Kids Who Worry

When you help your kids ask the right questions, you give them a tool to overcome worry and grow in empathy.

I’ll never forget the day my 3-year-old son, Hudson, learned what an orphan was. A family friend had just returned from Haiti, where she had visited an orphanage. While there, she’d taken heartbreaking photos.

Wide-eyed Hudson stared at the pictures of the forlorn and sickly kids and asked, “Who those kids? Why they sad?”

I explained that the children in the photos were orphans.

“What’s an orphan?” he asked.

“An orphan is a child who doesn’t have a mommy or daddy to take care of him,” I said.

Hudson said nothing. At 3, it had never occurred to him that somewhere in the world children didn’t have parents looking after them.

“What if you didn’t have a mommy or daddy to take care of you?” I asked. “How would you feel?”

As he grappled with the concept, I watched his face contort in anguish. He was feeling genuine empathy for these orphans.

A few days later, Hudson came bounding down the stairs and told my husband, Eric, and me that he needed to show us something. We walked upstairs with him and discovered that he had created “orphan beds” all around us. Each bed consisted of a blanket, a pillow and one of his favorite stuffed animals. He had placed two orphan beds in Mommy and Daddy’s room, one or two in the hallway, a couple in our daughter’s room and about five in his bedroom.

That experience showed me that it’s never too early to encourage children to show empathy toward others. Helping my kids ask, “What if I were in their shoes?” has proven to be an excellent way to teach them the biblical principle of selflessness described in 1 Corinthians 10:24: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” And when we help them turn outward and show empathy, we give them something far greater than a new toy or trip to Disneyland — we give them the amazing joy of sacrificial love.

The right what-ifs

My 5-year-old daughter sometimes gets ignored when her older siblings play together. When I notice this happening, I gently challenge my older kids: “What if you were the one being left out? How would that make you feel?”

Instead of merely correcting their behavior, I try to use these scenarios to remind them to treat their sister the way they would want to be treated, just as Jesus encouraged us in Matthew 7:12: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”

I also like to tell them stories from my own life when I chose to show empathy. They love hearing about the time I befriended a lonely girl in my third-grade class, after my mom encouraged me to put myself in her shoes. Years afterward, the girl wrote me a letter expressing how much that simple act of empathy had changed her life. After hearing that story, my kids went on the lookout at school and church for children who might feel left out and in need of a friend.

When I frequently remind them of the joy that comes from turning outward, it helps them make the switch from asking, “What if I don’t get what I want?” to “What if I were in the other person’s shoes?”

Recently, my husband shared a true story with our children about two men imprisoned for their faith in a country that persecutes Christians. The men were in a freezing cell, each with only a thin blanket to provide comfort. As one of the men looked at his shivering companion, the question came into his mind, What if that man were Jesus? Would I give Him my blanket? Even though he was shaking with cold, the man chose to wrap his blanket around his friend’s shoulders.

That powerful testimony inspired our family to start asking, “What if that were Jesus?” in our daily interactions with others. When I notice any of my children acting selfishly toward another person (usually a sibling), I remind them of the blanket story and ask, “What if that were Jesus? Would you share your toy with Him? Would you let Him go first?”

When my children selflessly serve others, they are really serving Jesus — as He reminds us in Matthew 25:40: “I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Armed with that understanding, I motivate them to choose sacrificial love over selfishness.

This principle has impacted our children in small and big ways. A few years after Hudson created the “orphan beds,” my husband and I heard about two babies in Haiti who needed a loving home. After praying about it, we felt compelled to adopt them, but we wanted it to be a family decision. We gathered the kids in the living room, explained the situation and invited them to share their thoughts. At first they were excited about having a new brother and sister. Yet when we told them that they would each have to make some sacrifices, they grappled with the fact that they would have to share their toys, food, home, and Mom and Dad with two more children.

Hudson spoke up. “If any of us were born without a mom or dad, we’d want someone to love and take care of us.” I smiled as I realized he’d learned that empathy four years earlier when he wrestled with his own orphan what-if question.

Our children imagined what it would be like not to have a family and how scared and lonely they would feel. They became burdened for the two Haitian children, whom they’d never met, and genuinely desired to help them. Even though it would mean making sacrifices, they decided to show Jesus’ love by welcoming these kids into our family. Today, the two Haitian children are their siblings.

