What we are really telling our kids when we say “don’t worry”
I catch myself every once in a while telling my children to “not worry” when they are scared. It is almost instinctual. As a parent, of course, I wish my child would never have to worry about a thing, but that is not reality. When we tell our children to “not worry” it is like telling them they should not feel scared. We are telling them feeling scared is a bad thing.
‘It is ok to be scared’
Instead of telling our children “don’t worry” when they are scared or concerned about something, we can replace it with something more reaffirming like “it is ok to be scared.” Because it is OK to be scared. We all get scared sometimes and we want our children to learn how to deal with those feelings, rather than to think they are wrong to feel that way.
It is also important that our children know what to do when they feel worried, or concerned, about something. If it is an external concern, such as a suspicious person or animal then we want our children to recognize safety—whether that be going to mom or dad, a teacher, or moving to a different location. By talking to them about what they should be doing at times when they are struggling with feelings of worry they will build healthy coping skills, and learn how to better take care of themselves in situations where mom or dad aren’t present.
Feelings of worry or fear are part of our inner-being. They are important. It is our brain’s way of telling us to be careful, to tread lightly, to watch out. It is a protective mechanism. It is not something to ignore or shut off.
Sometimes that worry or fear is caused by anxiety over something we might not need to be worried about, but acknowledging those feelings and learning how to calm ourselves down is also a very helpful skill. If we can help our children to learn and utilize these skills at a young age, it will help them to be more successful at managing their feelings as an adult.