the next thing. Even though I have repented from fear and anxiety (and will keep repenting and talking to myself) the feelings of fear still linger. But aren’t we supposed to do our work with joy and gladness as unto the Lord? How can I glorify God in my work if I still feel anxious? I wonder. So just as I pull one foot out of the ditch of fear, the other one falls into the pothole of condemnation. But there is a firm and level path for us in God’s Word, which John Piper points out in this meditation on Psalm 126:5-6 called “Talking to Your Tears.” He’s counseling people who are sad and suffering, but I think it also applies to those of us who feel anxious:

So here’s the lesson: When there are simple, straightforward jobs to be done, and you are full of sadness, and tears are flowing easily, go ahead and do the jobs with tears. Be realistic. Say to your tears: ‘Tears, I feel you. You make me want to quit life. But there is a field to be sown (dishes to be washed, car to be fixed, sermon to be written). I know you will wet my face several times today, but I have work to do and you will just have to go with me. I intend to take the bag of seeds and sow. If you come along then you will just have to wet the rows.” Even if we sow in tears (or fears) we will one day reap with joy. Read the entire meditation and then do the next thing—whether you feel like it or not.