Irrational Fears…and Children

My little girl is scared.  

It’s not just a phase, my six year old has always been fearful. I’ve come to realize, or to think, that it’s her cross in this life…to be anxious.

There was no leaving her in the nursery as a toddler. When she was three, we had several months of her irrational fear that I’d left her alone in the house. I mean, she would call my name once, I’d answer from the laundry room (or whereever) and she wouldn’ t hear…so she’d immediately run screaming my name, panicked that I’d abandoned her. It’s enough to make you think I’d threatened to leave home without her or something. I assure you, I did not. Ever.

Now, lest you think she’s afraid of everything, she’s not. She’s never been afraid of storms, of the dark, or of big dogs or bugs. Rarely do nightmares plague her. She has no fear of heights–her constant tree climbing, and monkeying-up-doorframes proves a certain lack of inhibition.

The experts have plenty of recommendations for the above fears: exposure to a new litter of pups (a non-threatening version of what terrifies them, ie: big dogs) or pretend play with a new stuffed animal dog, playing with flashlights or colored lights in a dark room (for fear of the dark), interacting with bugs by use of ant farms and butterfly habitats…but when we rely only on the “experts” we may miss the important spiritual lessons needed learned.

These fears are part of God’s plan for my daughter. Sadly, I’m only now realizing this and connecting the dots.

With prayer and encouragement, she overcame the majority of her fears by the age of 4.5. However, they’re resurfacing. She’s afraid of strangers. Terrified.

She will not go to Sunday School anymore, because there are several new children in the class…and when the SS teacher left them unattended once to go make copies…it freaked 6 yo out. When this spilled over to not attending Christmas program practice, my concern flags flapped in overtime. Yes, just like the children of Israel, I’m a slow learner. Here we have another opportunity for growth, and what do I do? Anxiety is sin, you know.

Three weeks have gone by and here’s what I’m doing:

  • I’m acknowledging her fears, and trying to remain patient as we work through them. These last 3 weeks she’s been sitting with us during adult SS.
  • I’m praying for her the power prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21. (the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is ours for the asking!)
  • I’ve told several trusted prayer partners of this need.
  • She and I talk. She knows God is with her, and that she can pray for His help and peace. She knows two verses on fear: Isaiah 41:10 and Psalm 56:3.
  • We had a devotion on Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

This past Sunday, though she opted to sit with us in adult SS, she decided she was safe attending Christmas program practice without me. (This practice is done during the sermon…)

 So, by the grace of God, we go…

(and for anyone tempted to say this is a by-product of homeschooling, a socialization issue, it’s not. A personality and spirit issue, yes. )

13 thoughts on “Irrational Fears…and Children”

  1. Mary,
    My oldest is just like this too…even now. She KNOWS God’s promises, prays about it and really does her little best. But like you said, this seems to be part of her personality and I try to be patient and kind yet have firm expectations. Most of the time I don’t push it. God will use it in her in His perfect way, as long as she doesn’t let it control her and it’s my job to teach her that.

    Praying for your little honey!

  2. yes I remember my daughter going through this, I quite agree with you that it is to do with her personality. Some kids just sail through life not worrying whereas others don’t, even so praying for them is what us mothers do best.

  3. at the risk of sounding askew and bizarre, I wonder if you have considered the possibility that her anxiety is an attack of the enemy? Is it possible that she is spiritually afflicted? (I’m not even remotely suggesting she is possessed!) Perhaps prayer in that direction may yield more results?

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  4. I remember as a little girl being terrified of my mother leaving me and I will tell you something funny, not at the time, but it is now.

    My mom was a stay-at-home mom before my parents divorced. Anyhoo, my mom was dropping me off at kindergarten when I freaked! I mean as soon as she left and I knew she wasn’t coming back, I lost it. There were two teachers in the classroom and one of them held me and the other tried calming me down when I just lashed out! I slapped one of the teahers, ran out the door, left the school yard, stayed in a cemetary for hours. Then I walked around town when I saw my dad’s truck. I crawled in the back and slept.

    The whole town was looking for me and they finally found me, at night, fast asleep. Thank God, your daughter hasn’t done that!

    She will grow out of it, I think it is just a part of growing up. I think a lot of kids experience this at some point in their lives.

    Sorry so long.

  5. I was terrified of strangers as a child. I hated being separated from my parents (even though I would occasionally wander off in a store). But slowly, with my parents’ gentle insistence and reassurance, I learned how to cope with separation and strangers. Thirty years later, I still don’t like being surrounded by people I don’t know and I stay pretty close to home (although I do live alone) most of the time. The best way I could cope with strangers was meeting them on my own turf, one or two at a time. I’m still most comfortable in small groups comprised of mostly people I know.

    There is hope–and you’re doing exactly the right thing: holding her hand, praying with her, and teaching her that God is always with us.

