I made this video about worry: What can we say about worry? to help children understand and manage this unenjoyable emotion. This table outlines the main messages in the video and also gives you further ideas (at the end of the table) that you can use to discuss and further explore worry and coping strategies for dealing with it with your child.
Further notes, activities and discussion points
| Worry is an unhelpful thought that goes round and round and each time triggers a fear response
|| Help you child think about this when they are worrying. What is/are the thought/s that are triggering fear? Can they say exactly what it is they really don’t want to happen? What are they scared might happen? or do they find themselves worrying about how they behaved or what they said in a situation that has already happened?
Knowing that worry is an emotion that is very much linked to what a person is thinking can help us to manage worrying.
Children could brainstorm things that people might worry about. This would give insight to things that they might worry about themselves.
| The symptoms of worry.
- Feeling tense – which is the opposite of relaxed
- Feeling restless
- Having a sense of panic – and a feeling like you don’t know what to do
- Trouble concentrating
- Breathing rapidly
- Increased heartbeat – such that we can sometimes hear it pounding in our head
- Trembling or shaking and
- Not being able to sleep
Help children to link worrying to its symptoms. Children might be able to describe further symptoms that are unique to them.
| Some people are wired to worry more than others.
|| Ask your child to consider if they are a worrier or not. When a child only knows their own mind, it’s hard for them to consider that other people’s minds work slightly differently but when they fully understand what worry is, can they work out how often worry is triggered for them? What kind of things make them worry?
It can be hard for people wired up to worry a lot but it can help to understand that worriers:
- tend to try harder to make things work well,
- are more likely do things carefully,
- they tend to stay safe,
- tend to think about how others might be feeling,
- can be excellent at understanding other people who worry a lot!
If your child is a worrier – they could try keeping a worry diary and use it to prove to themselves over time that the worrying in most cases was completely unnecessary!
| Worry is triggered by situations we don’t feel in control of or that we feel we can’t cope with.
|| Worrying tends not to be the emotion we feel in response to something that is happening right now. We worry about how something went in the past (usually berating ourselves for what we did or said) or how something will turn out in the future (when we cannot be sure of the outcome). This is why mindfulness, creative flow and meditation – things that bring us into the moment – can help with worry.
| Coping or dealing with worry.
|| 1. Sort out what you can2. Talk it through
3. Deal with rumination
4. Distract yourself
5. Soothe yourself
6. Bring yourself into the moment
7. Change how you think about the situation.
The video explains all of these coping strategies. try using them with your child when they are worried about something. Perhaps your child could make a poster of these strategies – illustrating each one.
| Other activities:
- Make a worry machine.
- Get creative by making up engaging mindful and sensory experiences e.g. make lots of different textures to experience and make a ‘texture board’, mix flavours for each other and try and guess what they are, try exploring how different things behave in water e.g. glitter, flour, rice etc, make a smell museum, sit and list every possible sound you can hear in a variety of places.
- Consider making a calming menu of activities that calm your child when they feel worried. e.g. playing a piece of music, finding a place to curl up with a blanket, breathing out for the count of 5 and in for the count of 4, singing down the numbers from ten, imagining the huge world under your feet and how you are connected to it and how much smaller you are than it, stare at the clouds and find faces on them etc
- Hold a worry surgery each week with your child. Ask them to bring something they are worrying about to the surgery and explore what could help with this worry.
- Create worry mantras and perhaps paint them on pebbles. Things like: ‘I can cope with this,’ ‘I will be fine’ ‘I was OK last time’ etc. You child can pick them up, feel them and say the mantras over and over.
- When your child worries, check if there are unknowns that more information could address.
- Look for evidence of people worrying in TV programmes, films, stories etc. Pinpoint their worries. Think about what advice the characters could be given to help them with their worry.
- Close your eyes together. Visualise the worry. Make the picture black and white if it’s in colour, make it smaller in your head and add a soundtrack of a piece of music that usually puts you in a good mood.
- Focus on rumination next time your child worries. What thought is going round and round. Consider this thought in depth. What’s the worst-case scenario? How likely is this outcome? Would this outcome really be a disaster? What would happen with this outcome – would anything help your child cope with the idea of this outcome or help them think it wasn’t actually that bad?
- List the evidence that your child is very likely to cope in the situation that they are worrying about.
- Explore how to stop rumination. e.g. using the word ‘stop’ when you catch yourself doing it? Understanding fully that rumination is unhelpful. Watching how your head returns to the unhelpful thought and telling your head that it’s being really silly, pull your ears when the thought returns as if you are letting the thought out of your head. Serious or silly – whichever suits your child. etc
- And don’t forget my book, ‘What’s worrying you?‘ which explores coping strategies for worrying by looking at a variety of situations that might trigger worry in children.