When John and I went to the annual Association for Play Therapy conference back in October, we polled attendees about what kinds of conditions are presenting in their practices and work settings with children. Overwhelmingly, the answer was anxiety. I can attest to that in my own practice as well–I see lots of kiddos who worry, even at a young age.
So what are kids worrying about? Well, from my experience they worry about something happening to a parent while the child is at school, someone breaking into the home, getting sick, kids being mean or not liking them, or giving the wrong answer in class. We live in “tornado alley,” so I also get a fair number of kids who are worried about storms.
It’s hard to know if kids are worrying more or if we’re just more aware of it. However, I’m going to suggest that some of WHAT they’re worrying about has changed. I think that kids are exposed to a lot of information on all forms of media, including social media, and that sometimes this information, accurate or not, scares them. One way we might help our kids is to limit their exposure to the news or to juicy social media stories. Many times, the content is age-inappropriate anyway, and exposing them to such content only adds one more “what if” to their list of worries.
We can also help kids learn to relax and to talk back to their worries. Our most recent story, Worried Wendall, introduces some behavioral interventions that help worry: physical movement, distraction, talking, and visualization, Of course, when Wendall does it, it’s a lot more fun! Our next story about worry will feature Wendall’s little sister, Winifred. She learns more cognitive ways to address her worry, such as talking back to her worries.
Let’s help our kids learn not to worry so much. Childhood should be full of wonder, not worry.