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Raising Worry-Free Kids

My oldest daughter chews her fingernails when she's nervous.

The habit appears in all kinds of situations: the first day of school, intense movie scenes, and even sometimes before bed. Each time I see her hands go to her mouth, I feel her worry and want desperately to take it away. "Don't be afraid," I often tell her instinctually, "Everything will be OK."

But the more I think about it, the more I realize this phrase doesn't actually offer my daughter any real hope. She knows as well as I do, after all, that everything might not be OK. She might have to sit alone in the cafeteria before school. The movie might end badly. She may wake up in the middle of the night with a bad dream. Her fears are, very often, rooted in reality.

The Bible is filled with commands not to fear. And thankfully, God's word gives us something more to stand upon than false platitudes. In Deuteronomy 3:16, the Lord tell his people, "Do not be afraid or terrified...for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." He speaks similarly in Isaiah 41:10: "Do not fear, for I am with you." In Romans 8:38-39, Paul tells us that nothing, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow...can separate us from God's love.

God's word offers so much more hope in the face of worry than "Everything will be OK." Instead, our real hope is found in the fact that God is with us and will always be with us. We can't predict the future, but we can trust his presence and sovereign plan with certainty.

I don't like watching my kids struggle through fear, but the goal isn't to raise worry-free kids. Rather, our call is to teach them where to turn when the inevitable worries surface.

So, I don't often tell my daughter that everything will be OK anymore when I see her start to chew her nails. Instead I say things like, "You don't have to be afraid because God promises to always be with you," or "If you wake up and feel scared, you can talk to God, who promises to give you peace."

Right now, her worries rise as she walks toward her school or sits up in bed at night, but I know from experience these scenarios will only intensify with time. Someday she'll feel fear more deeply. In those moments, I hope she will find rest in God's presence because of the small seeds of truth I have planted today.


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