How to Deal with Anxiety and Help our Children Deal with it

Anxiety. Everyone is talking about it. That’s great! 

What we acknowledge, we can do something about. 

2020 sure has come out with some heavy weight challenges! Fires, floods, coronavirus, talk of global economy heading for some tough days ahead. 

Volatility, uncertainty and complexity have found us. So has anxiety for many. 

Anxiety is an emotion and an experience. Anxiety is defined as:

  • uncertainty
  • Overwhelming fear
  • Competing demands on our time
  • and social discomfort1.

That definition believe it or not, is a normal response to life!

It is human to feel anxiety. 

In fact anxiety is so much a part of our human experience that the Bible addresses it directly, so can we especially with our children.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT

Why is Anxiety being talked about?

I believe that part of our rumble with culture right now is giving space to and being compassionate towards our humanity. 

Many are challenging current culture in its need to rehumanise. The dehumanising we see on social media and in daily interaction is unsustainable. 

Jesus was and remains fully human yet fully God, such is the esteem God gives to human. (Phil 2:6-11)

The rumble we are all facing is with a culture that seemingly is unrelenting in it’s “be perfect” doctrine.

We were at the Dentist the other day (that’s always a fun experience!!? ? ) The Dentist made a comment in passing to me. He said that he is having more and more 10 year olds coming in asking for braces when there is little wrong with their teeth because they want perfect teeth and they want to be like everyone else! 

Anxiety and perfect don’t go together says a culture that become problem focused and blame orientated rather than possibly focused. 

NeuroScientist Dr Caroline Leaf has been challenging the notion that anxiety is mental illness. Her research and the research of other Social Scientists shows that anxiety is part of the human experience and normal human response. 

The ‘proselytizing’ of perfectionism as a way to do life it being questioned.

When we loose touch with human and make “perfect” our goal, anxiety and scarcity rise. 

So how do we navigate anxiety and help our children? 

Philippians 4:6 says “Do not worry or be anxious!‘  How do we do the “do not?” That’s really hard sometimes! 

1. Realizing that you are feeling or experiencing anxiety is liberating

 When we feel it and our children feel it, take note and get them to take note of how anxiety feels for them.

The thing about emotions is that we experience emotion uniquely. For some anxiety might be felt as a quickening of heart beat, for others they might feel a churn in their stomach. How we feel emotion is unique to us and that emotion will be felt on our body. 

2. Lean into the emotion of anxiety don’t shut it down or numb it

Don’t be afraid of emotion. God isn’t afraid of emotion and he’s not afraid of you feeling emotion! Emotions are not sinful. 

Graeme Cooke says he sees the fruit of the spirit as the emotions of God! 

Philippians 4:6 advises “instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need.” You have to lean into anxiety to pray about it. Teach your children to pray and pray with them.

3. Anxiety as with all emotions, is communicating a need 

Philippians 4:6 acknowledges this when it says, “Tell God what you need”.  Ask yourself, “I am feeling anxious about… , I need…”

You are a son/ daughter of God. You have value. Emotions tell us what we need as a valuable person. 

You’re needs matter as do your children’s. Sometimes all our children need is our full attention, or a hug, or play a game with them, or take them out for a special meal, or to turn off negativity on the internet or TV. Let them share their needs with you.

Ask them to ask Jesus what does He want to give them now to meet their needs.

4. When we pray about what is making us anxious, we begin to shift our focus

Social scientists have classified emotions in order to help us understand them. Anxiety is an emotion that they call a ‘self conscious affect’, meaning this emotion makes you aware of yourself, conscious of you. 

Yes because it is communicating a need you have!

When we pray, we begin to shift our focus from ourselves to one who has a solution, a answer, a direction. We are not always around for our children but Jesus the Omnipresent one is! When we teach them to pray about their ‘worries’ to Jesus, they are defeating the lies that they are alone, orphaned, abandoned, helpless, powerless.

Prayer shifts us from fear back to love! Every thought will either come from fear or love! When I am anxious, I have bought into something that’s inferior.

5. “.. and thank him for all he has done” 

Thankfulness is one of the greatest, most powerful skills you can cultivate. Thankfulness is a container for our prayer and worship, meaning it is a way to pray! We deserpately need to teach ourselves and our children to be thankful!

If you focused on just this one key, you would be astounded at the impact and power of thankfulness over anxiety and any other atmosphere.

Thankfulness shifts us from problem focused to possibility focused. It shifts us from focus of self to focus of power, possibilities and answers beyond ourselves. 

Thankfulness keeps us conscious of blessing and stops us being overwhelmed with need and lack. 

Thankfulness is humility. It acknowledges that someone else had something and gave something we did not have. 

Thankfulness attracts the presence of God and the favor of man (Psalm 22:3), and thankfulness reframes our anxious thoughts towards hope. 

Thankfulness is practical. Have a thankfulness journal or note on your iPhone. Make it a family practice at dinner time to share 2 things each family member is thankful for. 

6. Memorise Scripture

Make a fun family game of memorising Philippians 4:6!

The power of this ‘living word’ to come back to our minds and our children’s just when we need it. Memorising the Bible develops a possibilities focus and builds the skill of hope and faith in something bigger than themselves.

So next time you feel anxiety, comfort and compliment yourself on being human. Be kind to yourself. When you are kind to yourself, kindness to others is more possible. Shaming yourself only begets shame.

Acknowledge and say you’re feeling anxious. No shame in that, infact that’s what courage looks like. When you invite your children to share that they are feeling anxious, you are building courage and connection in them.

Pray and choose thankfulness. It will change your family and your anxiety!

For more:

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