Worry Eaters Guide
WE C Hope Child Life Specialist, Morgan Livingstone, prepared a valuable guide for parents supporting anxious children. This resource is designed to help parents use Worry Eaters with their children in many fun and effective ways. Worry Eaters enable children to express themselves and their worries, while parents can learn about their children’s worries in a safe and playful way.
What Worries Children?
Worries are a part of normal childhood – at times very big, and others very small, but always very important to the child. Worries may be new experiences, and children have fewer resources to cope with their distress, compared with adults.
In the parent guide, Morgan explores common worries children experience at different ages and stages of development, from toodlers, to teenagers. For specific worries children experience related to retinoblastoma and hospital care, visit Morgan’s guide to children’s age-related hospital stressors and coping strategies.
How Do Worry Eaters Help?
Talking about worries and personal experiences can be difficult for children. Encouraging the child to write or draw their worries can help them express their thoughts and prompt conversation. Worry Eaters are a beautiful bridge between the bright fantasy world of childhood and the reality of heavy human worries.
The adorable Worry Eaters are very simple to use in their basic form: children are invited to draw or write their worries on a piece of paper. They could also select an object that represents the worry. Put it inside the Worry Eater’s mouth and zip it away. A parent’s recognition of the child’s worries, knowing what to do with them, and how to offer support may be more complex.
Worry Eaters allow children to identify worries and give them space to think about it objectively. By sharing the worry with a trusted adult or friend, that person can acknowledge that the worry exists, and has opportunity to help. Together, parents and children can problem solve ways to change the story around the worry, and identify coping strategies that help the child feel lighter, calmer and more confident.
“My Worry Eater takes away my bad dreams. I wish everyone had one in their house so he (the Worry Eater) can take away all their worries and their mommy’s worries.”
How Can Worry Eaters Help During Cancer Care?
Worry Eaters can be hugely helpful to children diagnosed with retinoblastoma, their siblings, young relatives and friends. Retinoblastoma care can be a potentially traumatic experience for young children, and sends shockwaves through their immediate community.
The diagnosed child, their brothers and sisters and young friends will experience the cancer and its impacts in different ways. They will have different levels of understanding and different feelings, but all will need support of some kind to process their emotional response and learn effective coping. Worry Eaters can be a valuable friend at such times, holding fears and facilitating conversation that may otherwise be elusive when adults too are very stressed.
A Worry Eater can become a vital part of the medical care team too, helping doctors, nurses, child life staff and other professionals learn more about the child’s concerns and individual needs. They can become a communication tool when the child is not comfortable talking directly with a medical professional, giving the child a fun way to share important information about themselves, their physical and mental wellbeing, and allowing the professional to connect with the child on their level.
“I like that you can open his mouth and he is nice and soft. I wish he was real! I like his zippered mouth.”
Worry Eaters are a family of delightfully whimsical creatures, and there’s a friendly character to suit every personality, hungrily waiting to eat up their owner’s worries. These fabulous award-winning Worry Eaters are available from a range of retailers worldwide, most notably Amazon.
If you are feeling creative, you can make your own Worry Eater by following this helpful video created by Child Life Specialist Jocelyn Leworthy,