Miss Six was given a beautiful gift by a dear friend the other week, which made me think more about communication with young children when it comes to fear and anxiety.
Made by a group of women in a Guatemalan settlement village, the set of five ‘Worry Dolls’ in a handwoven bag is made using scrap textiles. Their purpose comes from a Guatemalan legend, where if children tell one worry to each doll and place them under their pillow at night, their worries will be gone by morning.
The dolls now sit proudly on my daughter’s bedside table, and every few nights her and I have a chat about if she has any worries to tell her little fabric friends.
Thankfully, so far her worries are only being scared of the dark because of the “monsters under her bed”, however I know that these little dolls are not only adorable and help less fortunate women make a living, they’re also opening communication lines between us as her world (and society) opens. They are a powerful tool to discuss feelings and to be vulnerable.
Sadly, one in five Kiwi children will be diagnosed with some form of anxiety disorder by the age of 19*. But our kids (and us parents too) need to know that these feelings of anxiety, while uncomfortable, are not uncommon and can be overcome.
For primary school-aged children, anxiety, fear or unease can be side-effects from experiences such as bullying, an environment change, not fitting in, not feeling ‘good enough’… the list goes on. Physical reactions can show through avoidance, unexplained terror, a raised heartbeat, tummy aches, having fewer friends, talking less, a reduction in appetite or sleep apnea, to name just a few. And sometimes, a child’s anxiety is invisible.
Pamela – editor
Tots To Teens
*Source: Mental Health Foundation NZ.