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6 Tips for Kids Who Worry Too Much

 

worry

 

Courtesy of psychologist Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D.:

1. Make a worry list.
Have your child make a list of all his or her worries and fears, both small and large. Just the act of recognizing and writing down worries can sometimes make the scary emotions seem less intimidating for your child. This allows you to identify which worries and fears you want to work on with your child, tackling one by one together.

2. Practice thinking strategies.
Help your children convert their worries into reassurances by teaching them new thinking strategies. For example, if their consistent worry is “I am afraid my mom won’t pick me up from school,” have them replace it with “I know my mom is coming for me because she ALWAYS does.” Together, you can say each worry and fear and come up with new sentences to combat the old. Practice these with your kids until they become habitual replacements for the old, incessant worries. This is a key skill for building resilience.

3. Don’t skimp on sleep.
Make sure your child gets enough sleep on a regular basis. Well-rested equals well-equipped mentally and physically to deal with minor daily stresses. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that 3- to 5-year-olds get 11-13 hours a night, 5- to 12-year-olds get 10-11 hours per night, and teens get 9.25 hours per night (although some do fine with 8.5 hours).

4. Make good nutrition a priority.
Make sure your child gets a steady dose of protein throughout the day. Many kids experience low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar usually occurs a few hours after breakfast and it looks and feels a lot like anxiety: they feel dizzy, start sweating, feel weak, and their heart beats really fast. Staying away from caffeine and energy drinks is also recommended as they mimic the effects of adrenaline and cause people to feel anxious.

5. Get some exercise.
Exercise burns adrenaline. If it’s not already a part of your child’s daily routine, add daily exercise to your child’s plan, and let him know that not only is it good for his body, but it will help keep the Worry Monster away. Exercise can include any activities that your child enjoys such as swimming, shooting baskets, hiking, soccer, dodge ball, tennis, martial arts, jumping rope, rock climbing, bicycling, dancing, gymnastics or yoga. Anything that increases your child’s heart rate will help fight the Worry Monster.

6. Don’t underestimate distraction.
Arm your children with a little healthy distraction. Let them pick a favorite activity such as ten minutes on the computer playing a brain game, time out for reading a favorite book, watching a half hour television show or bike riding around the block — and allow them to do that activity whenever a worry attack comes on. This allows them to combat worry with pleasure and takes their mind off the often paralyzing thoughts and feelings brought on by the Worry Monster. Before you and they know it, they have been distracted from their worries.

 

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