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Worry Monster

Helping Kids You Love Navigate Anxiety

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By:
Julie Smyth

“What is the Worry Monster telling you?”

 

I remember asking my kids that question when they were little…and it usually happened to be bedtime. Bedtime always seemed to be the time that Worry Monster came whispering or even shouting at them.

 

All kids experience some fear and anxiety in childhood; the first day of school, joining a new team or going to the dentist, among a list of many other experiences, can be anxiety inducing. Sadly, some kids experience and struggle with anxiety more than others. All of us can agree the impact of living with COVID for almost two years now has created a significant increase in anxiety for almost all of us in one way or another. One of my favorite authors on the topic of worry is Sissy Goff and she defines anxiety as “an overestimation of the problem and an underestimation of one’s self”.

Helping the kids we love find words for their big feelings and their worry is the beginning of helping them to put that Worry Monster in its place and find healthy coping strategies.

Anxiety and worry look different for everyone but there are some common signs to watch for in kids including

  • Fearful questions or body language
  • Physical complaints without a medical issue
  • Controlling or angry behaviour

 

Helping the kids we love find words for their big feelings and their worry is the beginning of helping them to put that Worry Monster in its place and find healthy coping strategies.  A great quote from Mr. Rogers affirms this idea, “Anything that is human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.  When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.  The people we trust with that important talk help us know that we are not alone.”

 

Some kids may find words difficult, so other outlets of expression or coping strategies may be helpful including

  • Painting or drawing the Worry Monster and giving it a name
  • Listening to music
  • Journaling
  • Dancing to some great music
  • Going for a walk, run or bike ride
  • Practising or acting out situations before hand to help manage expectations
  • Choosing a designated safe and quiet place to use when feelings get too big 
  • Special breathing patterns or rhythms

 

There are of course times when more significant intervention is required. For example when

  • Simple strategies aren’t enough
  • Emotions are debilitating or limiting daily function
  • Worry/Anxiety causes physical illness
  • Any time there is any mention of self harm

 

Even though my kids are grown now and we don’t talk about the Worry Monster any more, worry still comes whispering or shouting at them from time to time. As a follower of Jesus, I know I can always go to Him in prayer with my worries and for my kids and their worries.  A verse in the Bible reminds me that I can do that in EVERY situation.

 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

 

If you are looking for further resources on helping the kids you love cope with childhood anxiety, I strongly recommend “Braver, Stronger, Smarter”, “Raising Worry-free Girls” and “Brave” by Sissy Goff. All three books are excellent resources for families with kids of different ages who struggle with anxiety.

Meet the author

headshot - julie
Julie Smyth
Julie is married to her highschool sweetheart and the mom of two adult kids. Julie is an avid tea drinker, soup-maker and delights in turning old junk into new treasures. She is a proud garbage picker and dreams of one day being on a Canadian version of “American Pickers”

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