Discussing Scary Things with Young Children

As a student at Concordia University, Nebraska, I enjoyed attending chapel services on campus. Nearly ten years later, I still remember some significant messages I heard there. In particular, I remember when a professor shared that he had been in a car accident. Thankfully, no one involved had been hurt. As he would tell people about the close call, many responded by saying, “God is good,” which is, of course, true. This professor wanted to make it clear, however, that even if he had gotten hurt in the accident, that statement would still be true. God is always good, not just when we are blessed to avoid hurt or injury.

Scary Things Do Happen

I’d like to think that my own children will always be safe and protected from harm, but deep down I know that the day will come when they encounter hurt. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t good or that God doesn’t care about them. So it’s important to me to teach my children that God is good no matter what may happen, not just when they are happy and safe.

Because the truth is, scary things do happen. Even to small children or to people they know. It’s not fun to think about, but we don’t always have a choice as to what children get exposed to. Children themselves fall and get scrapes or even break bones. Aunts or uncles get cancer. Babysitters get into car accidents. Hurricanes destroy homes. Children hear stories from friends or catch glimpses of things on the news.

God’s Word for Scary Things

So when it comes up, how do we talk about the scary stuff? We like to make things complicated, but I’m going to keep this answer simple. Look to God’s Word. And don’t give in to the temptation to say things that sound true but might not be that helpful in the long run.

Have you ever noticed that in Scripture when we see the words “fear not,” they are not followed by “because nothing scary will ever happen”? Here are a few verses that Christians may look to for comfort. Notice what follows these admonitions to not be afraid. It’s always a promise that points us to God. 

  • Fear not, for I am with you. Isaiah 41:10
  • Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6–7

We need to hear God say “fear not” because we do encounter things that are truly scary. For a child, it could be something silly like creepy Halloween decorations, something new like starting swimming lessons, or something scary in everyone’s eyes like one of the scenarios mentioned above. 

Encourage Your Child

In the midst of any of these things, God promises to be with us and be our strength. When someone close gets hurt, tell your child God is with that person and loves him. When a child sees something scary, comfort her with the truth that God is with her and loves her. Encourage your child to talk to God and tell Him his fears. Sing songs that bring comfort in times of fear. And remind your child that God is always in control, even when we don’t understand what is happening.

I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite hymn stanzas, a paraphrasing of Isaiah 41:10. (I personally like to sing it with a little bounce. It’s quite fun!)

"Fear not! I am with you, O be not dismayed,

For I am your God and will still give you aid;

I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,

Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand."

LSB 728, stanza 2  

May God fill you with His peace and wisdom as you navigate important conversations of comfort and hope with the children in your life.

Scripture: ESV®.

Need another tool to talk to young children about their fear?

Use I Will Not Be Afraid

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Written by

Lindsey Hayes

Lindsey is a director of Christian education currently serving as a preschool teacher in Indiana. She loves helping people pass on faith in Jesus to the next generation, and she is thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit, who actually makes it happen.

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