Has being told not to worry ever actually stopped you worrying? No, same here.
Being told not to worry when you are worried or anxious about something is like being asked "have you tried sleeping" when you are tired. In the history of mankind, has anyone actually, upon being told to "just calm down" actually calmed down? Probably not. It just isn't helpful and rarely works.
Yet we tell our children not to worry all the time. Monsters hiding under your bed? "Don't worry darling, just go to sleep."
Your friend wasn't kind to you at playtime? "Don't worry little one, it's okay."
Everyone else in your class has got their first grown up tooth and you don't? "Don't worry baby, it will happen some time."
You are worried about your NCEA exam being too hard? "Don't worry, it will be fine."
You can't sleep because you are worried about a zombie apocalypse? "Just close your eyes now, it's okay."
Whether their worries and fears are logical or not, as adults we are quick to dismiss their concerns but not actually help our tamariki deal with them. The intention, of course, is to make them feel better and reassure them, but actually we aren't helping, we are hindering.
From monsters under the bed or exam worries, to bigger issues of war, famine and illness, children and adults alike all worry at times. It's normal to worry, and telling them not to is to ignore or dismiss their feelings, giving them the message their feelings aren't valid.
Right now, with confirmed cases of Covid-19 in our community, there are a lot of worried people, adults and children alike. And telling any of them not to worry is really about as helpful as telling me not to cry when I am watching Toy Story 3 (don't judge me, Andy's all grown up - what will Buzz and Woody do now? It's an emotional rollercoaster).
Instead of dismissing people's fears and worries, validate them, tell them it's okay to feel like that, in fact it's good.
Feelings of fear or worry are part of our protective mechanisms, our brain's way of reminding us to be careful, tread cautiously and look after ourselves. Telling us to ignore that is like saying we should ignore that pesky light telling you your fuel tank has less than 3km in it, it doesn't make the problem go away and could even make it worse.
So what should we tell our tamariki, and ourselves, when dealing with worries such as Covid-19 being in our community or monsters under the bed?
First we validate them - yes, it makes sense to be a bit worried right now, it's okay to feel like that and you aren't alone, a lot of people feel the same.
Then, we look at ways we can deal with the concern or the issue. In the case of monsters under the bed, after three children I can confidently recommend two options - first the ever popular "monster stay away spray" - water in a spray bottle mixed with the well-known monster deterrents of lavender oil and glitter (no self respecting monster likes smelling like pretty purple flowers or getting glitter in their scales), or the lazy parent (third child) option of getting a bed with no gap between it and the floor.
When it comes to Covid in the community, replace your monster stay away spray with science. It's like glitter and lavender water with an added sprinkle of facts.
Talk about the armour we are using to fight Covid-19 - we are following rules, social distancing, staying home when sick, over 12s are wearing masks, we use hand sanitiser (I even have one that smells like vanilla, which is another known monster deterrent by the way), we scan in and so on.
Many of us are vaccinated, we have testing and vaccination available to us in our community, we have doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals available to help keep us healthy, to look after us if we do get sick. So it's okay to worry, that's our brain reminding us to follow those rules, to wear that protective armour because it wants us to stay safe.
But don't just tell them all this, get them to tell you. Ask them what they are doing, and can do, to stay safe. Help them change their thinking from a feeling of being out of control, to being in control and able to deal with what's happening in their world.
You might just find they are able to reassure you, as much as you are reassuring them.
So don't dismiss worries, be they those of your 5-year-old child, your 80-year-old mother, yourself or your friends. Listen to them, recognise them and then you will be able to deal with them, be they monsters under the bed or Covid-19 concerns.
Just keep the glitter water for the monsters, and the hand sanitiser for Covid, the other way around leaves you with very sparkly hands ...