Does your child worry about every little thing, bringing it up again and again and again? Perhaps you have a Worry Warrior, an expert in thinking of every little thing that could possibly go wrong in any situation. A little worrying can be a good thing. It can stop your child from doing something risky or dangerous. However, if constant worrying gets in the way of family life, seek professional support. Anxiety is treatable and doesn’t have to stop your child from trying new things and enjoying new experiences, places, people or activities.
There are tips and suggestions that can help your Worry Warrior cope with anxiety. Consider these three mini habits that you can use any time to help your child cope with anxiety.
When something stressful is about to happen, try to distract or redirect the child’s attention away from the event. Just before the nurse gives her the flu shot, start to tell a funny story about the cute thing her cat did this morning. If the sound of a passing train makes him anxious, put his favorite song on the car CD and sing along in a silly voice. If she is concerned about the possibility of bees in the flowering bushes outside the front door, point out interesting cloud formations or flocks of birds flying overhead as you quickly walk past the bushes.
Using less anxious vocabulary to describe things or events can make them seem more manageable. Rather than a “horrible loud racket,” call it an “unexpected noise” or “surprising sound.” An insect or spider isn’t “scary,” it’s “scientific” or “interesting.” An approaching dog is “curious” rather than threatening, and a new and unsettling place or situation is “unique” or “different.” After something happens, rather than saying, “That was scary!” say, “You were brave!”
3.) REFUSE TO FERTILIZE
When Worry Weeds (anxious ideas) crop up in the gardens of our mind, they can get in the way of enjoying the flowers and good times. Dwelling on negative thoughts is like fertilizing the weeds: it only makes them grow stronger. We want to let the Worry Weeds die off by refusing to fertilize them with our worrisome thoughts. If we transform those negative thoughts into positive ones, we will be feeding the flowers and starving the weeds. You can help your child do this. For example, if he says, “I don’t think that new kid likes me. He’ll probably say no if I try to play with him,” remind him that this fertilizes the Worry Weed. These thoughts could make him afraid of approaching other children to play. Positive thoughts starve the weeds and feed the flowers. Have your child try this instead: “Maybe that new kid wants to play with me. I should ask and find out. If I don’t try, I’ll never know.” You might even have your child draw a picture of Worry Weeds and label them with their fears. At the top of the paper write in the positive thoughts that could replace the worried thoughts. Then cross out the weeds. Cut out paper flowers with positive ideas on them and glue them on top, covering up the Worry Weeds altogether. If they continue to focus on their worries, go back to #1, Redirect. And, as always, if the anxiety is seriously affecting family life, seek out professional help.
Get creative, and help your Worry Warrior think of new ways to look at things that usually make them anxious. They don’t have to let worrying stop them from living a full and happy life.