The wrong what-ifs

While the right kind of what-ifs can help our kids turn outward and put others first, the wrong kind of what-ifs can turn them inward and paralyze them with worry or fear. If a child continually wonders, What if something bad happens to me? she will not be able to thrive in the here and now; she will find it difficult to consider others’ needs above her own because she is too preoccupied with her own worries. As parents, how can we help our children replace the wrong what-ifs with the right ones?

Our 7-year-old daughter, Harper, was born without fingers. She also has a sensitive personality and can easily become consumed with what others think about her. Encouraging Harper to develop empathy toward others has been critical in helping her overcome insecurity. When Harper goes into a new situation asking, “What if they laugh at me or make fun of me?” she becomes withdrawn and self-conscious. But when my husband and I encourage her to ask different questions, such as, “What if the people I’m about to meet need to know Jesus’ love?” the outcome is different. For Harper, replacing the wrong what-ifs with the right ones can change a potentially miserable social experience into a positive, healthy one.

Celebrating God’s faithfulness is another excellent way to help our children replace the wrong kind of what-ifs with the right ones. While we shouldn’t give our kids the false idea that nothing negative or challenging will ever happen to them, neither should we diminish their childlike trust in God’s protection, peace and enabling grace. The reality is that God knows the number of hairs on their heads and cares about them more than they can fathom; His faithfulness is beyond our comprehension. Getting our kids excited about these truths can go a long way toward overcoming the temptation to dwell upon fearful what-ifs.

Abbie, a mother of four, told me, “One of the best ways I’ve found to help my little ones rejoice in God’s faithfulness is to tell them how He has been faithful in my own life and how I have seen Him be true to His Word.”

With my kids, I also remind them of their great-grandmother’s secret to conquering the fearful what-ifs: Whenever she was feeling down because of a challenging circumstance, she chose to find someone who was far worse off than she was and serve that person in some practical way. Every time she did this, she discovered the unmatched joy and fulfillment of turning outward.

Last year, Hudson and some of his friends began visiting elderly patients at our local nursing home. As he experienced the joy of showing kindness to someone in need, visiting the nursing home became the highlight of his week.

The best what-ifs

By helping our kids embrace the right kind of what-ifs and resist the wrong ones, we can prevent both worry and selfishness from taking up residence in our children’s hearts and hindering them from the outward-focused life that God has called them to live.

My 6-year-old son, Kipling, recently learned that in some countries Christians are not allowed to hold church meetings, so they meet secretly in underground churches to avoid being arrested or mistreated. Kipling used to dream about growing up and building theme parks, but after hearing about persecuted Christians, his vision changed.

As I was tucking him into bed one night, he pulled out a diagram that he’d drawn of a church building underneath the ground.

“What if we couldn’t go to church?” he asked me. “When I grow up, I’m gonna go to North Korea and build a secret under-the-ground church for the Christians there so that they can go to church and not get caught.” Though Kip still has a few important facts to learn about what an “underground church” really is, I find it encouraging to see him gain an outward focus as he dreams about his future.

The what-ifs don’t have to stop there. As my kids consider the what-ifs of others, they may turn their what-if ideas toward God: What if God is eager and willing to give us everything we need to help us become all that He desires us to be?

Now that’s an exciting what-if.

Leslie Ludy is the author of Set-Apart Motherhood.

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Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

How a Former Abortion Doctor Became Pro-Life

As an abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Patti Giebink believed she was helping women. Later, she began reading scripture and God gradually changed her heart on the abortion issue. Patti tells the story of her long journey from abortion doctor to pro-life and encourages listeners to share the message of life with compassion.

Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

Dr. Patti Giebink is an OB-GYN who serves on the board of the Alpha Center, a well-known pregnancy center located in Sioux Falls, S.D. She also travels intermittently to work in mission hospitals in Pakistan and other countries. After completing her medical training, Dr. Giebink worked for Planned Parenthood from 1995-1997, during which she was the only abortion-provider in the state of South Dakota. She eventually experienced a radical change of heart on the issue of abortion after receiving God’s grace, forgiveness, and love, and she is now a passionate advocate for the pro-life movement.

Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life

Unexpected Choice is told from the perspective of a doctor who actually performed abortions through Planned Parenthood. The book chronicles her journey from being a pro-choice physician to someone speaking on behalf of the pro-life movement.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you!