Episode 120: Helping Our Children Defeat Fear

In this week’s episode we look at some great ways to defeat fear and some great books to help along the way.

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids.

Each year I like to do an episode that talks about faith and fear. This time of year we seem to be bombarded with so many things through the media and through other venues, even the books that teachers read in school, that just are meant to either make evil seem fun or to promote fear. And I know that there is a fascination with being afraid, like in a roller coaster sort of way that we all have kind of as human beings for the most part, but we certainly do not want our children to be slaves to fear. We want them to be people of faith and that walk in faith. And so number one in all of this is that we help our children memorize scripture, that we repeat scripture to them and help them to get the word of God into their minds and hearts, so that when they do face a situation that scares them or challenges them, that they can walk through it with faith and the knowledge that God is with them and what His plan for their lives is, and so we want to do that. Number one, they need to know the word of God. They need to have the word of God. They need to know how to pray. And I also encouraged my children to have a song. And so they can sing even if it’s Jesus Loves Me, that will remind them that Jesus is with them, that they are never alone, and that they can then face whatever, and so I highly recommend those things. Number one, whether you read any other books or not, and to help empower our children to face the fears and the struggles and the challenges that come their way in life and to be strong and brave and courageous people of faith. But I did find some really great books for this year to share with you. And I do have three books that I want to share a second time with you because they are so great. But the first thing I want to do is share books that I’ve never shared before with you because I’ve just recently found them, and they really are interesting and fun and wonderful.

Now, the first one is not a picture book, it is actually a book for 8 to 12 year olds, and it’s a devotional book. And it’s meant to be read as a family together because there’s conversations, questions, and ideas that need to be discussed together with your kids. So this is something you would read together as a family. But this one is called 100 Days to Brave for Kids: Devotions for Overcoming Fear and Finding Your Courage by Annie F. Downs, and this helps children to conquer their fears and anxieties, and it gives them scriptures and wonderful thoughts on scripture to help challenge them in their faith. And I really, really love this.

Now for some picture books, one of the reasons pictures books are so difficult on this subject is because the artist is trying to personify or to picture fear, and so some of them go too far. I think the pictures give the wrong message to the child or are too frightening. So I’ve tried to find ones that I feel have a good balance, and I will tell you about each one and why I like the book and any concerns I have.

So the first one is a Christian book. It’s called What Do You Say To a Dragon? A Story About Facing Fear and Anxiety by Lexi Young Peck and Illustrated by Wendy Leach, and this is for children, one to three years old. It is a picture book and it’s very cute. This little boy is a little black dog and he has a nightmare about a dragon. But what I love about this book is it has a lot for parents as well because it shows how parents can talk to a child about nightmares that they’ve had or fears that they have and walk them through conquering that fear, conquering that nightmare. It gives suggestions of how to have that conversation with a young child. And so I do love that it’s important that we don’t just dismiss their concerns, blow it away, as in it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. We need to take their fears seriously and really let them talk, especially when it’s a dream or a nightmare that keeps recurring. This is something that’s really plaguing our children and we need to help them overcome it and not continue to be afraid and to continue eventually being afraid of even going to bed at night because they’ll have that nightmare again. And we need to find out why. What’s triggering that for me, when I was a child, if I ate chocolate cake or chocolate anything before bedtime or in the evening, I would have a nightmare every single time as a kid, and so I started just learning not to eat chocolate in the evenings and I stopped having nightmares. So sometimes it could be something as simple as a food sensitivity that is triggering these nightmares. And I mean, I had some very vivid nightmares of all kinds of crazy monsters as a kid, so I still remember a lot of them. So just being aware that, maybe we need to figure out what’s causing it, but letting our children talk through it will help them to feel powerful over it and not be in bondage to it. So we need to help kind of be detectives and help them walk through that.

