Child Size Worries Are Big Enough
Updated: Feb 26, 2020
So many times I work with a child who is feeling stressed out, worried or overwhelmed because they heard or observed something that was not appropriate for their age. Children are truly not capable of understanding, processing or coping with adult size worries. Many times a child will share that they are scared their mom and dad are going to get divorced, that they are going to die in an Earthquake, get shot at school, or have to move because their parents can't afford the bills. When parents have adult conversations in front of their children, or the children are exposed to content that is too mature for their developmental age, children often become worried, confused, stressed or overwhelmed. Their brains are still developing and don't always have the capability to make sense of complicated issues or topics.
As parents, we can do our best to make sure our children get to stay children; that they are exposed to child size worries instead of adult size worries. Even child size worries can be difficult for some children to manage, cope with or resolve. In this modern world, children have more on their plates than previous generations did. Children are often managing hectic schedules; daycare, busy school days with ever increasing academic demands, sports, peer conflicts, rushed days, technology and screen issues, and as they get older social media. Children are hearing information at a pace that wasn't possible in previous years. If they happen to walk by a tv with the news on or hear a radio news channel, all of a sudden they are worried about Amber alerts with children being kidnapped, the Corona virus, natural disasters, political chaos, and mass shootings. It's too much for many adults to process and emotionally handle; imagine if you were a child?
Children are only little for small time. If we can intentionally do our best as parents to control their sphere of influence and make sure we aren't contributing to their worries by adding adult size worries into their heads, it can make a big difference. Children need to know that we are working hard to keep them safe, both physically and mentally. Working hard to keep adult size worries away from your children doesn't mean you are babying them, it means you are parenting intentionally to work towards optimal development and emotional stability.
There may come a time when something happens that you can't control, but it's important to be there to support your children emotionally and help them process their feelings. One of my children was driving in the car with my husband, listening to the radio and an Amber Alert popped on before my husband could change the channel. My son heard that a little girl was kidnapped on her way home from school, and hadn't been found yet. It was extremely upsetting for him, and it hit close to home because the girl was the same age as he was. That night, he had trouble falling asleep, and even when we told him that she had been found safe and sound, he still couldn't shake the fear and worry that event brought on for him. We worked hard to empathize with his feelings, and assure him that we have many protocols and safety rules in place to help keep him safe. At the end of the day, it became clear to him that there's no way to 100% ensure that nothing bad would happen to him; a little piece of his naïve childhood was taken that day and I feel badly about that, but as hard as you try you can only control so much.
It can be a scary world out there, but as parents we can work hard to intentionally to keep adult size worries away from our children, while helping them face their child size worries in an effective, functional, healthy manner.