I asked my new friend, author JJ Gutierrez to share about helping kids overcome fear during this time of Coronavirus. JJ has a new book that is perfectly timed for this season, Chickening IN – From Fear to Courageous Faith. You can enter to win the book on my Facebook page. A winner will be chosen on Friday.
Maybe due to the pandemic, a painful incident or an overreaction to a minor event. Whatever the reason it is spurred on by overwhelming fear. This can leave any parent feeling helpless, but there is hope. Through a personal experience with my eight-year-old daughter I have learned 8 strategies to help kids overcome fear. Strategies that can help you too!
Coincidently, my personal story has to do with the flu, but not the Coronavirus. This situation happened 2 years prior to the outbreak and I never could have imagined that getting the flu would trigger an ongoing fear in my daughter. It’s true the virus she contracted was ferocious and it left her kneeling over the toilet five times that night, but I had no idea the impact that night would have on the next several years of our lives. Something we are still overcoming to this day.
In the days and weeks after she recovered from the flu my daughter began expressing anxiety about getting nauseous again. I brushed it off as a normal reaction, after all, no one wants to get sick. Besides my daughter had a propensity to worry and I was used to hearing worrisome chatter so I didn’t take it seriously.
As weeks turned into months her fear of throwing up didn’t get better; it got worse. The seemingly normal reaction transitioned into a deep fear…a fear that was consuming our lives. Our daily conversations centered around being afraid of the slightest sensation in her belly as if it were a sign she was on the verge of losing her last meal. She avoided foods, wanted to snack on tums all day and tears of panic swelled up often. This fear had become a stronghold.
I began a journey to tear down the fear that was relentlessly attacking my child. The “mama bear” in me was on a mission and thankfully, with God’s help, I found practical, actionable things that worked. Oh, dear mom, I know how helpless you might feel. Whether it’s the pandemic or another situation that has caused your child to develop a deep seeded fear it can cause us to feel lost or unsure of what to do. That’s why I want to share with you 8 strategies that helped us.
1.Identify the Source of Anxiety or Fear– by identifying when and why the fear started I could have constructive conversations with my daughter to address her fear. It created a space to discern truth and facts from lies and over imagination.
2. Create a Worry Box- We decorated a small box where my daughter could write down her fears about getting sick and then she put them in the box. So long as the lid was closed tightly her fears were contained, but if the lid opened, we talked about them. This helped set boundaries on her fear.
3. Always Be Ready to Stop, Listen and Talk- I learned that I must be available to talk with her when fear is happening…meaning I have to sacrifice my plans or what I am doing to stop and listen. We’ve had countless talks and I am seeing the benefits of simply being available.
4. Don’t Always have an Answer- At first I wanted to always have an answer for my daughter. However, I found that not every fear has an answer and that by trying to create a reason it didn’t bring her comfort anyway. Instead, sometimes it’s okay just to listen and not respond with an answer. It is okay to simply empathize and let it be.
5. Point Your Child Back to God- I learned that God can comfort my daughter in ways I cannot. By continually directing my daughter’s focus back to God she has developed a relationship with Him. I’ve overheard her on numerous occasions telling God about her fear of getting sick. It’s never too early to teach children to turn to God with their fears. Also, our example speaks volumes here. When our kids see us turning to God in our distress, they will learn to do it themselves too!
6. Encourage Small Brave Steps- I spent time encouraging my daughter to make small advancements to overcome her fear. Pushing her to take big ones usually backfired, but I saw her confidence building when she conquered fear one tiny step at a time.
7. Pray Continually – My daughter has received strength many times because we prayed. I pray over her, I pray against the enemy who is lurking around her, and she prays too. She evens comes to me and asks for prayer because it works!
8. See a Doctor or Therapist– This is very, very important! We did both and you may find these resources helpful if you are dealing with a fearful child. Don’t walk this road alone.
But the greatest piece of advice I can pass along from one mom to another is to be patient. Patient with your child and patient with yourself. The strategies above take time, but it is time well spent. It’s been two years now and my daughter’s fear of getting the flu has deflated. It’s not completely gone but it’s not controlling her life either. We’ve made progress and she’s learned valuable skills that will last a lifetime.
To learn more about JJ Gutierrez and her new book Chickening IN- from FEAR to Courageous FAITH, visit her website.
WANT TO WIN THE BOOK? Visit my Facebook page to enter the giveaway! Winner chosen on Friday.