Written by Cait Fitz of My Little Poppies.
My oldest son is a world-class worrier. The worries housed in his brain are far too big for his sweet little body. I wish I could whisk them away and erase them from his mind forevermore.
His worries always spike this time of year. Is it a hold-over from the winter months? A form of Spring Fever? I’m not quite sure, but we always experience a swell of worry in spring.
We brace ourselves for sleepless nights and heart-to-heart talks that don’t seem to do anything… that is, until they do.
My little buddy has conquered many fears in his seven years on the planet and, thankfully, we’ve learned that the worries always pass with a little TLC, creativity, and heaps of patience.
Do you have a little kid with big worries?
While I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, I am happy to share strategies that have worked for this school-psychologist-and-world-class-worrier-mom.
It is important for your little worrier to understand that everyone worries. Anxiety serves an important purpose: protection. It plays a key role in the fight or flight response.
The first time I told my son that worries are a normal part of the human experience, I could see him relax. Identifying and understanding worry is one step in the process of conquering it.
The last thing you want to do with worry is ignore it. Talk about those worries!
Remember that it can be difficult to discuss the worries as they are happening. Sometimes revisiting the topic at a calmer moment works wonders.
I often talk about the previous night’s worries while driving. I think there’s something about the spontaneity and lack of eye contact that makes the whole thing less formal and, well, easier. Talking about the worry will help you both to understand it better.
Triggers and resiliency
Knowing worry triggers can give you time to prepare, or to develop an action-plan:
“Hey, bud, there’s going to be a clown at Joe’s party. How do you think we can make this work?”
Whatever you do, do not fall into the avoidance trap.
It is important for your child to face the worries and work to overcome them, with support from you. Conquering worries builds a feeling of success and fosters resiliency.
So, for example, I have a child who tends to freak-out at new activities. Before each new activity, I will say something like,
“Remember that time you were really afraid to play soccer because you thought everyone was better than you but then you tried it and you absolutely loved it?”
Remembering past successes can be helpful in overcoming current worries.
Photo by Pixabay
Explain to your child that triggers and coping are unique.
When I’m overwhelmed, I find that exercise, books, music, and sleep are my best coping strategies. Share yours with your little worrier and help your child to discover what works.
Great strategies include:
- guided relaxation and imagery
- deep breathing
- progressive muscle relaxation
- and drawing
Keep a notepad beside your child’s bed so that he or she can do what I call a “brain dump” and either write about or draw the worries. This can clear the mind and allow for sleep.
Stress is a part of life so it’s best to learn to manage it early. Coping skills are among the most important of life skills!
This may sound trite but it’s true: eat well and be sure to get enough exercise, fresh air, and sleep.
Meeting these most basic of needs will give your child the energy to calm the worry monster. This is just as important for parents as it is for children.
It can be extremely challenging to parent an anxious kiddo. You’ll have a better chance of staying calm if you are taking care of yourself.
Yes, some of us may worry more than others, but we all worry.
The next time you are worried about something, talk about it with your worrier. Identify the emotion and walk them through how you will cope with it. Or, talk about a time in the past that you felt anxious and how you overcame it.
When you are in the throes of a worry surge, simplify. Make time for relaxation in your day. Snuggle, read, or try a mandatory quiet time. The quiet will recharge everyone.
When our son’s worry spikes, we cut back on activities and focus on the things we love. Doing less brings an instant calm to our days.
If the worry monster has reared its angry noggin in your home, cut back on your homeschool expectations. Worry will not ease up if you have a huge to-do list to conquer.
If your child loves read alouds, do more of them and cut back on other things. Learning will happen if you relax and let it, I promise.
Worry ebbs and flows and changes over time. You might conquer it this time, but it could rear its ugly head again.
Remember these tips and remind your child of them. What worked last time may need to be tweaked this time.
Don’t be afraid to try something new
Some of our best worry-busters were borne of desperation mixed with a little creativity.
One time we overcame a fear of crickets with bedroom “cricket blocking” shades. Another time, we conquered a fear of using the bathroom at night with a portable nightlight.
Most recently, we quelled our son’s fears and sleep difficulties with a worry basket and some car keys!
If your child’s worry is significantly impairing his or her functioning and daily living, and/or if there is a history of anxiety in your family, it’s important to seek help. The sooner, the better.
Call your pediatrician or ask around to find a wonderful mental health counselor. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or play therapy can work wonders.
Do you have a world-class worrier too? Share your tips here!