Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How do you help kids deal with fear?

We are a news-watching and news-reading family. Between the recent earthquakes in China and tornadoes and flooding here in the Midwest, I am finding that the news is creating a whole new category of fear among my children. Of course, we turn off the television if they are showing graphic images of destruction, and we do not parade such stories in front of our little ones. But they are not living in a vacuum. They know these things are happening. And often, they find out details I would not have shared with them.

One such case happened when my 7-year-old was sitting in the seat opposite mine at the breakfast table the other day. He began reading the headlines on the back of my newspaper. He said aloud, "Four children killed as Tornado hits Iowa Boy Scout Camp." I immediately put down the paper to a barrage of questions from my children. At the root of it all was disbelief, "How could this happen?!?"

For that question, I'm afraid I don't have a good enough answer.

Since they inadvertently learned about schools collapsing in China and Boy Scouts being swept away by tornadoes, my children have developed a strong fear of the forces of the earth. When we have severe weather, especially thunderstorms, they call out for us in the night. It is something we haven't dealt with in this way since our oldest was 2 years old. Granted, we've had some real boomers in the past month. But the fear that has emerged in our children is much stronger than we could have anticipated.

Recently, there were strong storms involving hail and torrential rain. They happened during the day, while my husband was at work. As we kept an eye on the weather channel, with the sound turned low, the children worried about Daddy. "We know we have a safe basement to go to, but what about Daddy?" I told them to pray for God to take care of Daddy and assured them that God knows us and cares for us. I was amazed at the fervent prayer that commenced and continued until the storm had eased.

I think what may be happening is that my children, especially the older ones, are beginning to understand what we adults know, but keep buried deep -- that in the eyes of the world, we are really quite small. We may be masters of our own universe, but that only applies to those few things we can control.

"I cannot control the weather." I often say, when called upon to make it less hot or less rainy or warmer or to make it snow.

In the aftermath of a disaster, I repeat the words of Mr. Rogers. "Look for the helpers." I firmly believe that God always sends helpers, and that we must be ready and paying attention, so that when it is our turn to be the helpers, we are ready.

A relinquishing of control, a turning to a power larger than ourselves, and a dedication to find and to be the hands of help when people are in need do not begin to explain why tragic things happen. But they are a start, and I hope they will be enough to see my children through.

For right now, though, I will just try to be ready when the sky looks stormy and they call out for me in the night.

Midwest Mom

To share your family's stories on dealing with fear, click on "comments" below this article. I would love to hear from you.


1 comment:

  1. When I was a kid, I was TERRIFIED of thunderstorms. Actually, I was terrified of pretty much any forceful function of nature. New Hampshire (where I grew up) virtually never got hurricanes, but that didn't stop me from watching the weather channel religiously all throughout hurricane season. Now as an adult, I relish the power of nature. I love thunderstorms, now!

    I have no children of my own (yet), but I shed my fear of things like thunderstorms by learning to say a quiet prayer and then forget about whatever it was that was frightening me. See, it took me years to realize this, but I finally figured out that real faith is the ability to pray for something ONCE. That's all that's really required. If I pray for safety and I'm not safe, it's because God must want it that way for one reason or another. At least, that's the best I can figure. No clue how one explains something like that to a kid, though.

    As a kid, though, the worst thing that my parents did was try to dismiss my fear as silly or get angry with me for being fearful. That just made me more frightened.


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