When is the last time you felt nervous? It may have been a presentation at work or school, a doctor’s appointment, or uncertainty about the future. It may have been today, yesterday, or last week. It may have caused a significant amount of distress, or very little. Nervous feelings are reactions to events and the worried thoughts that we have about those events. Whatever the circumstance, we all experience worry and nervousness to some degree in our daily lives.
The same is true for our children. Kids can experience worries about a variety of things, from monsters under the bed, separating from parents, trying something new, or taking a test. We can’t change the event nor stop the strong emotional response in its tracks. However, we CAN change our thoughts and actions. But, if nervousness is such a common feeling, why should we focus on “washing away worries”? Some worried feelings can be helpful in providing energy and focus; however, too many can cause a lot of distress for some kids. Luckily, there are actions a child can take to feel better when faced with nervousness or worry.
Here are 5 key steps to teach and practice with your child:
- Pinpoint the problem: Ask yourself “What’s happening that is making me feel worried or nervous?” Something new? Something unexpected?
- Think: “What thoughts am I having about the situation?” Chances are worried “What if” thoughts, like “What if I make a mistake?” or “What if mom forgets to pick me up?” or “What if something bad happens?” are triggering the nervous feelings.
- Talk back to the worry: Say to yourself or out loud “I am the boss of my brain and body, not the worry. I can get calm and solve the problem.” To talk back to “What if” worries, say “How likely is that to happen? A thought does not make it fact or true! You can’t predict the future!”
- Act: Use Cool Calming Tools to release the tension and reset your body. Take deep belly breaths; drink a glass of water; Count to 60 (try backwards); distract your mind with a favorite activity or memory; stretch your arms and legs.
- Ask for help from an adult. Talking to a caring adult will help you to feel better and less alone. The adult can help you brainstorm possible solutions to the problem too.
With practice you can help your child to see that when you are calm, you are smart and can solve problems to feel better!
Mary B. Moore, LCSW (firstname.lastname@example.org) specializes in working with parents and children to develop skills to “Think and Feel Better to Become Better!” Check out Mary B.’s “The Purposeful Parent Show”, as well as her Super Social Skills Groups and Purposeful Parent Workshops.