“We all have our worries, some big and some small. But too many worries are no good at all!” – The Wolf and the Baby Dragon
Life has its ups and downs, and occasionally fretting is normal for everyone. But sometimes kids can be weighed down by worries, and as parents we can feel helpless to soothe them. Especially during these times of intense media coverage of the pandemic, grown-ups and kids alike could be feeling quite unsettled. It may be instinctual to tell our kids that ‘everything’s gonna be alright’, or simply to insist that they ‘calm down’ because we have no idea what else to say. It can also be tough not to give in to panicking ourselves. Navigating through worries can be challenging, and it’s important to find a way to respect our little ones’ feelings without empowering their fears.
This week we’re continuing our article series with children’s author Avril McDonald, who shared 3 strategies for how to handle worries. We hope these suggestions can help you and your family feel calmer and more assured, especially during times when those around you may be giving into fear.
3 Ways to Manage Worries
- Share Your Worries
- Practice Gratitude
- Draw a Line in the Sand
1. Share Your Worries
As the saying goes: a worry shared is a worry halved. It’s important to teach kids to express what they’re feeling and talk about their worries. Sometimes just getting something off our chest alleviates a lot of the concern, and it’s good practice to let kids know that you’re there for them and can be a good listener. Encourage kids to tell you what’s wrong, and let them know that you can ‘hold their worries’ for them. Kids may feel better just by telling you what’s wrong and trusting that you’re offering a ‘safe space’ for them at any time.
Although talking is a great way to share what’s on our minds, there are also creative non-verbal ways for kids to lighten their emotional load. You could make a Worry Box and put worries inside it, or make your own Worry Monster who can gobble up pieces of paper with worries on them. For little kids who can’t write yet, you can ask them to draw their worries, and explain that once the worry is on paper, it doesn’t have to live inside them anymore.
2. Practice Gratitude
Worry can’t exist if you’re focusing on gratitude. As humans, we’re designed to think the worst, but that’s not very helpful in a world that’s full of a lot of scary news. Try teaching your kids that if they focus on what they’re thankful for, their fear will get smaller. Model gratitude every day, so your kids witness it. Verbalise what you’re thankful for, and appreciate the good things that happened in your day. If kids hear that you’re honing in on the positive aspects of life, they’ll tend to follow suit. For a fun way to remind us to focus on the nice stuff, try making a Rememberlutions Jar (which is like a gratitude journal, but in a jar!)
3. Draw a Line in the Sand
This exercise will help kids to visualise what it feels like to calm down and take a step back from their fears. Actually have your kiddo physically draw a ‘line in the sand’, using their finger and tracing a line on the ground. It’s a signal for them to take a break and take charge of how they feel. It’s a good idea to involve your kids in a conversation about how they can choose to walk away from their worries for a while. Establishing a figurative boundary can help kids to better understand this concept and make them feel empowered.
For a beautiful way to encourage your kids to take stock of all they are grateful for, check out this “Stars in the Night” poem. We love the idea of thinking of our family, friends, and favourite experiences as a warm cup of hot chocolate! You can also watch Avril’s storytelling of “The Wolf and the Baby Dragon”, to open up a conversation about sharing your worries and letting go of fear.
Speaking with Avril reminded us that even when facing times of extreme worry, you can build coping strategies to feel better. We might not be able to have a calm day all the time, but we can model these techniques and encourage our kids to step back and give their worried minds a rest. We hope you can focus on the positives and feel empowered and inspired, even during these unsettled times.