    If she’s still afraid of the Sunday School teachers, maybe invite them over to your home for tea on a Saturday afternoon so she can get to know them in her own territory and see that she can trust them, too.

  6. I think youre doing all the right things
    I did wonder if you might go in and sit in on a couple of the classes until she feels more confident
    praying and talking with her is wonderful
    keep it up
    im sure she’ll be just fine

  7. I have a son who is fearful. Not of the small stuff, but of big things like tornados and “bad men.” I too am a worrier, but I’m slowly learning to give it over to God. I think “fear” will also be something my son has to oversome.

  8. I found it interesting that with my cousins that were homeschooled the first son was the most social person you could know, going to BJU with me and being the man of a million friends. His sister didn’t last two weeks. The next in line was there and was just like the first. The last, just like the middle.

    There’s definitely something different with different children. I’m not saying it’s a fallout of homeschooling, however, it’s a challenge to it. It may mean more work as far as getting the child with separation fear to work through it and trust in God.

    You’re right, though, Mary. People would point at your daughter and blame homeschooling without understanding what’s going on.

  9. Ah, you all are so so encouraging! Thank you for taking the time to share your similar experiences and compassion for us!

    Leticia, your poor mother and father! How scary…glad you found your daddy’s truck! I’d imagine that whole experience made the stranger anxiety even worse?

    Kaye, I think you’ve hit on something important. My daughter is the most anxious in large groups. She’s even developed a nervous habit of holding her upper or lower lip with her teeth, leaving a raw, red “mustache”…we’ve just been noticing it after she’s been in a situation with many new people. That’s a great idea to invite the SS teacher over to our turf, so to speak.

    Jana, I would have never guessed that about your oldest! It’s good to hear that it does get better…I *know* it will. :O)

    Mrs. Meg Logan, she did recently “recommit” to the Lord, as she said she didn’t remember her conversion at the age of 3. I’d be more inclined to think it was a growing type of test, something to teach her more reliance on God.

    Jen, I’d thought of sitting in her SS class with her, but felt like that would be giving too much attention to it. I did skip the sermon in favor of attending Christmas program practice with her the first week we faced this problem, and last week she was fine attending it alone, so we’ll see. They’ll be switching SS teachers for the winter term here pretty soon.

    Thanks again, everyone!

  10. I know I’m jumping in late, but I was like Kaye. Terribly shy and afraid to interact with others, to the point that my mom had to quit her job and get a job at the preschool that I had been going to. I think you’re doing all the right things. My parents (not Christians) handled it by urging me–STRONGLY–to get involved in everything. I had every lesson under the sun: swimming, ballet, music, 4-H, everything. Thankfully God was looking out for me even then, because everything turned out well.

    I’m still shy in large, unfamiliar groups, but I can handle it. I can speak in front of a group, though I have to force myself. Thankfully your daughter has two Christian parents who are loving her and praying for her–it will definitely come out right!

  11. To anyone that would say an introverted, anxious, fearful, etc., put anything in the blank child is a result of homeschooling…hogwash! I’ve heard so much of that kind of thing over my years of home schooling and some of it from family, unfortunately. God knew exactly what He was doing when he placed children in a family with two parents of different gender and siblings. He gave them this environment to grow in and you have all the ingredients to make a well-rounded, socially equipped individual. All of us have areas of weakness in our lives, whether it be fear, anxiety, patience, etc. Through prayer and encouragement much can be worked on and changed. Why are we as parents in such a hurry to push our children before they are ready? And believe me…I mean myself too! Maybe this is our own weakness shining through in the areas of patience and being anxious of what others say? Children generally grow out of these kinds of things…it just takes patience on our parts and lots of love and encouragement. Your six year old is a wonderful, out-going joy to be with. Her continued faith in security, love and trust is being learned and cemented each time she goes to her loving mommy and daddy and most importantly her loving and faithful Heavenly Father. Keep up the good work! Deb

  12. Again, you all don’t know how much your “.02” is worth to me…everything! I so appreciate your understanding and encouragement. I need it! We had another meltdown today during Christmas program practice. Lots of hand-holding and prayer and we somehow made it through to the other side. I sense everyone’s (at church) confusion and admit it bothers me. Mostly because I can’t make sense of it. My dh says he was the same way, and still doesn’t like large gatherings.

    My six year old commented this morning during her panic, that she wished they’d practice on the stage in the sanctuary like they did yesterday (we had an extra practice Saturday morning, in which they went through the whole play 3 times, and I wasn’t even in the same room with dd. I was in the nursery babysitting the babies of the mothers who were directing the play…and amazingly, my dd never once had anxiety). I’m wondering if she’s got a touch of claustrophobia, since the small SS room they’re using to practice in is so full of children.

    Anyway, there’s an update, and sad to say, I blame myself also. I was praying the Ephesians prayer more last week than I did this week.

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