Grown-ups worry enough, so kids shouldn’t have to. Inadvertently, however, our worries can spill onto our children. For example, worrying about next month’s rent becomes a family problem the minute you think aloud.
Some parents intentionally worry their children with lectures on keeping their room clean, staying out of trouble, and getting good grades. While all that is important, it’s not what children should “worry” about. Webster’s Dictionary defines worry as follows: “to feel uneasy or anxious; torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.” Regardless of how much we want our kids to pass a test or clean their room, we don’t want them to experience “disturbing thoughts” about it.
Instead of worrying about the little things, teach your kids to care about the big things that matter. Below are a few “big” things for which children should show concern. These duties blanket the many small things children tend to worry about.
Always do your best
Perhaps your child always strives for an A or maybe he/she wants to score with every shot at a basketball game. Try to make the situation less stressful by focusing on the process of playing rather than the goal of winning. When children focus on the finish, they are often thinking about the extrinsic, or external, reward they get in the end-a trophy, money, etc. However, the effort put forth while playing, studying, or participating should be the intrinsic, or internal, reward your child enjoys. This goal helps builds character and increases motivation. If children focus on doing their best, instead of winning, then their attitude will transfer to other tasks, such as doing their homework and cleaning their room.
Save for a rainy day
Children worry about money, especially when we don’t have it to give. Whether they need it for purchasing the latest pair of Nikes or buying lunch at school, children often worry about how they can get money or from whom they can get it. To quell this concern, have your child prepare for money worries by teaching them to save. Have them save a dollar or more from their weekly allowance. Make them put it in a piggy bank or pickle jar. Months later, they will be proud of how much they’ve accumulated, and instead of worrying about how to ask you for the latest video game, they will be able to buy it on their own.
Many kids worry about their relationships with peers, whether it’s overcoming bullies or sitting with the popular kids at lunch. Sometimes the fear is so overpowering it causes kids to hate school and even drop out. Redirect your child’s fear from forging and ending friendships to being an overall good person. Whether it is the unpopular classmate or the custodian in the hall, teach your children that being good to others makes them feel good about themselves. Have your son help a classmate who struggles with a subject in which he’s an expert. Have your daughter befriend a child who sits alone at lunch. Soon they will start to care about how others feel and worry less about where they belong.
Because we want to prepare our children for this world, we sometimes put them through life boot camp by having them spend their free time studying, doing chores, and heeding our advice. Although these responsibilities are important, they are not necessarily fun. Remember that even though we want our children to be productive citizens, we also want them to know the meaning of happiness. Fun should be a necessity in your child’s life.
Some parents use fun time as a reward when it should really be on their child’s daily agenda. Meeting new friends, discovering interests, and laughing make children prosper. So when you want to deny your child the privilege of making a snowman in the backyard, think of the last time you had the time to make anything other than dinner. And remember that when children play, they have less time to worry about the little things.
Instead of making your children worry about a multitude of individual goals, encourage them to care about a couple of the critical ones. You’ll find they will worry less, but care about so much more.