As adults, we tend to look with envy at the carefree lives of our children. They don’t have to worry about going to work, paying bills or running a household. However, even if their problems seem minor compared to those of a grown-up, children’s worries are just as real.
Children and preteens may worry about fitting in, about schoolwork, or about being put in an embarrassing situation. They may worry about being bullied and feel the stress of peer pressure.
Sometimes children take on worries that are not their own. They may worry about their parents’ divorce or the health of a family member. Seeing footage of natural disasters or war could cause them to worry that something bad will happen closer to home.
The best way to help your child handle worry is to keep communication open and strong between you. Take time to talk with your child every day to hear about the things that matter to her. Listen more than you talk, and let her share when she is ready.
Often just giving your child an opportunity to talk about what is bothering her is enough to help her work through those feelings.
Listen without judgment. You may think that your child is getting worked up over nothing, but to him it is a very real concern. Help guide him to a possible solution, without trying to fix the problem for him. This helps him develop the skills to problem-solve on his own.
Help her learn to put things in perspective. Ask her to look at the problem and decide if solving it is within her control.
For example, if she is worried that she will make a mistake during her dance recital, reassure her that she has practised and you know she will do her best. Talk about the possible outcomes if she did make a mistake. Would anyone even notice? She might be disappointed and embarrassed, but will it still be a concern two weeks from now?
Focus on the good things in his life. You want your child to be able to talk openly about the things that are bothering him, but try to spend just as much time talking about the positive aspects of his day. Helping him find that balance builds his confidence.
Be aware of your own attitude as well. When you are dealing with a problem, mistake or setback, think about what your child sees in your reaction. You could respond with anger and despair, or with confidence that no problem is too big to handle. Either way, if she sees the same response often enough, she will adopt that way of thinking.
Remind him frequently that you will always love and support him, no matter what happens. When faced with worries, he will always know that home is a safe and comfortable place where he can work through his troubles.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
» 255 Ninth St., Brandon