Raising Kids in Anxious Times

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We sat at a table in a lovely villa sharing a lunch of homemade Italian delicacies. Six of us had been seated together for lunch in this ornate dining room, surrounded by other guests at several other tables. The setting was spectacular and the view outside the windows was breathtaking—vineyards and distant Tuscan hillsides.

The woman across the table, we learned very quickly, was the sister of a famous pop singer. Her husband, seated next to her, was an investment banker; they lived in Boston. She had one son, about a year old, and a nanny, who had accompanied them on their Italian vacation and was, at that moment, watching him at their hotel.

She admitted, nervously, that she rarely let her son out of her sight and that she had thought through every danger that could affect his little life. Very quickly I realized that this young mother was filled with fear. At a place where she should have been relaxing and enjoying the time away with her husband, this poor mom could not stop thinking about her son.

“I mean,” she said knowingly, “there’s so much that could go wrong out there!

Maybe you feel anxious about what’s “out there” in your child’s life. Maybe you turn on the news and become filled with dread, worried that the things you hear about others might happen to your child. It’s easy to make the leap from “out there” to “right here.”

In a world that is fraught with anxiety, we long for a better way. I know I do! Trust me, anxiety is NOT the answer. Research has found that there is a correlation between anxious parents and anxious children. Furthermore, parents who exert substantial control over their kids contribute to the child’s anxiety.

We’ve got to find a better way.

We have to identify two things: first, the source of our anxiety, and second, the source of our peace.

Identifying the Source of Our Anxiety

There can be many sources for our anxiety as parents, depending on our situation, but I think these three are primary.

1. Media.

Ask yourself if you feel anxious when you read or watch the news. Perhaps there’s some fear-mongering going on that is not healthy for you and it’s causing you to irrationally fear for your kids. If so, turn off the TV or step away from the source. Instead, spend time listening to soothing music or reading good books. Do whatever it takes to refocus your mind toward more positive aspects of life.

2. Other parents.

You have to admit that there’s a lot of handwringing going on out there. Moms talk. (Dads talk too!) Grandparents ask leading questions (“Aren’t you worried about X?”). Recognize that chatter among other parents can spiral out of control very quickly. Remind yourself that some information can be helpful, but some can be harmful as well.

3. Yourself

This one may be the hardest to walk away from. Your own mind playing worst-case scenarios over and over again can lead to dominance and too much control over our kids. And wanting to control our kids is never helpful for anyone; in fact, it can sometimes lead to idolatry.

The better way most parents are looking for is the way of peace. And that’s the better way that God wants for us as well. The Bible tells us over and over again, “Do not be afraid.” In fact, John 14: 27 tells us the true source of peace straight up: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” There’s so much rich truth here!

What is the source of our anxiety and fear? It’s not God! It’s not Jesus. It’s the world. The media, the chatter of other moms, even our own thinking—these are the things that bring fear. But Jesus tells us that He wants to give us peace, and the peace he gives is very different from the peace the world brings.

Identifying the Source of Our Peace

How do we find the true peace that Jesus wants us to have as parents?

1. Name the real threat.
It’s easy to focus on the threats that seem very real to our kids today—the physical threats that seem to be all around them. I wonder, however, if the real threat to our kids might be a danger we can’t see. A spiritual danger. We know that we have an enemy who wants to destroy us, and our kids, yet sometimes we don’t like to think or talk about that. When we leave our children to “figure things out on their own” we leave them vulnerable to the enemy’s lies.

Jesus told us plainly:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28)

Rather than focus on dangers that might appear more evident but which may not even be real, we need to focus on spiritual dangers that are much more devastating to our kids and have a more lasting effect.

2. Focus on God’s promises.

Friends, the truth we can stake our lives on is the Bible. And what I read over and over again in the Bible is “Do. Not. Fear.” This is not a suggestion—it’s a command. “Do not fear” or “Do not be afraid” appears over 100 times in Scripture.

And it’s never set alongside the caveat “You can be afraid of terrorists.” Or “It’s OK to fear getting in a car accident.” Or, “Go ahead and create worst-case-scenarios for your kids.”

No! God says, “Do not fear.” Period. In fact, part of our responsible discipleship of our kids is to teach them to trust God in ALL things.

Here are some promises I have held on to as I have battled fear as I’ve raised my kids.

Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord, your God, who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

John 14: 27 - “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 16:33 – “I have told you these things that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Praying that you will find the peace you need as you raise your kids to trust God in all things.



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