The world is going through troubled times. Adults try, often with difficulty, to assimilate and overcome the many challenges that have presented themselves in recent months. We want to look at world events through the lens of hope, but there are times when reality becomes overwhelming and we are afraid of what might happen to our families.
A few days ago, I went to wake up my eight-year-old daughter in the morning. We prayed together to start the day, and when it was over, she looked at me and said, "Now, yes, it looks like Jesus is coming back." I was shocked by what she said. We talk about the things that are happening in the world, generating fear and anxiety. I tried to offer the hope that Jesus offers us in the Bible to her little worried heart.
It is normal for children to absorb fears and concerns about the state of the world. They listen to what adults say about the coming of Jesus and the signs that precede that event: wars, rumors of war, sickness, persecution, and death. Young children have limited understanding of the world around them and cannot easily make sense of what they see or hear. However, with the big ones it's different. They have access to information more easily and need adults to be filters of what they see and hear.
How do we help children deal with the anxiety and fear that the situation in the world can cause? See some ideas:
- Pay attention to temperament and personality traits. Every child is unique, we already know that, but in practice, there are times when we lose sight of these particularities. Is the child naturally optimistic? Are you impatient? Do you feel afraid easily? Is it emotionally balanced? Is it suspicious? Don't use tragedies to get the child to behave well or encourage him or her to draw closer to God out of fear of the consequences. Fear is a natural human reaction. When the child shows fear or dread, validate those feelings, and from there, talk to him or her about what things are causing these reactions.
- Balance vs. alarmism: When you talk about the world's news in light of Jesus' coming, what is your reaction? What aspects do you emphasize? Many adults put their energies into talking about the signs, the apocalypse beast, 666, etc. If we only focus on this part, the outlook is bleak, and this, for children who do not have the necessary spiritual maturity, can be a reason to fear for their lives and those of their families. Satan, the villain of the story, becomes the apparent winner. Try to have a balanced attitude that doesn't ignore what's going on in the world. Put your attention on God's mercies to his children and the beautiful promises the Bible records. Explain with dolls or objects the conflict between good and evil—“the cosmic conflict,” as we also call it.
- Spiritual education with purpose: Take every opportunity you have to strengthen the child's spiritual life. It could be through family worship, a Sabbath School lesson, a nature walk, an impactful real-life story, etc. Children need the guidance and examples of adults who consistently live true Christianity. Remember, healthy spiritual life does not happen by chance; it needs to be planned and executed with a clear purpose: to help children choose Jesus as their Friend and Savior.
- Be a filter. The wickedness of this world has a lot of publicity. Do we need to be consumers of such news? What are you allowing your child to see or hear in your home? It is very harmful for a child to hear and see violent scenes, death, and evil in all their forms that are exposed in the news, movies, video games, etc. Take care of your children's innocence. And even if, outside the home, they have access to the reality of the world, help them define a correct meaning in the light of the Bible.
- Memorize biblical promises. A perfect antidote to fear is repeating biblical promises. Children have a privileged memory, and no doubt, the lines they learn will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Choose verses like Psalm 118:6, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 23, Deuteronomy 31:6, Romans 8:31, etc. Songs and hymns that speak of protection can also be easily learned to sing when they feel fear or anxiety.
- Involve children in missionary activities. To help others is to integrate in the mission. Children have a special place in God's heart and can be great instruments in His hands to bring the gospel to others, primarily by meeting their needs. Learning to love others is a challenge that has great benefits, and getting children to feel part of fulfilling Matthew 28:19–20 can help them fight fear.
- Meditate on the vision of the narrow path. Ellen White's vision of the spiritual journey to heaven is very valuable to share with children. See the image and text that represent this vision: Traveling the Narrow Path
It is a natural human tendency to be afraid of so many tragedies that plague the world. We compare ourselves to the power of Satan and can hardly say, “Who is like the beast? Who can fight her?” (Revelation 13:4). When your heart or a child's heart feels fearful or fragile, meditate and thank God for the answer in Revelation 17:14: "They will fight against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and The king of the kings; the called, the elect, and the faithful will also be overcomers.”