Helping Kids Handle Worry - Part 2
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 to help 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.
In most situations, resist the urge to jump in and fix a problem for your child — instead, think it through and come up with possible solutions together. Problem-solve with kids, rather than for them. By taking an active role, kids learn how to tackle a problem independently.
Keep things in perspective. Kids sometimes worry about things that have already happened. That’s where parents can offer some big-picture perspective. Maybe your daughter got a really bad haircut that sent her home in tears. Let her know you understand how upset she feels, then remind her that her hair will grow and help her come up with a cool new way to style it in the meantime. If your son is worried about whether he’ll get the lead in the school play, remind him that there’s a play every season — if he doesn’t get the part he wants this time, he’ll have other opportunities. Acknowledge how important this is to him and let him know that — regardless of the outcome — you’re proud that he tried out and gave it his best shot.
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.
Make a difference. Sometimes kids worry about big stuff — like terrorism, war, or global warming — that they hear about at school or on the news. Parents can help by discussing these issues, offering accurate information, and correcting any misconceptions kids might have. Try to reassure kids by talking about what adults are doing to tackle the problem to keep them safe.
Be aware that your own reaction to global events affects kids, too. If you express anger and stress about a world event that’s beyond your control, kids are likely to react that way too. But if you express your concern by taking a proactive approach to make a positive difference, your kids will feel more optimistic and empowered to do the same. So look for things you can do with your kids to help all of you feel like you’re making a positive difference. You may not be able to go stop a war, for example, but your family can contribute to an organization that works for peace or helps kids in war-torn countries. Or your family might perform community service to give your kids the experience of volunteering.
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.
Sometimes kids need parents to show them how to let go of worry rather than dwell on it. Know when it’s time to move on, and help kids shift gears. Lead the way by introducing a topic that’s more upbeat or an activity that will create a lighter mood.
Be a good role model. The most powerful lessons we teach kids are the ones we demonstrate.
Your response to your own worries can go a long way toward teaching your kids how to deal with everyday challenges. If you’re rattled or angry when dealing with a to-do list that’s too long, your child will learn that as the appropriate response to stress.
Instead, look on the bright side and voice optimistic thoughts about your own situations at least as frequently as you talk about what worries you. Set a good example with your reactions to problems and setbacks.
Responding with optimism and confidence teaches kids that problems are temporary and tomorrow’s another day. Bouncing back with a can-do attitude will help your kids do the same.
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