For many of us there’s sort of a romantic connotation associated with stormy nights. Think about it: wind, rain, lightning and thunder all simultaneously occurring outside, while we are safe and comfortably nestled inside our homes. The thing is, safety is sometimes a subjective thing, especially when you’re a kid. Storms probably don’t fall into that “romantic / comforting” category if you’re under 10. The very loud peels of house-shaking thunder overhead combined with howling wind can be downright scary! Throw in a tornado warning (or…um… three) in the course of two weeks, and you have the perfect mix for true childhood anxiety!
My youngest son is really the one who inspired this blog post. He is VERY scared of thunderstorms. He also struggles with certain sensory sensitivities. So when sounds are loud to us, they are almost unbearable to him. We’ve been having a really hard time trying to get him to not obsess on the weather each morning as he wakes up. Clouds in the sky can signal a meltdown! Granted, it’s been a very unusual spring, but seriously, how do I explain that this is just a weird “weather cycle” we happen to be in this year to an 8year old? As a mom, I’m faced with wanting to help him get over these fears, but be understanding about his physical sensitivity and still shelter him in a way that probably favors more avoidance than might be truly healthy. (Meaning I also pray for cloudless mornings these days!)
I’ve always felt that there are three equally important factors to take into consideration when looking into total health: Physical, Psychological and Spiritual. Deciding to tackle the physical/ psychological factors first, I went online and researched children’s anxieties, and came across a great site from Dr. Sears. If you’re unfamiliar with Dr. Sears, he is a well known, published pediatrician. On his site, this is what I found regarding children’s fears:
“The nature of anxieties and fears change as kids grow and develop:
*Babies experience stranger anxiety, clinging to parents when confronted by people they don’t recognize.
*Toddlers around 10 to 18 months old experience separation anxiety, becoming emotionally distressed when one or both parents leave.
*Kids ages 4 through 6 have anxiety about things that aren’t based in reality, such as fears of monsters and ghosts.
*Kids ages 7 through 12 often have fears that reflect real circumstances that may happen to them, such as bodily injury and natural disaster.
As kids grow, one fear may disappear or replace another. For example, a child who couldn’t sleep with the light off at age 5 may enjoy a ghost story at a slumber party years later. And some fears may extend only to one particular kind of stimulus. In other words, a child may want to pet a lion at the zoo but wouldn’t dream of going near the neighbor’s dog.”
Now I wanted to know how to help him. Dr. Sears also gives 7 Tips to help parents help their kids through these anxieties. I’m listing them, but feel free to go here for the complete explanation of each.
1. Understand why children are afraid
2. Give a fearless message
3. Model being unfearful
4. Always take your child’s fear of caregivers seriously
5. Ease bedtime fears
6. Chase “monsters” out of bedrooms
7. Get rid of fearful characters
Ok, so this takes care of the physical / psychological aspects of my son’s fears. I get that his fears are age appropriate. Now, how should I address the spiritual side?
Well let’s go to the Bible…
One of my son’s favorite stories in the Bible is that of Joseph, son of Jacob. It also happens to be his name sake, so it figures that he really likes to relate all things back to Joseph! We talked about how scared Joseph must have been when his own brothers threw him in the well and then turn around and sold him! My son gets how scared Jospeh must have been all alone in such a dark, lonely place. We then talked about how Joseph, even through all his struggles, trusted God. Even during his prison sentence, he trusted that God was bigger than all of his fears! Just like God never left Joseph, He will never leave our side!
OK, you may think this is a marketing ploy, but I assure you it isn’t. The other thing that has gotten us through these past few weeks of fear has been the VeggieTales’ song, “God is Bigger Than the Boogie Man”. What a great reminder that our God, the Creator of the Universe, is way bigger than any super-duper loud thunderstorm! And HE’S ALWAYS on our side!!
Our go-to verse for the last month has been, Isaiah 41:10 “So do not be afraid. I am with you.”
I won’t tell you that Joe’s no longer afraid of thunder. He is. We both still dread it. But we have some good tools to help us cope. We also like the fact that some of the most iconic Bible heroes also struggled with fear and anxiety—and yet God was still there for them—always reassuring them He is bigger than any fear!
Has your child suffered through a fear that God’s Word has helped him through? Please share with us your story!