by Kari Dunn Buron, MS
When children experience high levels of stress and anxiety, it can lead to a number of unwanted outcomes, including explosive behavior.
High levels of stress and big emotions related to poor social negotiation skills, difficult educational demands, upsetting sensory issues, and general frustration are more common than you might think.
According to the 2018 Data and Statistics on Children's Mental Health by the Center for Disease Control, anxiety is still one of the most frequent of all mental disorders in children.
In my work with children who experience anxiety, I have found that often parents, teachers, and therapists respond to unwanted behavior without recognizing the need to address the underlying anxiety.
When My Worries Get Too Big! is a book written to help parents, teachers, and therapists to support a highly anxious child using a more systematic and cognitive approach.
The idea is to teach the child what anxiety is to them; how anxiety makes them feel, what situations typically causes them to feel that way; and what to do about the feeling before it gets too big.
More than any other issue, a loss of emotional control can impact how peers and adults think about a child. A well-meaning adult might view the child as “difficult,” and an otherwise caring peer might become fearful of being around him.
These responses can significantly hinder the child’s social and academic success in school.
A lack of understanding and rejection can actually lead to increased stress and result in chronic worry, where the child experiences ongoing low levels of anxiety in environments that require flexible social thinking or problem-solving.
Social Emotional Learning or SEL, a topic that is gaining attention in the K-12 educational world, recognizes that once a child can manage their emotions and relationships, their academic success increases by an average of 11 percentile points.
It is therefore critical that we help children learn about, understand and regulate their emotions, in a safe, direct and yet non-judgemental way.
When My Worries Get Too Big! uses a story format to introduce young children to the idea of worries, and how sometimes worries can get so big that it is too hard from them to control.
The book then gives the child an opportunity to label and define their own levels of worries.
Finally, the story introduces a systematic relaxation sequence for the child to practice prior to events that might typically cause big emotions.
This book directly addresses how to manage competencies in the
Social Emotional Learning process.
The child is asked to think about how his worries make him feel and identify the triggers.
Anxiety and worries play a large part in one’s self-confidence. Learning about her worries and learning the “language” of emotions can help her to better understand her feelings.
When the child has techniques and strategies he can use to control his anxiety, he will have more confidence in himself and his abilities.
Respect for Others
When anxiety and worries get too big, a child may react with explosive behaviors. Learning how to relax early in a stress cycle can lead to a decrease in explosive reactions.
Social anxiety and worries can directly impact a child’s ability to engage socially. Learning about and labeling emotions can help a child better understand another person’s perspective.
Similar to Social Engagement, anxiety and worries can impact a child’s ability to communicate effectively. This story can help a child to label those worries and by labeling, can increase control of such worries.
When anyone’s anxiety and worries get too big, that person might use maladaptive strategies (like hitting or screaming) to control the big feelings. The tools from this book can support children in identifying common triggers early which can help that child to disengage from a stressful situation.
Problem Solving and Analyzing Situations
The techniques and strategies in this book can prompt a child to identify the triggers early and analyze the situation. The tools in the book can then support the child in understanding how to keep her worries from getting too big.
Anxiety and worries cause an extreme amount of stress. By using this book, a child can learn to use relaxation and disengagement to manage stress across environments.
By learning the language of self-regulation and relaxation, children can increase the skills needed to regulate daily stress on their own.