All children worry, but some children worry more than others. Sometimes children’s worries present themselves more obviously than others. Sometimes children with worries ask to go to the nurse frequently, have trouble interacting with peers or following directions, or cry more often than other children. If you want to learn more about anxiety in children, check out this blog post. In this blog post, I will be talking about how we can support children’s worries using my Worry Wizards curriculum!
What are Children’s Worries and why do Children Have Them?
Snakes and spiders, doctors and shots, getting in trouble, storms, loud noises… kids have all kinds of worries. Mostly these worries are normal and don’t interfere with the child’s ability to move through life. When children’s worries start to overtake most of their thoughts or the child starts to worry about more than just the typical worries, then teachers and caregivers should start to think about how to best support the child and their anxiety.
Children that worry need to understand what their worries are and why they have them. I explain to my students in the Worry Wizards curriculum that when our brain senses a worry, it sends itself into a fight, fright, or freeze response. When this happens, it’s hard for us to calm down and make a plan. One of the best things we can do when we feel this start to happen, is to take deep breaths.
How does my Body Feel when I Worry?
The next thing that I teach my students is to be able to identify where in the body they feel their worries. Some classic examples are butterflies in the stomach, heart beating fast, sweating, trembling, etc. We talk about how not everyone feels the same way when they have worries, so it’s really important to recognize how your body is feeling when you feel worried. This gives you some warning time so that you can do a strategy to help calm yourself down.
What can Children do when they Worry?
One of the most important strategies children can do when they feel worried, is to take deep breaths. Once they feel calm, they can use some more strategies to help them with their specific worries. They can ask for help or talk to an adult or friend. They can take a walk or get a drink of water. Another strategy I love to teach my students in the Worry Wizards curriculum is 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding. In this activity, students observe the world around them and list 5 things they can see, 4 things they can touch, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, and 1 good thing about themselves. This activity helps students to focus their brain on what is happening around them, instead of the worries they are perseverating on.
Classroom Strategies for Anxiety
In my classroom, all my students learn about deep breathing strategies, especially using a glitter jar to take deep breaths and calm down. Students also learn to relax their body by squeezing tightly and then releasing their body. Other strategies for students that struggle with anxiety include coloring or doing puzzles. These cognitive distractors help the student to focus on something other than their worries, which helps them get back on track. Listening to music, doing yoga, reading, or thinking happy, imaginative thoughts, are other strategies that students can do in the classroom.
If you want a list of good children’s books that address anxiety and worries, check out this blog post!
Children’s worries can be supported when children know why they are having worries, how their body feels when they are worried, and strategies they can do to calm themselves down. There are lots of strategies that students learn in my Worry Wizards curriculum that they can use anywhere and anytime to help themselves feel better.
Let me know in the comments what makes you feel better when you have worries!