How to Encourage Your Kids When They Are Scared or Anxious

By Jessica Wolstenholm

Prayers against bad dreams are a part of our nightly before bed prayer routine. Both of my children pray earnestly for the Lord to help them have, “No bad dreams, only good dreams.” My first-grader has even been known to purposely keep himself from falling asleep so he won’t even stand the chance of having a nightmare. This is the reality around our home.

Everything within my mama heart wishes there existed some magic elixir spritz that we could spray around my children’s rooms and that would inoculate their imaginations from any sort of unpleasantness while they sleep. If you find it or invent it, please PM me.

Until then, here are a handful of helpful habits we have employed around our home that have hopefully aided in easing a bit of the fearfulness that seems to surface around 8:00 pm every night.

Pray with them

I am not kidding when I say we request good dreams from the Lord every single night. What I love about this is that simply by asking the Lord for something like a good dream shows my children that Father God cares about even this, and nothing is too small to bring to the throne of grace. And after a nightmare-free night, it gives my children and me an opportunity to praise the God of sweet dreams.

Give them songs to sing

After tucking my daughter under her soft pink princess comforter each night, she always asks me to sing her a song. And I love this opportunity to sing over her. Unlike the rest of the world, she is not privy to my lack of vocal skill, and that makes her request all the more sweet. I look forward to that quiet time before bed when I have the opportunity to sing chorus after precious chorus that praises the name of Jesus and also ushers her into deep relaxation and rest.

Give them verses to memorize and pray

There are so many wonderful scripture verses in the Bible that can help us during times of fear and anxiety. And this is no exception for children. I try to help my children memorize verses that speak to the reality of fear but also the powerful truth that we serve a God who is bigger than fear and has the power to conquer any enemy. Here are a few of our favorites:

  •  Psalm 56:3
  • Joshua 1:9
  • Psalm 23:4

Print off Scripture Cards

When my son was in a particularly difficult season of not wanting to sleep for fear of nightmares, a friend suggested that I find and print off some scripture cards for him. I found this adorable set from Marydean Draws and allowed him to keep the cards under his pillow at night, along with a flashlight. I told him, whenever he felt afraid at nighttime, he could reach under his pillow and read a card. My hope was that he would lean on the truth of God’s word in the very moment when he needed it most.

Silly Visualizing

I fully realize that scriptures on God fighting for us and us being sheep that God protects and cares for can be a bit abstract for kids. So something else I try to do before my kids go to bed that will hopefully alleviate some of their fears is to leave them with an image of something silly or funny that they can think about and visualize.

Before I leave their rooms I will say to them, “I hope you have sweet, sweet dreams about …” And then I will list off some really fun things to make them smile. Sometimes I’ll talk about a room full of new puppies and bunnies and baby chickens. Or sometimes I’ll reference something really exciting we did earlier that day. But what I do most often is describe a scrumptious candy scene, inspired by Willa Wonka’s factory. I’ll tell them I hope they have dreams about a bubblegum bush and a river of chocolate milk and trees with cotton candy tops. My hope is to leave them with a fun image that they can continue to add to inside their own imagination and that will, hopefully, send them into sleep on a very positive note.

Give in, when necessary

As much as we try to stave off the nightmares in our house with songs and truth and even silly narratives, the truth is it does not always work. If you were to peek inside my bedroom right now you would see a pile of blankets and pillows on my floor that my kiddos affectionately refer to as their “floor bed.” In the middle of the night when they feel too afraid, they know they can slip into our rooms and sleep near us. It gives them peace so they can sleep and prevents us from having to miss out on sleep because we have to continue sending scared kids back to their beds. Double win.

I feel so angry toward an enemy that preys on the minds of our little ones and convinces them that the dark is something to fear. But I hope that with some of these strategies I am helping my children to not only deal with their fear in a godly way now, but that it will train their minds with how to handle fear for the rest of their lives.