Just Relax…Don’t Worry About It

Is your child anxious or worry a lot?

When I was a child, I worried…a lot. I worried about pretty much everything — would people like me, what I be picked for the team, were there bad things lurking in the shadows of my room, were Scooby Doo monsters real, would my parents be okay, would I do okay on a test, would I make enough money to live on my own when I grew up, how would I do that, etc. It seemed never ending. Some of my worries made sense, many did not. It didn’t matter. They were real to me.

My oldest son has dealt with similar worrying. He worries about most everything. Will he do well on a test, will a burglar get into the house, are there river monsters (darn you, Animal Planet, for putting that thought in my son’s head), will something bad happen, etc. It seems never ending. Some of his worries are logical, some of them are not. It doesn’t really matter though, because I know they are very real to him.

Thankfully, at my son’s school, he has an amazing Guidance Counselor. She recently gave him a book to help. “What to Do When You Worry Too Much,” by Dawn Huebner, PhD. It talks about how worries are real, and how we can help them grow (instead of help them go away) when we pay too much attention to them. She provides strategies involving acknowledging when a worrisome thought occurs, using your newfound insight to defend against such thoughts, giving limited time (once daily) to address any linger worries that just won’t go away, and readjusting your body through activity or relaxation. The book is working wonders for my son.

When we finished the book, I shared with my son that while the strategies are good for him, there are similar strategies they give adults to deal with the exact same things. Adults may not worry about if the Scooby Doo monster is real, but we do worry about our kids, finances, friendships, health, job security, and the list goes on. It was a good reminder for me, that we all have stress and things to worry about. We also have an opportunity to do something about it. Do we spend time worry about everything (and is that productive) or not?

As I got my son ready for bed, we discussed using one of the breathing exercises recommended in the book. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. My son tried it and relaxed his shoulders. I did it, and did the same thing. I felt better already, and he did too.

How do you help your child when they worry about something?

I will be taking time off next week spending Memorial Day with my family. Enjoy the long weekend!

Brave

Were you brave as a child? If you were, what helped you be brave or kept you brave?

I was like many and easily scared as a child. It didn’t take much. I recall having nightmares after watching Scooby Doo–darn those adults in those monster costumes trying to scare those meddling kids! I was also scared of roller coasters–just the idea of them made my stomach do flips, or roller skating on anything other than a flat surface–my younger sister used to roller skate down our steep driveway without any fear, I was in awe. I wasn’t big into taking risks and sought out safety.

My youngest son has had a heightened sense of fear in the last six months. Things he didn’t seem bothered by before, now are concerning for him. He is very vocal about his concern and his desire not to attempt the following: roller coasters or anything fast, being within hearing range of thunder and lightning, and swimming. Since I too shared the fear of roller coasters as a I child, I understand where my son is coming from. Fear of thunder and lightning I understand too. We don’t get it much here in the northwest, so when it does happen, particularly when the storm is intense or close, it can be scary for anyone. Swimming is a bit more puzzling. He’s been in lessons for a while. He is just learning to swim on his own and hasn’t shown any sign of not liking class. When we took him to class, his anxiety surfaced and he shared what was bothering him. “I don’t want to go into the deep end.” “Why would you go into the deep end?” I asked. “You and your teacher will decide where you go in the pool. Just tell him you don’t want to go in the deep end.” He seemed to think about this for a second, but the fear was still there. “But what if I have to jump in, and I can’t touch the bottom?” I tried reassuring him again. “The teacher is here to help you swim and keep you safe. They won’t ask you to do anything they don’t think you’re ready for.” He was still nervous as he entered the pool, but quickly realized the teacher didn’t have any plans to take him to the deep end, and was soon enjoying the class.

This reminded me of an incident over the summer. We were at a community splash park, where they have water spraying, and tipping buckets. Our son was eager to go to the park, but wouldn’t come out from under the shelter to enjoy himself when he saw dark clouds in the distance and heard the low rumble of distant thunder. It was sunny where we were, the rain clouds were far away, and my husband and I (and all the other parents there) were keeping an eye on them. My older son took off for the splash park and was having a blast. My younger son looked at me after a few minutes of watching his brother and the others kids playing and said, “Mom, I’m going to face my fear.” He got up, and ran into the splash park. He was giggling within seconds, and having a great time with the other kids. My husband and I looked at each other–wow, did he just say that? we thought. There was a pride in both of us. That he was willing to recognize his own fear and want to overcome it was inspiring.

Our son is still vocal about this fear, but we’re now able to talk to him in terms he understands. Do you want to conquer your fear? we ask. We remind him how good it can feel to be brave and do something he might not think he’s capable of, but we do. It reminds me as an adult, we too have fears that we each face–taking risks, standing up for ourselves, working through stressful situations, illness, and the list goes on. It’s a scary world out there sometimes, but we have an opportunity to do something about it. When faced with a scary situation how do you conquer your fear? What helps you to be brave?