How do we teach children about evil without scaring them?

A few years ago, I agreed to speak for two consecutive weekends at a church on the topic of spiritual warfare. At the time, a friend of mine was going through a difficult situation, and I was seeing firsthand how the enemy circles around the wounded.

Her children were under attack, and she was fighting for them, teaching them to hang onto the truth and reject lies that were easier to believe. Prior to sharing, the leadership called to tell me that one of the weeks was “Family Sunday,” and children would be included in the service.

“You can still cover the same topic, just keep it PG,” they requested.

I decided to share openly with these young families in an attempt to decaricaturize Satan.

Carrying a flashlight into the sanctuary, I turned off all the lights, as we talked about how the Enemy loves the dark and the ways he stokes our feelings of fear or anxiety at night.

I told them despite what Disney has shown them, evil doesn’t always drip in blood and cackle with a sound you recognize as scary at first. He doesn’t just live in caves and closets. He wants us to feel alone in our own homes, insecure at school, and far away from God.

We talked about conflict and how our spiritual enemy is a third-party who is present in every struggle, trying to separate us from those we love and who love us. This devil actively tries to destroy us and all that’s true. We need to learn to look for him and call him out when he uses us to further his agenda.

I told them I love the teaching in Ephesians about putting on our spiritual armor but was tired of not explaining why we need it in the first place.

African american mother and daughter hugging
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Spiritual Warfare Is Real

I wasn’t sure how my message would be received. The biggest shock coming out of those weeks was the response of the congregation. Mothers and fathers came up to me and sent messages asking how they could protect their families and themselves.

The question I was asked over and over was, how do we teach children about evil without scaring them? These are the strategies I use:

  • Teach them he has no authority over God’s kids.
  • Teach children how to use the weapons of prayer, Scripture, and worship.
  • Remind children they aren’t alone in the fight.
  • Teach children what’s in the dark has no power over those who live in the light.

Jesus has always called children to Himself.

People were hungry for straight talk about spiritual warfare and its implications for our marriages, families, children, and friendships—and I was eager to give it to them.

I eventually wrote a book for adults called Throw the First Punch, outlining strategies to defeat evil and live in spiritual victory and strength. Still, the questions came, how do I share this with my child? What kind of spiritual power do children have?  

There is no junior Holy Spirit—children have all the same power those of us with more years and bigger bodies have. They might not have the experience in how to use their authority in Christ, but that’s where we can guide them.

Jesus Calls Children to Himself

Jesus has always called children to Himself and longs to strengthen and comfort them amid their battles. We can lead our children to grow strong hearts in Him, teaching them to call out for Him who is always present. 

I wrote The Heart Who Wanted to be Whole for the son of that good friend who struggles with overwhelming and hard feelings about his story. I wanted him to understand no matter how attacked his heart might feel, or how loud the voices are, God is more. He’s more big, more strong, more present, more powerful.

I taught him to say this prayer when he felt darkness:  Jesus, I am ___________________ (scared, confused, lonely). Help my heart to feel Your peace. Come for me. Amen. 

It’s my prayer you can have your eyes open to the children around you who need discipled with the same truth.

I want kids to understand no matter how attacked their hearts might feel, or how loud the voices are, God is more. He’s more big, more strong, more present, more powerful.

Ideas for Sharing Spiritual Warfare with Kids

If you have 15 minutes this week, try this activity with the children in your life.

  • Bring a piece of tile and tell the children it’s a piece of flooring. When they are holding it in their hands, they “have the floor.” No one will interrupt whoever has the floor. Pass it around and ask them to share a time when they were scared. Tell the rest of the room it’s their turn to listen, and even if what is being shared doesn’t sound scary to them, they can listen with empathy—or at least do their best to understand why the person who is sharing felt that way.
  • What do they think God was doing or saying while the scary moment was happening? Was He far away? Was He watching? What might He have been saying to them?
  • Take a sheet of paper with the following promises typed up and cut them into strips. Ask the children to pull one of the strips of paper and read it aloud (or have it read to them.)  Then ask them to draw a picture of someone else’s scary story and draw God in that moment, saying that truth.  Afterward, share.

Reminders for Spiritual Warfare

I see you. You are precious. (Isaiah 43:4)

I hear you. I know your voice. (Psalm 64:1)

I love you. Just as you are. (John 15:9; Romans 15:7)

You are mine. Nothing can separate us. (Romans 8:38–39)

I will restore you and heal your hurts. (Jeremiah 30:17)

When you ask, “Where does my help come from?” you can know this: “Your help comes from God, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2)

Jesus said, “I am who I am.” He is everything from A to Z. He’s the One who is now, who was, and who is coming. (John 8:58; Revelation 1:8)

I will always be with you, even to the end of all time. (Matthew 28:20)

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