How can you help children that are experiencing stress?

Esme Schmitt Ministries

Our children are living in a time where they have to deal with continual streams of situations that can cause great stress.  If it’s not the high expectations and fear of failure at school, it can be dealing with financial stress at home, divorce, death, isolation, injury, lack of friends, an identity crises or cyber bullying…just to name a few.  In this blog I will discuss how can you help children that are under much stress.  I will give three key Biblical guidelines you can follow to guide children in such times.

How do I know when children are under stress?

According to Kids matter from the Australia’s National Mental Health Plan, children that have experienced prolonged stressful situations can show the following symptoms:

  • irritability or moodiness
  • withdrawing from activities that used to give them pleasure
  • clinging; being unwilling to let parents out of sight
  • crying
  • aggressive behaviour
  • regression to earlier behaviours (ie thumb-sucking or bed-wetting)
  • school refusal
  • unwillingness to participate in family or school activities.

What can you do to help children in stress?

It is important for parents, teachers and anyone working with children to be aware of such signs and to intervene when a child is experiencing much stress.  There are times when it might even be necessary to refer a child to a counsellor or take a child for a SOZO session (for more information about SOZO visit http://sozosouthafrica.co.za).  It is true, though, that there are practical things that can be done at home or at school to help children.  The Bible provide some great guidelines regarding this.

Prayer and Supplication

Phillipians 6:6 states ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” It is not God’s plan for children to be anxious or afraid.  This scripture teaches us how to deal with anxiety, and it is much easier than we realise:  We need to bring our anxieties to God through prayer and supplication.  We also have to learn to utilise thanksgiving when we are anxious!  As we realise that God is our Helper and that He cares, we start to trust in Him and then the anxiety starts to leave.

We have to teach children to come to God every day and to bring their requests and anxieties to Him.  It is important that they know the power of prayer in those times.  When children learn to walk with God and to lean on Him in stressful times, it becomes easier to deal with those situations.

Another way is to demonstrate to children how to take their mind off the stressful situation and to fill their heart and mind with thanksgiving.  Through thanksgiving God intervenes supernaturally to change situations.

Cast your cares on Him

1 Peter 5:7 says that we should cast our your cares upon God, for He cares for us.  We need to teach children to cast of their cares into the loving arms of Jesus.  One of the greatest mistakes kids make is to try and deal with stressful situations on their own.  They don’t talk about it and constantly think about it.

Practical ways to teach children to cast their cares on Jesus is:

  • Encourage your children to verbalise their cares and anxieties.  They can even write it down or draw it.  Once they have spoken or written about their cares, they can then take it to God in prayer.  This process helps children to think through what they are feeling and experiencing.
  • Ask children to write or draw the things that make them anxious on paper.  Next, burn the paper and then explain that this is what God does.  He completely destroys our cares and anxieties.  Even though the situation has not changed yet, we feel better about it and are not in stress any more!
  • Make a cross from wood or any other material.  Like before, ask children to write or draw their cares.  Next, kneel with them before the cross and ask them to lay down their papers at the foot of the cross.  Finally explain that God wants to take our cares and that He will carry it.
  • Lastly explain to children that oxen are yoked together before they start to work.  This ‘yokingtogether’ helps them to work together and to share the burden of the weights they have to carry or move forward.  In the same way God yokes Himself to us and then He carries the biggest load!  (Matthew 11:29-30)
Finding scripture about children’s anxieties or stressful situations

One of the best things you can teach children is to trust in God’s Word in stressful times.  Help them to find scriptures relevant to their situations, using tools like Google or the Blueletter Bible  Ask them to write out these scriptures and to declare them every day.  God says that His Word will never return void, but will accomplish what it sets out to do (Isaiah 55;11).  When you trust in God’s Word, you are actually activating Isaiah 55:11 and then God will intervene!

To conclude

God provides guidance for children in stressful times.  It is important to also know that God is faithful to His Word and when we ask Him He WILL provide a way out.  Children need to learn that when they activate their faith, God will move mountains on their behalf!

What other Biblical strategies do you utilise when kids are experiencing stress?  Please share your comments with me.

Here are some recommended resources to read about children and stress:

https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/health-and-community/about-kidsmatter

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/stress.html

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-children.aspx

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