Here’s helpful summary of common anxiety types among children (not prepared by me but by twinkl – a helpful site if you work in education). Keep an eye out and stay in touch with parents as while the symptoms may not be manifesting themselves in Sunday School anxiety could be affecting other parts of their life.
1. Fight fear with fear
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and the end of fearing other things. Remind a frightened child that God is in control, he loves them very much and he is bigger than their fears. Fear of God is a healthy respect; we know he is the most powerful being in the universe but we don’t have to run from him, we can run to him and ask him to help us with all our problems.
A helpful way to focus on this is a Calm Down Box. Put calming things inside: a smooth love heart, a homemade stress ball, bubbles (to help slow down breathing) and some favourite verses that remind them of both God’s power and love.
2. Jesus knows
He experienced worry, frustration and was ‘tempted in every way, just as we are’. Reassure your child that Jesus knows how they feel and understands it. The Bible tells us that the world is broken and so are we; anxiety is what happens when we notice that life is not what it is meant to be – it’s totally normal, they are not alone in feeling like this.
3. 5-4-3-2-1 Calm down
If a child is suffering from nerves at joining your group for the first time or is having a panic attack. Ask them to:
Name 5 things they can see
Name 4 things they can touch with their fingers
Name 3 things they can hear
Name 2 things they can smell
Take 1 deep breath
(If they’re too nervous to talk get them to point at first)
4. Make a feelings jar
A bit like a snowglobe: fill a clear plastic jar or bottle with water and glitter and fix the lid on firmly! When the child is anxious they can shake it; explain that our feelings can sometimes be like that – all over the place. But like the glitter in the jar our feelings will calm down and settle. You could give them the time it takes for the glitter to settle to say a quick prayer.
5. Don’t Worry
Jesus tells us not to worry, not because there is nothing to worry about; after all ‘each day has enough trouble of its own’ but because he will deal with it. He feeds the birds and clothes the flowers and we are much more loved by him than them, and one day he will remake the world and ‘wipe every tear from our eye’. Take your worries to him because his ‘yoke is easy’.
One practical way to show this is to have a Worry Tin where they can write or draw their problem and put it away. You can ask Jesus to deal with all the problems in the tin together, or each one individually. Then the worries can be emptied into the bin because we can trust Jesus to deal with them.