Kristen McNeely

consulting & family Counseling, INC.

Kristen McNeely

consulting & family Counseling, INC.

A Summer Camp Story

Kid Friendly Ways to Talk Back to Anxiety When It Shows Up

Everything was perfectly fine until bedtime…

My 6 year old was going to a new summer camp – in a new place – with no one she really knew. We had spent some time talking about what the routine of the camp would be and how much fun she’d have trying something new. But something about nighttime can make everything feel worse, especially for kids with anxiety. And sure enough, the night before camp, the tears began.

As a parent, these moments are so hard – none of us want to see our kids upset, especially over something that we are confident is going to be fun. In this particular moment, I decided to take off my mom hat, and put on my therapist hat, because I knew that while mom me just wanted my daughter to be happy, therapist me knew this was a learning opportunity. Here’s how it went down –

One of the most important skills for anxious kids to have is the ability to externalize their anxiety. “What does THAT mean?” you might be asking yourself. Fair! Externalizing our anxiety means that we can see it as something outside of ourselves. Some people refer to this as a “worry bug” or “worry monster.” Some people even give their anxiety a real human name. Externalizing our anxiety makes it much easier to talk back to it, which is one of the skills anxious kids need to learn.

So as my daughter sat in her bed crying, I told her that it sounded like the worry bug had come back to chat with her, and that it seemed like he was trying to ruin her fun. We talked about how the worry bug likes to be bossy, and tries to act like he knows evvvverything, when really he just worries a lot. We talked a bit about what the next day would likely look like, and came up with some options if things didn’t go according to plan. And then she was calm. The next morning she got to camp, and despite being a little unsure, walked in with no tears. Total victory.

A few key takeaways…

  1. Kids have to learn to externalize their anxiety – help them come up with a name for it if they’d like!
  2. Talking back to anxiety is a skill and kids need help with this. Important things to say to anxiety include that it is not their boss, it’s welcome to come along for the ride, you aren’t surprised to see them, and that they won’t be ruining any fun. Other, more specific, things may apply in different scenarios.
  3. I did not provide reassurance that everything would be fine – we simply made a few plan Bs in case things didn’t go as expected. Anxiety loves reassurance. Rather than reassure, we can provide factual information and then move on.

Was this helpful? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram at @childhood.empowered for more evidence-based social-emotional content you can feel good about!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hi, this is a comment.
    To get started with moderating, editing, and deleting comments, please visit the Comments screen in the dashboard.
    Commenter avatars come from Gravatar.