“Tatay, I’m Afraid” : Addressing Your Child’s Fears
It was the night of November 11, 2020. Our family was preparing to call it a night when all of a sudden, the electricity went off… then went back again. Five minutes into it, the light flickered and everything went black. Only this time it was never restored until after close to 20 hours.
Back to that night, we began to sense strong winds from the outside. Just to give you an idea, our house faces a vacant lot with trees all around. Actually, we are sort of surrounded by trees. I believe a better description was, we were horrified by the strong winds. As a matter of fact, one of the trees split in half and its branches fell on our car. Thankfully, the car is still running.
What bothers me that night though was not the strong winds. I was kinda expecting the strong winds although admittedly we failed to prepare for the blackout. Neither was I bothered by the tree branches that hit our car. As the cliche (and truth) goes, I will take life over property, any time and any day. What actually gave me a bit of concern was when my children told me that they were very afraid to the point that they will not, according to them, sleep throughout the night.
You might say that I am exaggerating with my response. After all, they are kids! It is normal for kids to be afraid most of the time.
Being afraid is a natural human response. But staying afraid is a different matter. I am not even sure at that time if they won’t really be able to sleep that night. Actually, they easily dozed off after midnight. However, I know I have to address their sense of fear. Any parent who tries their best to raise their children in the knowledge of God will agree that faith can overcome any sense of fear. I am referring to a fear that cripples one to take any action. Not the fear of the Lord, which is deep reverence to who God is. If it is the latter then I do not have any problem with it.
And because it was already past midnight, I came up with a quick narrative and discussion on how they can trust the Lord, that God holds the forces of nature and that He is sovereign and is in control. Honestly, I do not really know how much of it were they able to comprehend. What I know was that they easily fell asleep after our discussion.
Fear is a normal human response. We all have that emotion. Adults are not exempted. For kids, fear is usually expected. My generation would remember the days when we were often told that a monster lives under our bed and that monster swallows the child who refuses to sleep. It is old fashion to use nowadays. Not to mention it is unbiblical. But I admit that I use to believe there was really a monster under our bed.
Parents must not immediately dismiss and suppress the expression of fear by their children. It is a normal reaction. However, to let fear linger is a different issue. How must parents respond when their children say “Daddy, Mommy, I am afraid” ? Here are some suggestions:
1. Know the root cause of your child’s fear
The way to properly respond to your child’s fear is to know what is causing it. Take note that what I said is to find out the root cause. While typhoon Ulysses was wreaking havoc and power went off, our children suddenly wailed in fear. It could be that the cause of their fear was darkness or the sound of severe winds outside our house. But when our eldest told me not to leave the room (as I was about to check the fallen trees outside) I realized that their fear was caused by the thought of being left alone. Not the darkness. Not the strong winds and rain. Not the sound of the thunder. But the thought that my wife and I might leave them. Hence, I assured them that Tatay and Mommy will immediately return after checking the situation outside and preparing our rechargeable lights.
2. Assure your children that God is with them through the Holy Spirit
This suggestion will only be true for parents who teach their children about God. And so we go back to the necessity of teaching our children about the Word of God. There is no better source of peace than the assurance that God is in control. And this truth can only be found in God’s Word. Faith in Christ prevents any sense of fear to linger. Our children must find comfort in the truth that God will deliver in this life and in the afterlife only because one is in Christ. They must therefore learn about the Gospel: the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. They must understand that whatever happens, a faithful God will always be on top of the situation because our greatest enemy, which is death, was already conquered by Christ.
3. Train them to pray
There is a sense of inner peace and comfort that can result in communicating with our Creator. God will not condemn any of His child at the initial feeling of fear. And so we can tell Him about it. One who is truly in Christ, God will always hear. The peace and comfort that our children will find in prayer are supernatural yet never fictitious. God communicates with us through His word and we communicate back to Him through prayers. Our children must pray at the initial feeling of fear. Prayer must be their intentional response to fear.
Know the root cause of your child’s fear in order to properly address it. Assure them that God will never leave them but only if they believe in Christ. Lastly, prayer must be a lifestyle in the family that our children will immediately do it under any situation without being told.