How to Recognize Worry and Help Children Cope with It

Everyone has worries. Here are some ways to help children and teens with theirs.
4 min read

During and after facing a pandemic, many of us will deal with worry, anxiety, or fear. It’s important that, while we are fighting our own battles during this time, we also help children cope with the worries they are facing.

Use this article to better recognize worry in children, and to help kids understand that they can give their worries to God.

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

What Is Worry?

Worry is sometimes called anxiety or fear. It is any uncomfortable feeling of being tense, nervous, or panicky.

Worried people often have faster heart rates, fluttering in their stomachs, sweaty palms, shaky hands, dizziness, headaches, and stomachaches. Some children and teens develop nervous habits such as nail-biting, hair-twirling, knuckle-cracking, or fidgety legs.

What Do Children and Teens Worry About?

  • Performance—how they are doing at school or as part of a team
  • Appearance—how they look
  • Social problems—making and keeping friends, being bullied, or feeling left out
  • Safety—of self and loved ones
  • Security—family situations, financial hardships, or concerns about health and well-being
  • Death—death of family, friends, or pets
  • Global issues—war, terrorism, and natural disasters

When Is Worry a Problem?

shy worried girl looking up
Image Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/DigitalVision/Getty Images

You may need to seek professional help for a worrying child or teen when:

  • The child or teen worries about something that is inappropriate for his age, such as an older child who has a fear of monsters, the dark, or thunder and lightning.
  • The worry is so strong that it is very upsetting to the child or teen.
  • The worry affects the child’s or teen’s relationships and daily activities.

How Can You Help Children and Teens Deal with Worry?

Listen and Use Empathy

Children’s and teens’ worries are very real to them—even if they seem trivial to adults. Before children and teens can deal with their worries, they need to feel supported and understood.

Share the Facts

Sometimes children and teens worry because they do not understand something. For example, a child may be afraid of thunder. Explaining that it is only a loud noise may lower the child’s worry.

When children and teens have questions about big issues—such as war—provide them with correct information and calmly explain what adults are doing to help.

Share the Larger Perspective

When children and teens worry about small things—such as a failed test or embarrassing themselves—tell them that many problems are temporary and solvable. Tell them that they will have other opportunities to try again. Teach children and teens to be strong and hopeful.

Problem-Solve

Talk through problems and help children and teens come up with solutions. Be sure that you do not try to solve their problems for them.

Offer Comfort and Reassurance

Small worried girl in uniform
Image Credit: Deborah Faulkner/Moment/Getty Images

Sometimes when children or teens are worried, they need a hug, someone caring to talk to, or some time to do something fun with friends or a trusted adult.

Relax

Teach children and teens how to slow their heart rates and relax their bodies through deep breathing, imagining a favorite place or memory, or tensing and then relaxing the muscles in their arms, legs, neck, and shoulders.

Help Them Think in Positive Ways

Teach children and teens to be positive about their worries. They can tell themselves why the bad thing probably will not happen or why it is not a big deal if it does.

Face Fear

Do not cater to fear or allow children or teens to avoid the things they fear. Build their confidence and encourage them to try new things. Help guide them in giving their fears to God.

Read the Bible and Pray Together

Talk about God’s promises and pray for children and teens to let go of their worries and give them to God.

Be A Good Role Model

Set a good example with your responses to problems and setbacks. Show the children and teens in your care that you are confident and trust God to help you with your problems.

Remember that God Is Faithful

Remind them that He sees them, hears them, and cares so deeply for them.

In the midst of adversity, God is faithful.

Remember that He loves you and is with you. Remind your students, children, and teens of this as well. Remind them that He sees them, hears them, and cares so deeply for them.

And finally, verbally bless your kids with this Scripture when they are facing worry. May God’s peace wash over them and lighten their souls.

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

More Helpful Resources for Facing Worry

God Take Our Worries: COVID-19 Lesson and Resources for Kids

Here are the resources you need to help children through their coronavirus worries! Remind kids what God says about casting our cares on Him, because He cares for them so much. Grab these free resources and help kids release their worries to God.
Free Guide

God Take Our Worries: COVID-19 Lesson and Resources for Kids

Here are the resources you need to help children through their coronavirus worries! Remind kids what God says about casting our cares on Him, because He cares for them so much. Grab these free resources and help kids release their worries to God.
Free Guide

God Take Our Worries: COVID-19 Lesson and Resources for Kids

Here are the resources you need to help children through their coronavirus worries! Remind kids what God says about casting our cares on Him, because He cares for them so much. Grab these free resources and help kids release their worries to God.
Free Guide
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  Updated on May 14, 2020

About the Author

  • Carey Sturgeon, a clinical psychologist, has taught parole officers in sex-offender management classes and has published in the Sexual Abuse Journal of Research and Treatment. She has worked with both abusers and victims of abuse to help them become healthy and lead more meaningful lives. She is committed to the development of character-driven leaders and believes that, with God’s help, abused children can heal and become successful adult leaders in their homes and communities. A resident of Canada, Dr. Sturgeon has collaborated with an international team to support leadership development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and throughout Africa.

© 2020 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
© 2019 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
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