Another one that is similar to the message of this book is one that is not a Christian book, but is called Brave Molly, and this one is written by Brooke Boynton Hughes. This book is all pictures. Brave Molly– she’s probably in about fourth grade in the story. Of course, you interpret the pictures as you will as you go through the book. The artist Hughes has depicted fear is these shadowy monsters that follow Molly around, so definitely look at the illustrations before you buy the book, go to the different websites and you can see what those little monsters look like. But what I love about it is in the middle of the book, these monsters keep multiplying. And so especially with our little bit older elementary children, we can talk to them about how fears multiply. When we give into one fear, we let it multiply and build more fear in our lives. Instead of facing the fear, we’re causing more fear. And so when she turns around, there’s a whole horde of these fears following her around. They do not hurt her, they do not do anything like that, but they’re following her everywhere she goes. So she’s always got her fears with her, and she turns around at one point and she just yells at them, and you could talk about “What would you say to your fear to yell at it?” Or whatever, but she turns around and yells at them and they, poof, disappear. But then a couple sneak up again and try to follow her. The way she deals with them is to just step out of her comfort zone and to face her fear head on, which is to talk to children that she doesn’t know well. And so she goes ahead and talks to them and faces her fear and those little fear monsters disappear. So I really like this book. Even though it does have a little bit of a scary picture with these monsters following her, but I think if you’re going to try to depict fear, they’ve done a really good job.

Another one that is also not a Christian book, but this one brings humor into it because this is Emily Grace and the What-Ifs: A Story For Children About Nighttime Fears. And Emily Grace makes up the most ridiculous what ifs ever. And I love it because that’s what we do when we start thinking, about “what if this happens?” And “what if that happens?” And we’re just thinking of every scenario that could cause trouble and cause problems, and it just gets blown out of proportion. We are totally caught in worry instead of being people of prayer and faith and trust, trusting God. I think this book has a lot of potential for great conversations about what ifs. And this is written by Lisa B. Gehring, and Illustrated by Regina Flath. I love it. I really like it. You’ll laugh at some of the what ifs that she comes up with and it’s just so cute, the way she thinks of all these crazy, crazy situations.

Now, the next one is equally funny, and I love this book, because so often our fears are just imaginations. Well, most of our fears are imaginations and misunderstanding of what’s really happening. This is called The Scariest Story You’ve Ever Heard by Ron Keres, and illustrated by Arthur Lin. And this book is about two little boys who are just, their imagination is running amok. They’re trying to go to sleep and they hear a noise, and so they get out of bed. They’re trying to find out what the noise is, but they are imagining what it could be. And of course, their imagination is wild and crazy. They go on and on, every time they hear another noise, they’re adding to the story until at the very end they turn on the light and see what’s really going on, and it’s nothing to be afraid of. And so often that’s the way we are with whatever we’re dreading, with whatever we’re fearing. When we finally get to the situation or turn the lights on, so to speak, there’s nothing to be afraid of, and it wasn’t as terrible as we thought it might be. So I just love this story.

And then I found a board book that’s called A Little Book About Fear by Jelani Memory, and this says it’s for zero to three year olds, but I honestly think the concepts in this book are geared for much older children. I don’t know, it might be something you could read with your whole family. It is not a Christian book. And in this book he talks about fear as in good fear and bad fear, and so you might be able to talk to your children about that. We need discernment. God gave us discernment for a reason, and he gave us that ability, especially through the Holy Spirit showing us when something is not safe or something bad is going to happen. If we don’t obey or we don’t watch out, we need to have that radar going. We don’t want to squelch everything that warns us something’s dangerous and just walk headlong into dangerous situations. I love that this book deals with that, but it refers to all of it as fear. Like for instance, if you have a pot of boiling water on the stove, fear tells you not to touch it because it could burn your hand. To me, that’s not fear, but I guess it could be defined as fear. I think of it as wisdom or knowledge or intelligence. So I don’t think of that as fear. Fear to me is irrational, when I define it except for the kind of fear that means respect. So there are different ways we can use the word fear, and so our children need to also understand that, or they’re not going to understand scripture that says, Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. What does that mean? So we do need to describe these things and talk about these things with our children and help them have a good understanding. So this book really does open up that concept of having discernment and helping our children to know what it means to discern a situation, and to understand if we’re being irrationally afraid, if we’re sinning in our fear and worry, or if we are just being wise in what we’re doing. But it’s a great little book, and it’s got some really great illustrations. It’s all black and white and very bold. And your kids, even if they don’t understand what you’re reading, if they’re the zero to three year olds, they’re going to love looking at it because of the stark black and white illustrations.

