Worries in Childhood are a normal part of growing up. Kids don’t have to pay electricity bills, cook food for the family, or manage their travel. But — just like adults they have their share of daily demands and things that don’t go smoothly. If frustrations and disappointments pile up, kids can get stressed or worried.
It’s natural for all kids to worry at times, and because of personality and temperament differences, some may worry more than others. Luckily, parents can help kids learn to manage stress and tackle everyday problems with ease. Kids who can do that develop a sense of confidence and optimism that will help them master life’s challenges, big and small.
What Do Kids Worry About?
What kids worry about is often related to the age and stage they’re in.
Kids and preteens typically worry about things like grades, tests, their changing bodies, that goal they missed at the football game, or whether they’ll make into the team. They may feel stressed over social troubles like cliques, peer pressure, or whether they’ll be bullied, teased, or left out.
Because they’re beginning to feel more a part of the larger world around them, preteens also may worry about world events or issues they hear about on the news or at school. Things like terrorism, war, pollution, global warming, endangered animals, and natural disasters can become a source of worry.
Helping Kids Conquer Worry
To help your kids manage what’s worrying them:
Find out what’s on their minds: Be available and take an interest in what’s happening at school, on the playground, and with your kids’ friends. Take casual opportunities to ask how it’s going. As you listen to stories of the day’s events, be sure to ask about what your kids think and feel about what happened.
Make a Worry List. Make a list of everything your child (and you) worries about. The Worry Monster doesn’t like us to talk about him or how he works, so the more things you put on the list, the better. Once you have done this, put the worries and fears in order starting with the most powerful (severe) at the top and least powerful (mild) at the bottom of the list.
Guide kids to solutions. You can help reduce worries by helping kids learn to deal constructively with challenging situations. When your child tells you about a problem, offer help to come up with a solution together. If your son is worried about an upcoming math test, for example, offering to help him study will lessen his concern about it.
Keep things in perspective. Without minimizing a child’s feelings, point out that many problems are temporary and solvable, and that there will be better days and other opportunities to try again. Teaching kids to keep problems in perspective can lessen their worry and help build strength, resilience, and the optimism to try again. Remind your kids that whatever happens, things will be OK.
Offer reassurance and comfort. Sometimes when kids are worried, what they need most is a parent’s reassurance and comfort. It might come in the form of a hug, some heartfelt words, or time spent together. It helps kids to know that, whatever happens, parents will be there with love and support.
Highlight the positive. Ask your kids what they enjoyed about their day, and listen attentively when they tell you about what goes great for them or what they had fun doing. Give plenty of airtime to the good things that happen. Let them tell you what they think and feel about their successes, achievements, and positive experiences — and what they did to help things turn out so well.
Be a good role model. Your response to your own worries, stress, and frustrations can go a long way toward teaching your kids how to deal with everyday challenges. Set a good example with your reactions to problems and setbacks. Responding with optimism and confidence teaches kids that problems are temporary and tomorrow is another day. Bouncing back with a can-do attitude will help your kids do the same.