This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure statement for more information.
Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley of My Little Poppies
Something happens this time of year. Somewhere between the sandy toes and the watermelon slices, the worry creeps in.
Usually after dark.
Summer is supposed to be an endless string of leisurely days filled with swimming and catching fireflies and eating popsicles and reading your weight in delicious books.
You’re supposed to be relaxed.
How can one be worried when the days are so carefree? It seems counterintuitive.
As the mother of a worrier, I’ve thought about this phenomenon quite a bit.
I think this whole summer worry cycle happens because we are more relaxed. It’s kind of like how some people get sick on vacation. Your body lets its guard down. It’s a worry sneak-attack.
And, when you think about it, summer is the perfect set-up for a worry sneak-attack. The days are longer and brighter, and it’s often hot and sticky and hard to sleep. No wonder the worry creeps in!
Mothering a worrier
I can remember, as a kid, sitting up in my bed on a hot summer night, listening to crickets, and freaking the hell out. I worried about BIG things: current events, war, poverty, global warming, killer bees, death and dying, and the sun burning out.
So is it any surprise that now, thirty years later, I am mothering a child who does the same?
I often describe our oldest son as a World Class Worrier. In just eight short years on this planet, our son has conquered a multitude of worries. From mourning doves to television to global warming to mass human extinction.
I could go on and on and on.
I’d love to tell you that we’ve conquered worry for good, but we haven’t.
Worry is tricky. It changes ebbs and flows and changes shape and sneak-attacks you just when you least expect it.
You can’t make worry disappear completely, but you can manage it.
I can tell you this: hindsight helps.
The more worry battles your child is faced with…
The more strategies added to his or her “Worry Toolbox“…
The more “Worry Wins” your child accrues…
Hindsight makes each new worry a bit easier to manage. Your family has been here before. You can do it again.
You’ve got this.
But sometimes that’s hard to remember. When worry rears its ugly head, sometimes we freeze. We panic. We forget that we know how to do this.
Mothering a worrier can be exhausting. Believe me, I understand. When you are in the midst of a worry surge, it feels like all of your energy is spent fighting the battle. And then, suddenly, the fog clears… until the next time.
I have learned to think of these worry swells as teachable moments. After all, we all experience worry from time to time. Sure, some of us experience it more severely, and more frequently, but no one is immune to worry. It is a part of life.
Learning to manage difficult emotions is an important life skill. The sooner your child learns effective coping and calming strategies, the better. These coping skills will serve your child well in life.
Today, I am sharing a list of things that I believe every little worrier should know, plus a free printable that will help your child to remember past successes or Worry Wins. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but these strategies have helped our family and I hope that they will help yours, too.
What Your Little Worrier Needs to Know
1. Worry is normal.
Worry serves an important purpose: protection. It plays a key role in the fight-or-flight response and keeps us safe.
You are not alone. Every single person on this planet has worries. Every. Single. Person. Worry is a normal part of the human experience.
2. Worry is temporary.
It certainly doesn’t feel temporary, but it is. When it spikes, it is important to remember that worry ebbs and flows. And this brings me to…
3. Worry can be managed.
There are steps you can take to manage worry more effectively. You need to determine the coping and calming strategies that work best for you.
In our home, we call this our Worry Toolbox. I feel better if I do yoga, go for a run, listen to music, or have some time alone with a book. You might feel better when you go out with friends, go for a swim, or meditate. Each person has a unique Worry Toolbox!
4. Talking about worry is super important.
When you don’t talk about your worry, when you avoid it, you give the worry more power. Talking about your worry is an important step toward winning the battle. Sometimes, worry can be difficult to talk about in the moment. In these cases, set up a date later to chat. Sometimes it can be easier to talk when you are moving, playing a game, or riding in the car. It doesn’t matter where you talk about it, just make sure you do it!
5. Your worry does not define you.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. You have oodles of strengths! When the worry feels like it is overshadowing you, remember all of your gifts.
6. Being sensitive is a superpower.
Sensitivity is a superpower. You care deeply for others and the world around you in a way that others do not. Your sensitivity allows you to be in-tune with the feelings of those around you and to treat others carefully. Sensitive souls make great friends and kindness attracts kindness.
7. Your brain is amazing!
In our family, we have had great success through learning a little neuroscience. Did you know that if your amygdala is too sensitive, you can actually work to change it? You can exercise your brain just as you exercise your body!
8. Asking for help is brave.
Sometimes, the worry is just too much. In these cases, it is brave to ask for help. If your child’s worry is significantly impairing his or her daily functioning, or if there is a history of anxiety disorders in your family, it’s important to seek help. The sooner, the better. Believe me, your child will be so relieved to have another supportive adult in his or her corner, cheering for those Worry Wins.
9. You have conquered worry before, and you CAN do it again.
Whenever my son is struggling with a swell of worry, I remind him of all the worries he’s conquered in his eight years on this planet. The list is a long one. Reminding him of these successes helps him to remember that he’s done this before. And not only has he done it before, he’s done it a gazillion times! Listing all his past Worry Wins never fails to elicit a smile, even if he’s deep in the throes.
I’ll often make a Worry Wins list to hang in his bedroom, or on the bathroom mirror, to remind him daily that he’s an expert at battling worries. This is one of our family’s favorite strategies.
Today, I’m sharing a Worry Wins printable for you to complete with your little worrier. I hope that it will help your family too!
Help your child to remember, and to celebrate, those Worry Wins with this free Worry Wins printable
Be sure to hang your Worry Wins in a visible location. A bedroom, the kitchen, or a bathroom mirror will work perfectly. By hanging it in an easy-to-see spot, the Worry Wins list will serve as a reminder that you’ve done this before and you can do it again.
You’ve got this!
Are you mothering a worrier? Here are some resources:
Incorporating mindfulness techniques into our homeschool routine has been extremely beneficial, not just for my little worrier, but for all of us. Here are two of my favorites:
And here are some of my favorite books for mothering worriers:
- Make Your Worrier a Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Child’s Fears by Daniel B. Peters
- The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine N. Aron
- Make Your Own Worry Basket ~ My Little Poppies
- Yoga for Children: Tips and Resources ~ My Little Poppies
- Calm Kids Down with Doodle Diaries ~ My Little Poppies
And here are some books for your little worrier
As a school psychologist and lifelong book lover, I am a huge believer in the power of bibliotherapy. Here are some of my little worrier’s favorites:
- A Pebble for Your Pocket by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Calm-Down Time (Toddler Tools) by Elizabeth Verdick
- David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety by Anne Marie Guanci
- Dharma Delight: A Visionary Post Pop Comic Guide to Buddhism and Zen by Musho Rodney Alan Greenblat
- Don’t Feed the Worry Bug (A Children’s Book About Worry) by Andi Green
- Don’t Panic, Annika by Juliet Clare Bell
- From Worrier to Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Fears by Daniel B. Peters
- Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud
- Is a Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff
- Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents by Sarah Conover
- Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee Maclean
- Peaceful Piggy Yoga by Kerry Lee Maclean
- Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh
- What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide To Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner
- Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? Dealing with Sensory Overload by Jennifer Veenendall
- You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Tae-Eun You
- The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime: Tales of Compassion and Kindness for You to Read with Your Child – to Delight and Inspire by Dharmachari Nagaraja