Episode 70: Books to Read When Your Children Are Afraid

In this episode we look at some comforting books that help children feel secure and to help them deal with fear. We also talk briefly about Halloween. 

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. Today. I want to talk to you about dealing with fear and what to do with Halloween. I know that many people aren’t quite sure how to handle that and what they should do and what is the right answer for Halloween and whether or not to observe it. So I’ll just share with you what we’ve done in our family. And then also I will have a link in the show notes to a great video where Pastor Mike Winger shares different views of Halloween and helps you to kind of work through that. So, first of all, let me just share what we decided in our family. Mostly we opted to not celebrate or observe Halloween. We explained to our children that it was mostly celebrating fear. We didn’t feel comfortable with teaching them every other day of the year not to take candy from strangers, and then that one day a year to dress up and go door to door, asking for candy from strangers. And so I was concerned about the safety of that. There were times that there would be events like a harvest festival at a church that we were attending, or when we were missionaries, some of the missionaries would have candy and the MKs could go trick or treating at their apartments. And so sometimes we did that, and we have handed out candy over the years, but we just really didn’t have peace about participating. I personally feel uncomfortable with even the harvest festivals and the trunk-or-treats, but I totally get and understand why people want to do that. I mean, it is an opportunity for community outreach. And so I do understand that. And I know many of you are struggling with feeling like you’re depriving your children from a fun event instead of something that is dark and sinister. I think this is one of those situations where we really have to use discernment and pray for wisdom and do what is right with our own consciences and with our own families. I do feel very strongly, however, that promoting fear and the horror of horror movies and things like that, the parts of Halloween that we see every year on the television, trying to promote total fear and terror in our children, of course, I don’t think is a good choice. I do not allow my children to watch horror movies. I don’t watch them. And I know some children are not as affected by them as others and some are more sensitive, but I think we do have to take that into consideration when parenting our kids. Do we have really sensitive children? Are they going to be affected by what they see? Are they going to have nightmares or even just not be able to stop thinking about what they’ve seen? And so we have to be conscious of that. And I just think a lot of those movies and the different parts of Halloween that glorify evil and witchcraft and all the things that the Bible clearly says are evil and contrary to the gospel–taking part in those is sinful. And I also want to say one last thing about this, and then I want to move on. We shouldn’t be judging each other about this. If you have someone you’re discipling, certainly, give them your advice; share with them your heart and the wisdom you feel that God has given you. But this is a controversial issue. This is something that each family really needs to decide for themselves. As far as how much they want to participate. I pray that you’ll just have wisdom. God says, if we need wisdom, ask for it and he will give it to us. And he says to test the spirits and to discern what is going on. And also that we should not take part in something that appears evil. We are to be holy people, set apart. And so we do need to discern if our involvement and activity crosses that line.

With this time of year, fear is promoted and encouraged. And some people say it’s healthy to explore your fears and to make light of them and make fun of them. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know if that is a healthy thing, but with my children, I definitely want to help them know how to deal with fear, how to handle anxiety and how to find God’s peace. And so that’s what I want to talk about today. I have found some wonderful books. Some are Christian books and some are not, but they are so well-written and are just wonderful books. So let’s start with that.

One of my new favorites is Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. And if you haven’t read the Llama Llama books, they are so much fun to read because the lyricism of the words. But Llama Llama Red Pajama is about being afraid at night and feeling like his mom has left him. And the artwork in these are also wonderful. She does such a great job with the illustrations. It’s a wonderful book about your family always being there for you, and you’re not being left alone as a little child. So it’s an encouraging book for children dealing with that kind of fear.

Another typical fear for children is the fear of thunder and storms. And I think I may have mentioned this book before. I’m a big fan of Patricia Polacco books, and this is one of hers. And it’s called Thunder Cake. And her grandmother was a brilliant woman and she, whenever they would hear the thunder booms, she would start the process of them making thunder cake. And they would count when the lightning struck until they heard the boom. And you know how you can do that; for every five it’s a mile away. And so they would count and then boom, the thunder would hit and they were putting the ingredients together for thunder cake. And they finished decorating the cake, frosting it and decorating it with strawberries, just as the rain hits and the storm arrives. It was perfect timing for them to sit down together at the table with a pretty tablecloth to eat their thunder cake and drink some hot tea while it rained outside. And I think what a wonderful memory that is for a child to, instead of dreading a thunderstorm, to look at it as a wonderful memory with their grandmother. So I love this book. I think it’s such a wonderful book, and it has the recipe in it for thunder cake so that you can also make it, if you would like to do that. It looks wonderful, but I just love the relationship between the little girl and her grandmother and the way that they prepare the cake together and focus on that rather than focusing on the fear. They count down for the storm and talk about that and talk about being brave. And they talk about not being afraid of a sound. And so that’s just wonderful. And I love it.

