How to Help Children Manage Worry
Video below of Mrs. Yoskowitz reading a story!
What to Say vs. What Not to Say to a Child Who is Worried
Avoid things like:
How big is your worry?
Where do you feel it in your body?
This isn’t a big deal. It’s all in your head.
How can we tell your worry
to leave you alone?
Just stop worrying.
I’m here to listen.
Tell me about your worry.
You’re making things worse.
Your feelings are valid.
There’s no reason to be worried.
What do you think might happen?
What is most likely to happen?
Everything will be fine
Tips for Parents:
1) Acknowledge the Worries
It’s completely okay to acknowledge our kids’ worries rather than ignoring them. Acknowledging worries won’t solidify them but it will help your child understand that worry is a protective feeling that alerts us to potential danger. We can help ourselves remember it’s just potential danger though, and use strategies to keep our worries in check. If you’re looking for ways to explain worry to your child, try these methods.
2) Avoid Excessive Reassurance
It’s natural to want to reassure our kids! We want them to feel safe and calm. Reassure when needed but avoid offering it too frequently as this can prevent kids from developing their own positive self talk. Practice things they can say to themselves when they’re feeling worried like, “I can control my breathing,” or “My family is taking care of me.”
3) Be Mindful of Your Own Worries
Again, it’s completely reasonable for everyone to have some level of worry. But kids do pick up on our feelings and notice our anxieties, and they will take cues from us. If you’re feeling anxious, practice your own mindful or calming activities, call a friend or loved one, practice self care, or reach out for help.
4) Schedule Worry Time:
When it’s hard to let go of worries, set a 3- or 5-minute timer. During those 3 or 5 minutes, tell kids they’re allowed to think and talk about the worry all they want! But when the timer goes off, it’s time to get up, change positions, move to a different room or environment, distract themselves, and think of something else.
5) Utilize Inner Creativity
If you have a child who likes to draw or write, try a creative exercise. Have your child personify their worry by imagining what the worry might look like if it were a real person, creature or thing. Maybe it looks like a big dragon. Maybe it looks like a monster. Or maybe it looks like an annoying mosquito. Then, they can draw a picture or comic or write a story about themselves as a superhero who defeats the worry!
Creative activties to do with your worried child:
- Emotional Thermometer - Use this link to gauge where your child's worry is. No matter how big or small, it is worth talking about!
- Body Worry Map
- Materials: Paper and markers, crayons or colored pencils
- Have your child to draw an outline of their body on the piece of paper.
- Ask them, when you are worried, what facial expressions does your body make?
- Next, ask your child: where else do you feel the worry in your body? (Example: Is it in your hands? What do your hands do?)
- Have your child color in the different parts of their body where they feel worried. Next to those parts, have your child write what they experience in their body (Examples: Shaking, upset stomach, trouble breathing, etc.)
- Worry Stones - One of my favorites to do with students! Each Worry Stone comes out unique. Making a worry stone is another tactic that can be used to help children externalize worry. After creating a worry stone, the idea is that if they rub the worry stone, the stone takes their worry instead of them having to carry the burden.
It's importnat to have a special place for your child to keep their worry stone so they always know where to find it!
- Materials - clay or play doh
- How to Make Worry Stones
- Create your very own Worry Monster!
- Materials: Brown paper bag or white envelope, slips of paper, crayons, and other craft supplies you have available,
- Using the brown paper bag or white envelope, let your child decorate their monster however they want!
- On the cut up slips of paper, have your child write down his/her worries. Fold each slip and add it to the bag! The monster has officially taken your child's worry and eaten it up!
- More ideas on how to create a worry monster - Externalizing Anxiety with a Worry Monster
- Worry Journal - If your child loves to write then this is a perfect activity for them to do! Using a blank notebook or create your own booklet, tell your child that this will be their "Worry Journal". This is their chance to write down whatever worries they have throughout the course of the day. At night, set aside about 5 minutes where your child gets to read their worries to you, for you to listen. Ask them how it felt to do this activity, and continue daily if it is helpful.
- Books - there are a great books that touch on the subject of being worried.
- "Worry Says What" by Allison Edward
- "Wilma Jean the Worry Machine" by Julia Cook
- "Wemberly Worried" by Kevin Henkes
- Video of Mrs. Yoskowitz reading this story - I hope you enjoy!
- Mrs. Yoskowitz Read Aloud - Wemberly Worried