Children worry about lots of different things. At times, it can be hard to understand why something so trivial can cause so much distress. However, it is important to remember that worries are relative.
Cast your mind back to when you were fifteen years old. What worried you then, will probably seem inconsequential now. However, if you put the actual problem to the side and focus on how you felt, there’s a strong chance that the pain was actually no less than how you feel now when you face bigger, more grown-up issues and dilemmas. This is because as we grow older, our problems also grow and become more relative to our life experience and age. However, the feelings that these issues evoke are equally painful at every stage in our life.
It is important to remember this when we are dealing with children and their big emotions. They are looking at the world through a lens relative to their age therefore their problems will always seem tiny to us. Their feelings, however, are very real and we need to acknowledge them and give them the tools to be able to manage them.
Here are 6 ways that can help ease children’s worries:
1. Truly listen
Everybody wants to feel heard, including children. Getting down on a child’s level and truly listening to their concerns will give them a safe outlet to express their feelings. Sometimes all we need is an arm around us and to feel like we are not alone. Showing compassion and understanding for their situation (no matter how trivial it may seem to you), will make a child feel acknowledged and will therefore automatically make them calmer.
2. Validate who they are
Sometimes we all need reminding of our strength. Build children up by telling them how strong you think they are and how you know that they have what it takes to overcome the problem they are facing. Explain that it’s okay to feel worried but remind them of their unique qualities. Also, if you can think of a time when they faced and overcame a similar problem, this will validate the message that they are more than capable of doing the same again.
3. Face it together
A problem shared is a problem halved. It is important to face our fears, but this can be very overwhelming. By finding solutions together, children will feel supported and less overwhelmed. Ask them what you could both do to make things easier or better. Encourage them to find solutions and then support them to step into action. Facing fears builds resilience, however, we are more likely to step into the unknown if we have a safety net. Let that safety net be you.
4. Bring it back to the present
Anxiety is often linked to when we play out future events in our mind. Most of the things we worry about never happen, but our imagination runs away with us, which can stir up negative feelings. If children are worrying about a future event or situation, teach them to bring their mind back into the present. What can they do now to make themselves feel better? What can they control?
5. Do a daily routine
Our mind is programmed by repetition. What we see, hear and feel on a consistent basis creates the blueprint for how we view the world and ourselves. A daily mindset routine is a powerful way to instil positive beliefs and to build confidence:
Practicing gratitude daily has been proven to reduce anxiety and improve health. By saying 3 things that they are grateful for and why, children will start to appreciate the small things in life and see that even when times are tough, there are still blessings surrounding them.
We are very good at pointing out our faults, but rarely take time to acknowledge our greatness. Saying 3 things that they love about themselves encourages children to explore their brilliance and builds their confidence.
Taking time to reflect on our day is powerful and develops self-awareness. By saying what went well, what could have been better and what we have learnt from this, children are developing their ability to self-reflect and see the lessons in failure.
Affirmations are powerful statements that you say to affirm positive beliefs. What we tell ourselves on a regular basis becomes our truth. By creating affirmations and repeating them daily, we can trick our mind into believing it is true. If a child is worried, you could create an affirmation that dispels the problem. For example, “I am strong and confident, and I am capable of anything I put my mind to”.
6. Read books
It’s much easier to face a problem if you have a friend who has been through the same experience and overcome it. It gives you a light at the end of the tunnel because they have shown you it is possible to get through it. Characters in storybooks can be that friend to children because the right storyline can reassure and guide them through different situations. Through my business, Early Years Story Box, I have written and illustrated a collection of rhyming storybooks to support children through different emotional problems and obstacles and to reassure them through uncertain times like starting and leaving childcare and school. There are also lots of other authors out there who have created books covering a range of topics and all of them can be used as a powerful tool to support emotional well-being.
About the author:
Stacey Kelly is a former French and Spanish teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box. After becoming a mum, Stacey left her teaching career and started writing and illustrating storybooks to help support her children through different transitional stages like leaving nursery and starting school. Seeing the positive impact of her books on her children’s emotional wellbeing led to Early Years Story Box being born. Stacey has now created 35 storybooks, all inspired by her own children, to help teach different life lessons and to prepare children for their next steps. She has an exclusive collection for childcare settings that are gifted on special occasions like first/last days, birthdays, Christmas and/or Easter and has recently launched a new collection for parents too. Her mission is to support as many children as she can through storytime and to give childcare settings an affordable and special gifting solution that truly makes a difference.
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