Kids and worry

In my travels meeting lots of kids and spending time listening and talking to them there is a common thread that I have noticed. They worry way more than they let on. Sometimes they can’t articulate it and other times they don’t know what to do with these worries.

The thing about worry is the more you think about a problem the more it grows. I met a young intermediate age girl who was bubbly, outgoing and full of life. I thought that all must have been going well for her, but found out afterwards she had been cutting herself. It turned out there was a very messy divorce going on between her parents.

When someone says, ”Kids are resilient, they adapt well,” they might for a bit, but unless they have someone very caring and supportive helping them, giving them time, then the chances are slim that they will make it well through their teenage years. To ignore something and think because everyone appears happy, doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

Kids don’t see things or interpret things the same way as an adult. They will know something is wrong, but not necessarily what and why. It could be their parents are fighting, and what will happen to them if it keeps up. They might be having trouble at school.  If they are really worrying a lot symptoms like a sore tummy and feeling sick are indicators all is not well. Also over-reacting to seemingly little issues.

A lot of parents are busy, stressed and tired these days and in my experience kids don’t talk when we try to squeeze in a conversation between appointments. We teach our kids to be anxious when we are anxious.

My mother gave me some very good advice. “If you listen to all the rubbish when the kids are little, (like all the details of a movie you really didn’t want to know about) they will talk to you about the important things when they are older.” It is so true. It is all about building relationships and being present, with our eye contact, body language and listening. It is not always easy when we have a million other things to do.

Sharing worries, however small and sharing them to someone else, means they are out in the open and those worries lose their power and hold over a child. Some worries are for adults to have, they don’t belong on young shoulders.

Writing down worries one by one and placing them in a box, bag or envelope and then placing it outside a bedroom door becomes a simple act of removing problems away from their minds.

Keep conversations going about the important stuff. It takes time and lots of it, but kids know we care when our time is freely given to them.

A very important place to start is for kids to find that one person who listens and does something to help them. Someone who fights for them in their corner – their lighthouse. Kids are good at finding someone like that. They are very perceptive when it comes to searching out a kind person. The important thing is they mustn’t give up until they find this person.