And one of the last new books I want to talk about is called Fear Not!: How to Face Your Fear and Anxiety Head On. It’s from the Capable Kiddos Series. There’s two books in that series, and I have not read the other book, but I’ve read this one. It’s by Christina Furnival and illustrated by Katie Dwyer. And this book is based on psychology and sociology and helping a child to deal with an anxiety attack. And so if you have children who deal with anxiety, social anxiety, with having these moments of an anxiety attack where they really feel like they have no power, they have no control over it, this would be an excellent resource for them. It does not deal with biblical ideas, it doesn’t deal with scripture. It is based on psychology, but it doesn’t go so far as to go into Eastern meditation and those kinds of practices. It is just dealing with common practices for psychology. So I think if we read this book or have our children read it and then also talk about other tools that they can have through prayer, and scripture memory, and those kinds of things. It could be a very powerful tool to help our children. In this book, it goes step by step and talks about if you’re starting to get anxious, to touch something near you. And that’s one of the things that psychologists teach, is to find five things around you right now that you can either see or touch that are in the present, that are right in front of you. And that way it helps to calm the mind and not have it racing towards anxiety, towards the what-ifs, towards whatever is triggering that fear, but to focus on something right now, that’s right here, and helping us to get back into the ability to be logical, the ability to think and react, that’s one of the things that walks through with the children, and it talks about several things all the way through breathing, putting your hand on your chest just to calm down a little bit so that once you can gain that control back, then you can think about scripture, then you can pray. But in that moment of just your mind racing, your heart palpitating and everything being out of control, your breathing is even out of control, which makes you feel worse and less in control, even more to help get those physical manifestations to calm down so that you can deal then with the mental and spiritual aspects of it. This is a really good book for that and will help the child to walk through that. And I think to feel equipped, to face whatever they’re going to face, so you can judge for yourself. You can look at a preview of it right now, it’s on Kindle Unlimited where you can read it for free and see what you think before you buy it. And I think it would be a really good resource, especially for older elementary, middle school kids because it does break it all down step by step and help them walk through it.

I mentioned that I wanted to share a few books that I’ve shared in the past, and I do want to do that because I think they deal specifically with some different fears that children may have, specifically such as fear of the dark or fear of nighttime. There’s the wonderful book that Sandra V. Feder wrote The Moon Inside. We talked about this when I interviewed her. You can go back and listen to her interview if you would like, it’s on my show notes section of my website. But this book is about a little girl who dreads nighttime. She hates the nighttime, she hates the dark, and she learns to appreciate the moon, and the lights, and all the different things she starts to discover about nighttime. I just love this book. I think it’s really nicely done. It helps to just bring a peaceful feeling to facing the nighttime, and it kind of helps us to appreciate that God has given us the night to rest, to take a break from our day to conclude our day and have time together as family, and to just come to that almost a sabbath feeling of rest as we come to each evening. And so I just love that. That’s kind of the feeling I got from this book when I read it. I think it’s really lovely.

And then another one that I’ve mentioned, I guess in a couple different episodes is Quinn’s Promise Rock: No Matter Where, God is Always There by Christie Thomas and illustrated by Sydney Hanson. I love this book, my kids love this book. It’s just such a great book about the confidence that God is always with us, that we don’t have to be afraid of being alone, we don’t have to be afraid of being lost, because God is always with us. He’s always with us. We always have a place to go. He’s always going to lead us and we can trust Him.

And then the last one is Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco. And you know I love her books, I share her books quite a lot throughout the years I’ve shared them, but this one I just think is adorable. If you have a child who is afraid of storms, afraid of thunder, this book is just fantastic. It has a recipe in it for making thunder cake. And so every time the weather would change and a storm would be coming, her grandmother, she would say, “This is thunder cake baking weather.” And so they would start to get all the ingredients together and make the cake. And by the time the storm arrives, they’ve got a cake to enjoy together. It created this wonderful memory for her that her and her grandmother would make this cake. And I just love it, cause it’s like redeeming the situation that wants to make our children afraid, and redeeming it to make it a family memory, and something positive. Isn’t that just like God? He redeems all of our situations, works them out together for good, for those who love Him. This is our opportunity to help do that with our children and anything they might be dreading or fearing. So what do you do with your children? Do you have some cool ideas that you’d like to share with our group of what you do to help your child face their fears? Please feel free to comment in the show notes. They’ll be on my website at terriehellardbrown.com, and that’s where you can reach me with any questions or comments at any time, I answer every comment, so please feel free. Go to my website and then look for the part that says “podcasts and podcast transcripts”, and that’s where you can comment.

Thank you for joining us today for “Books That Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to join my mailing list, you can also do that on my website. Again, that’s terriehellardbrown.com. And I would love for you to join my mailing list. We have lots of free items for you when you sign up. You get notified every time we post a blog post or a podcast, and you get access to a special legacy email about discipleship that helps us with our walk with Christ. Thank you for being here today. We truly do appreciate you.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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