One of my daughters competes in gymnastics, and I’ll never forget her first meet. As I watched her approach the balance beam, I held my breath. To me, the balance beam is the most challenging event. It’s so high up, and she could easily fall off while performing a skill. I kept thinking I’d be a nervous wreck if I were her. Especially with all these people watching! I closed my eyes as she leaped into a split jump. Finally, when she finished her routine without falling, I exhaled. A few seconds later, I almost laughed out loud. She’s my child who is often slow to warm up in new situations, and yet she fearlessly conquered the balance beam.
While conquering the balance beam is a physical type of challenge, our kids face all kinds of spiritual, emotional, and mental challenges in today’s world. Anxiety is rising in both children and adults, and many parents are unsure how to help their children overcome it.
Should we take away difficulties so our kids no longer feel uncomfortable? Should we avoid situations that increase our kid’s anxiety? What do we do?
As a parent, I’ve asked myself both of these questions. I want what’s best for my kids, and it’s hard to watch them struggle. Maybe you’ve felt a similar concern for your children, too. God knew we’d face challenges, and that’s why the Bible is filled with phrases like “do not fear” and “be strong and courageous.” What if we flipped the script, and instead of avoiding the hard stuff in parenting, we faced it head-on with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God?
Let’s look at these two questions through a biblical lens.
Watching your child walk through difficulty is one of the most challenging parts of being a parent. No one likes seeing their child struggle. Yet these are the moments where grit, determination, and perseverance are born. Now, I’m not saying we throw our kids to the wolves. We must use Holy Spirit discernment in these situations, but I’d argue that we shouldn’t immediately save our children from every discomfort.
Jesus doesn’t promise us a life filled with no challenges. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world.” Even as children of God, we’ll face trouble, but these are the moments where God’s power will be made perfect in us (2 Corinthians 12:9).
When we save our children right away, we prevent them from building endurance. Kids may feel nervous about going to school, youth group, or a new social environment. They may feel sad after not making the soccer team. They may feel frustrated if they can’t paint a flower the right way. These feelings are normal, and it’s okay for kids to experience them.
Instead of rescuing them and taking over a task, let your kids work through it. Kids may not fold laundry the way we want them to do it. Instead of taking over and doing it our way, we must take the time to teach our children. The same goes for worry over social situations. We can teach our kids the skills to confidently face their fears.
Struggles make us stronger. They also provide us with an opportunity to see God’s power at work. In adversity, we learn the powerful lesson that we can walk through difficult times without fear (Psalm 23:4) and we can take hold of our sound minds (2 Timothy 1:7). If you’re unsure what to do when your child seems to be struggling, pray and ask God for wisdom. He is faithful to give it to us (James 1:5).
To raise resilient kids, we must help them develop their resilience. We do this by allowing them to face their fears. Sadly, I’ve often seen parents avoid certain extracurricular activities or church events because it could cause tears, tantrums, or anxious behavior. My own kids have fought the tears at Sunday school drop-off while screaming, “I don’t want to go!” But you know what? One Sunday, I went to the bathroom after drop-off, and a few minutes later, I saw my 4-year-old running and playing happily with her friends. You’d never have guessed she’d be that happy after the fit she threw when I dropped her off.
Again, we need to use discernment here. Some situations or scenarios aren’t safe, and we should proceed with caution. Along with that, some kids need more assistance than others, and that’s okay. But we shouldn’t try to avoid every difficult situation. Then, our kids will never learn how to be strong and courageous.
Finally, there are two factors we must consider when working through anxiety-provoking situations with our kids.
First, are we aware of our feelings about the situation? Kids often feed off their parent’s emotions. Do our kids sense our worry? Fear? Doubt? It’s helpful to pause and consider how we feel about the situation before making any decisions with our kids. After we identify our feelings, we should ask God what He says about the situation. Is our perspective heavenly? Does it align with what God’s Word says? The answers to these questions guide how we should proceed.
Second, have you brought scripture to our children’s attention? What does the Bible say about anxiety? Sadness? Weariness? Look up scripture and find a verse that speaks to the situation. Then, write it down together and use it to pray life over the difficulty.
Don’t avoid all problems and live from a position of defeat. That’s not the abundant life God provided for us! We can raise resilient kids who face life’s challenges with strength. Instead of trying to wash away all negative feelings, we should encourage our kids to keep going and get to the other side of their struggle.