6 Biblical-Based Strategies For Parenting a Child With Anxiety

All three of our kids have had their share of anxiety-induced experiences over the years. Parenting them through that anxiety isn’t always easy, but thankfully, we can incorporate biblically based strategies that help us help them.

I find Philippians 4:11-13 particularly helpful when I’m anxious and in helping our kids cope with the burden of an anxious mind.

Do you have a child with anxiety? Here are some strategies that might help you parent them through the tough times.

Grounding Techniques

There are many grounding techniques we can use when anxiety takes over that can relieve the physical cues we feel. My favorite one to use with the kids is the 3-3-3 rule—a method of grounding ourselves. The idea is to name three things they can see, followed by three sounds they can hear and then move three parts of their bodies.

Our six-year-old benefits from this exercise. However, you can’t simply tell him to do these things when he is dysregulated, as his head isn’t in the right space. I like to make it a play activity.

Our seven and fourteen-year-olds, by contrast, can go through the exercise with coaching, and both have been able to calm themselves down using it.

Grounding is part of a concept that therapists call mindfulness, a subject that scripture discusses often. When we’re mindful of our body and environment and give praise back to God, then we acknowledge what the Bible says in Galatians 5:22-23.

Name the Emotion and Identify the Physical Signs

Children are prone to the same complex emotions as adults, yet they don’t have the vocabulary to name them. That can feel scary to them. You have the opportunity to give them the names of their feelings and talk about them.

Our fourteen-year-old has had social anxiety since he was about three years old. We named the feelings of anxiety and fear. We prayed with and for him. Sometimes, simply naming the big feeling and identifying where and how it is felt helped tremendously.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

It reassured our son that God knows his feelings just as he does and that talking to Him can ease anxiety, fear, and worry.

We must know how to help a child with anxiety at home and school.

Establish a Healthy Lifestyle

Living a healthy lifestyle can help us all feel our best physically and mentally. As a bonus, moving our body can trick our brain into releasing dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These natural chemicals help counteract anxiety by boosting energy and alertness.

This leads us to feel calm and happy.

Talk to your kids about the importance of physical movement in helping them deal with their anxiety. You can incorporate scripture, such as Isaiah 40:3.

It’s also a good idea to model this for your kids. When they see us going outside for fresh air and moving about, they are more inclined to join in. Our kids love a good impromptu dance party. Additionally, our six- and seven-year-olds love to shake their sillies out and do the hokey pokey. Both are fun and effective activities that get them to move their bodies.

Make a Anxiety/Prayer Jar

I like to use a jar as a symbol of removing anxiety from the body. This can be used in conjunction with and as a visual component of prayer.

Philippians 4:6-7 stresses the importance of prayer and how God’s peace is the result. I love to remind our kids of this verse.

Kids can find prayer a complex concept because they can’t physically see God while talking to him. A worry or prayer jar lets them see their “worries” placed in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. It gives the sense that they are removing the anxiety from their body while putting it in a jar and giving it to God to handle.

The act of gathering their anxiety with their hands and physically placing it in the jar is a simple but powerful tool in helping them learn how to process, talk about and relieve their anxiety.

Recognizing Resilience as a Superpower

I tend to be a bit of a helicopter mom. That means I sometimes inadvertently send them the message that they need to be equipped to handle tough things. We need to teach them how to endure tough and even painful things. This helps your kiddo tap into their resilience as a superpower, and as Joshua 1:9 says, even in the scary things, we have God within us.

A couple of months ago, the kids all got sick, and our six-year-old had a double ear infection after the fact. When he had to go to the doctor, he had a full-on panic attack. To complicate things, he wouldn’t take medicine, and he had to endure shots at the clinic. He still says, “Mommy, that doctor was so scary. If I get sick again, I’ll take the medicine.”

This breaks my heart. All I can do is remind him of how sometimes we all must do hard things. I validate his feelings and tell him I believe him. I reminded him of how brave he was and that he got through that week and got better. His resilience is clear, even if he doesn’t see or feel it yet.

Encourage Your Child to Face Their Fears

It is easy to shield our babies by allowing them to avoid their fears. This isn’t healthy, though.2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us that God doesn’t want us to be timid.

By encouraging children to face their fears, we instill confidence that God is by their side and that they will be okay. I think facing fears is a case-by-case situation where you and your child work out the best approach for them.

We have encouraged our child with social anxiety in various ways over the years. Church, group swimming lessons, clubs, group-based dog training for his puppy and social meetups with others have helped him face his fear of social interactions in a way that supports his interests and comfort level.

Conclusion – It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

There is no cookie-cutter approach when it comes to parenting a child with anxiety. All three of our kids have had anxiety in various forms. I found that what works for one may not work for another—but meeting them where they’re at, leaning on our faith, trial, and error, and asking for help when we need it has been instrumental in getting us through those periods of fear and anxiety.

Husbands and wives need to work together to help the child with anxiety. As a biblically appropriate strategic tool, you can also add counseling or include your pediatrician. Remember, the Bible encourages us to seek treatment and pray for healing. Jesus himself acknowledges the need for physicians in conjunction with prayer for healing in Matthew 9:12.

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