Worries excessively

The following is an excerpt from the ebooklet Working with children who worry excessively by Murray Evely and Zoe Ganim.

When to seek further assistance

Worrying becomes a problem when it begins to impact negatively on the child’s life. Children’s worries should be taken seriously. Short discussions can often dispel typical everyday concerns of children and help to prevent the development of excessive, escalating or ongoing worry.

If a satisfactory solution cannot be found with the child, the teacher should discuss these concerns with a senior person in the school such as the principal. The teacher should also talk with the child’s parents with a view to suggesting the child be referred to a psychologist or counsellor. Without effective intervention, ongoing worrying can become an anxiety condition.

Referral to a psychologist or counsellor with the parents’ consent, may be required if the child:

  • is worried daily about many little issues
  • has worries that appear to be escalating
  • has worries that are disproportionate to the circumstances
  • indicates a recurring theme to their worries
  • has headaches or feels sick
  • is frequently absent from school
  • has mood changes
  • is generally well behaved but seems withdrawn or anxious.

Strategies to support the child who worries excessively

Children cope best with worries when they are reassured, informed and proactive.

  • Acknowledge the child’s worries. Listen to the child’s concerns. What are they? Are they something you can assist with? Ask the child if they have discussed the concern with their parents or another trusted adult and, if they haven’t, encourage the child to talk to their parents or a senior staff member such as the welfare coordinator or the deputy or assistant principal.
    • Do not dismiss the child’s worries. Using statements such as ‘Don’t worry about it, it’ll be fine’ or ‘That is not going to happen to you’ are unlikely to reduce the child’s worries and are likely to add to their inner confusion.
  • If the child cannot express their worries verbally, create opportunities for developmental and imaginative play. The child may not have a good understanding about the source or cause of the worry. Young children may not be able to articulate or make sense of their worries. If this is the case, provide opportunities for the child to express themselves through creative play, art, music, dress-ups and dance. Non-verbal activities can help the child explore and share emotions that are troubling them. Using play-dough, finger painting, water play and other tactile activities can help a child express their worries and can soothe and sometimes help to relieve these feelings.
  • Put the child’s worry in perspective. You can do this in the following ways:

ISBN 978-1-921908-21-7

Copyright © Murray Evely and Zoe Ganim 2011

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