He screamed and clutched me as if monsters were trying to drag him away.
Maybe that’s how he felt.
The first day of kindergarten can be rather rough on a child, but I wasn’t expecting the teachers to have to PEEL my son off me.
I walked into the parent meeting, late, brushing tears off my cheeks.
This parenting gig is hard on the soul.
I find it extra hard to help my eldest with his emotional struggles. He’s a sensitive and creative fellow with an anxious streak a mile long.
I had always hoped that his separation anxiety was more of a trick to induce mommy-guilt than real, true-blue anxiety, but it turns out I was wrong.
The anxiety was real, and it bled into his entire kindergarten year.
Dropping him off at school was a nightmare, and he cried every.single.morning. His teacher reported that he refused to participate in gym class and he didn’t seem to be making many friends. I also had a 3-year-old and a newborn at the time, and it was hard on all of us.
What do you do in the midst of someone else’s overwhelming worry? How can you keep worry from attacking your child’s mind?
I am not a worrier, so it’s often hard for me to identify with him. I just want to say “Well that’s silly. That probably won’t happen!” I learned the hard way that brushing it off doesn’t help.
In my work as a Children’s Ministry Director, I taught a class on blessing your child for the past several years, and last April, the class rolled around again. This year, when I printed off the blessing posters, I brought some home with me and let my son choose one that spoke to him the most.
Here’s what he picked:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Oh, my heart.
I started praying this verse over him nightly.
In June, it occurred to me that he wasn’t freaking out about attending school anymore. No more tears, no more gym class freak-outs. And as I thought and prayed about it, I realized that he had started changing in April…when I started praying this blessing over him.
I still pray this verse over him. Though he continues to struggle in some areas, I can see the difference praying this verse over him every night has done for him.
Some nights we have to go through the verse together, line by line, in order to calm him.
First, we pray. I pray for him, then he prays.
Second, we tell God what he needs. He needs peace.
Third, we thank God for all He has done.
We thank God for family. We name all his friends. We remember the special toys, puzzles, and games in his life. We are thankful for his teacher, his brothers, and the food he eats.
Sometimes he is still upset, so we do it all again.
First, we pray.
Second, we tell God what is needed.
Third, we thank God for all he has done.
After one such marathon prayer session a few years ago, I tucked him into bed and commissioned him to keep thinking of all the things God had done for him until he fell asleep.
He yawned and said, “But there’s so many!” As he burrowed himself into his blanket, I prayed God’s peace for him.
It can be hard to help a child with anxiety. Sometimes a child needs clinical help, but we can’t ever underestimate the power of Jesus to help our child’s heart. Praying the same Scripture verse every night invites Christ into our messy lives, where we can transform our hearts and minds.
Here are two other verses that we have used to pray over our children:
“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NLT)
If you are looking for more resources to help your child, I have a brand new book out this week, in which the main character deals with separation anxiety. You can find it on Amazon!
Christie Thomas is the mother of 3 boys. She helps parents nurture the hope of Christ in their homes through free resources on her website and through her new book Quinn’s Promise Rock.