More Ways to Ease Your Child's Worries
Real-Life Worry: Natural and Man-Made Disasters
Your daughter sees news footage of an earthquake, or watches the tornado whisk Dorothy away in The Wizard of Oz, and suddenly she's cowering in your bed every time it storms. Clear up any misconceptions she has by searching online together for statistics that show how unlikely such natural disasters are. If she saw something specific on the news, it also helps to share what adults are doing to tackle the problem. For example, you could talk about Red Cross relief efforts in a disaster-hit area or the tornado warning system in your town. At the same time, create a family emergency plan and give her something that would be her job if there were a natural disaster, even if it's only something like helping to put the cat in the carrying cage, Dr. Berman says. "That will make her feel as if she has some power, which can often help ease these kinds of fears."
Real-Life Worry: Death
If your daughter says she's worried about you dying, you may be inclined to say something like, "Don't worry, honey. I'm not going to die." That's not a good idea, experts say. "It's not really true, and it doesn't help your child deal with her feelings," says Dr. Berman. Instead, you could share with her how unlikely it is, noting that most people don't die until they're much older. Or say something like: "It sounds as if you're really worried about me dying. I plan to be here with you for a really long time. I want to watch you grow up, graduate from school, fall in love, and get married; I want to meet my grandkids." If your child specifically asks who would take care of her if something happens, tell her what your plans are.
Real-Life Worry: Failure
Although your son has always been great at baseball, he's obsessing about the game tomorrow, afraid that he'll strike out or drop a fly ball. "This is the age when kids begin to realize there are important moments in their life when they'll be judged by others, whether it's a violin concert or a standardized test in school -- and they feel pressure not to let anyone down," says Jeremy Schneider, a family therapist in New York City. Rather than telling your child you know he'll do well, which may increase the pressure, remind him that you'll love him no matter what. Then teach him self-soothing techniques he can practice any time his stomach is in knots, like deep breathing, counting backwards, or visualizing what he wants to happen. "I tell kids that the worry in their head is one channel on the radio station in their brain, but they can change it whenever they want," says Schneider. "If they're worrying about not making the baseball team, they can just change the station to their own voice and focus on last year's vacation or they can think about the people who love them."
Originally published in the February 2012 issue of Parents magazine.