And then another one, I know I’ve shared this one before, but it is such a beautiful book. And this one is a Christian book. It’s written by Christie Thomas and illustrated by Sidney Hanson. And it’s called Quinn’s Promise Rock. This one teaches that no matter where we are, God is always with us. This father is flying with his little daughter Quinn, and they’re owls, and they’re flying at night. And she starts wondering what if I can’t find my way home? What if I get lost? What if I lose track of you and I’m all alone? All these fears that would be a normal part of a child’s life that they would be afraid of getting lost, of being–if they’re out with their family–getting separated from a parent and not knowing how to get home, or just feeling alone because the parents can’t be there. And even though we promise our children we’ll always be there for them and they don’t need to be afraid, we really cannot make that promise 100% because we are people who can get sick and die, can be taken away for whatever reason, especially since COVID has hit. If one of us wound up in the hospital, we are separated from our children. And so we cannot promise that we will always be there no matter what, but we can promise that God will never ever leave them and will always be with them. And that is one thing we can teach our children that even if they are by themselves, God is still with them always. And we can, of course, teach them what to do. And in the story, the father does talk to the owl about how to find her way home if they were to get separated. I think it’s just a wonderful book.

This one really cute book is called Catching Thoughts. And it’s written by Bonnie Clark and illustrated by Summer Macon. And this book, it reminds me of the verse that says to take every thought captive. And that’s what I like about it is this little girl is plagued by an unwanted thought that just causes her to be afraid and worried. And it’s illustrated in the book as a gray balloon. And then she finds there are other thoughts that are bright-colored thoughts that are nice thoughts. And so then that reminds me of Philippians 4:8. Well, let me just read it to you from the New Living Translation: “And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right, and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice. All that you learned and received from me, everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” So that’s verses 8 and 9 of Philippians 4. And if you go a little above there, two really important verses 6 and 7, “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.” These four verses 6 through 9 in Philippians 4 are really good for handling fear and worry and keeping our minds on what we should be thinking about. And this book, even though it’s not technically a Christian book, it really does remind me of these verses: taking every thought captive, and then thinking on the things that are good. And that’s a wonderful little book for emphasizing those scriptures. And also this little girl is adorable.

Another really, really fun book. It is so fun and it opens up conversations about what are you afraid of and what is keeping you from doing something because of fear. And this is called Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt, and she’s the author and illustrator. In the illustrations, I just love them. They’re like a child has drawn them in a way like you’ve drawn diagrams and maps and all kinds of things, but this is such a wonderful little story. It deals with the “what ifs” in this story. He’s afraid of tarantulas and bees and everything else. He worries about germs and poison Ivy and sharks. It’s wonderful. And there’s a whole series of Scaredy Squirrel books, but this is the first one in the series.

There’s one called God Talks with Me about Overcoming Fears by Agnes and Salem de Bezenac. And this, of course, is a Christian book. And this deals with a little girl who’s afraid. She’s had her quiet time, prayer time with her family, with her mom and her dad before bedtime. But then she’s scared. She sees shadows. She hears noises. So it’s a typical scenario that a child might find fearful at bedtime when there’s noises they don’t understand or whatever is going on. And so they talk very plainly about fear from a Christian perspective. And so I love this little book. It’s very sweet and it handles it really well.

And one book that I’m currently reading I would recommend for the parents if you deal with fear. I have grown up with so many fears. As I got older, God helped me to deal with many of those. I’ve shared other times in my blog posts that the verse “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and power and a sound mind” that verse has really set me free in my life. Overcoming fear is not an easy thing. And understanding that fear is a liar is really key. Understanding that fear does not come from God; it comes from the enemy–that’s important. This book is called Fear Is a Liar by Daniel B. Lancaster, PhD. This book Fear Is a Liar: How to Stop Anxious Thoughts and Experience God’s Love, and it tells you how to be delivered from your fear. So it’s a great little book. It’s not huge. It’s not very long. And at the end of each chapter, there are questions to think about. And I mean, through this entire text, their scripture after scripture after scripture that the author has put in there to give us something to think about. We need to have victory. We need to have the answer through God’s word of how we can overcome fear in our lives, how we can overcome anxiety in our lives. Because fear and anxiety, I believe are contagious. When we have an anxious heart, our children will develop an anxious heart. When we are afraid of something, quite often our children will just accept that fear as fact, and they will grow up afraid as well.

So I want to end today’s podcast by reading a devotional. This is from Charles F Stanley’s book Every Day with Jesus: 365 Devotions for Kids. And this one is from the February 3rd devotional. And it says, “When you’re afraid” Psalm 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I will trust you. I praise God for his word. I trust God. So I am not afraid. What can human beings do to me?” And then Charles Stanley writes, “Take a look at that first word in the scripture above. It says when, when I am afraid. It doesn’t say, if I am afraid. King David wrote those words long ago, but they are just as true today. There will be times when you’re afraid. That’s because you live in a fallen world full of sin, but you don’t have to face frightening times alone. God will help you. And he will use those times to teach you to trust him even when you’re afraid. Is there something worrying you today or making you afraid? Is there something in your life you just don’t think you can handle? Then do what David did–trust God. He’ll comfort and protect you. He’ll take care of your every need in his own perfect way. And he’ll never leave you or forget about you.” You can look at Deuteronomy 31:6, 8. “Trust God. He will help you.” And then the prayer “Lord, when I am afraid, I will trust you to take care of me. Amen.”

If you have any questions, please post in the comments and I will answer every post, every question, every comment. Thank you for joining us 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 find me at terriehellardbrown.com. I send out a monthly newsletter, and then you’ll also get notifications when I post a podcast or a blog.

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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 are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

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 “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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