Children cope best with worries when they are reassured, informed, see challenging tasks as achievable and understand that success usually involves sustained effort.
1. Help resolve worries through supportive talking
- Take worries and fears seriously. Short conversations with your child about their worries can often dissipate concerns. Listen to your child’s concerns, name them and validate the feeling. For example, ‘It sounds like you might be nervous about sleeping over at Holly’s. That makes sense, doing new things can sometimes be a bit scary’. Supportive talking helps your child to feel understood, increases their emotional vocabulary, and normalises the experience. If their worries seem out of perspective see Help your child to put worries into perspective on page 4. Only after talking about the feeling, when your child feels calmer, should you move into problem solving mode.
- Have regular chats while doing things together to give your child opportunities to raise any worries. Regular discussions can help to prevent excessive, escalating or ongoing worry.
- Eat meals regularly as a family sharing thoughts and feelings about a range of topics. Turn off TVs, and other devices including phones (adults too). This means no answering texts or phone calls during family meal times.
- Use side-by-side communication when walking or travelling by car. It can be less confronting to talk when you are not directly looking at one another. Vehicles can be good places to do this, as you are both strapped in and no one can walk away!
- Do chores together, such as washing dishes, walking the dog, folding clothes, raking leaves, painting. These are all opportunities for a child to raise issues.
- Build a village around your child. From an early age, connect your child with extended family and other trusted adults. Although peer support is usually readily available, guidance from mature adults can often provide more accurate and realistic advice.
- Be aware of what you say. Anxious communication such as, ‘Be careful crossing the road’ can make you and the child feel panicky. Instead, be assertive, specifying the behaviour you wish to see. For example, ‘Remember, stop and look both ways before crossing the road’. See the CardioSmart website for tips on reducing stress by being assertive.
- Be the parent. Avoid turning to your child for their emotional support or friendship. If your child sees you stressed, reassure them that you are sorting things out.
Copyright © Murray Evely and Zoe Ganim 2016
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This article is an excerpt from the ebooklet For parents: Assist your child with stress and worry.
Download the complete ebooklet for full access to strategies and resources, including:
- Help resolve worries through supportive talking
- Encourage your child to face challenges and fears
- Build your child’s belief in their ability to solve problems (self-efficacy)
- Help your child to put worries into perspective
- Ensure your child is well rested, healthy and feels safe