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Speak to Sarah: All the little Nervous Nellies in the world

Have you ever met Nervous Nellie? Nervous Nellie is the child that oftentimes gets told, "Don't worry so much," or "Stop thinking about that. It doesn't even matter."

She doesn't necessarily worry excessively at school because her mind is preoccupied and doesn't have time to think about the issues that are upsetting her, but at home she can't stop worrying.

Children like Nellie make parents feel defeated. They often say, "I've tried everything and I can't get her to stop worrying."

Nellie worries because she doesn't have enough control over her worries to just stop at demand. It's important that parents don't discredit feelings because they feel that they are silly.

To a child, the worries are big even though they may be trivial to an adult. Don't avoid situations just because they cause anxiety or that will be a coping mechanism that will be repeated throughout adult life.

Keep confident that the child can move forward and manage their anxiety by using a few worry-fighting techniques. Talk through the worries so that they can have a clear understanding of what could happen or what to do if the worry comes true.

Create a worry box together after school and write down each worry on a different index card and stick them in the worry box. That way they can let go of their worries and focus on other things.

Journaling can also be a good way to dump your worries on the page and leave the mind uncluttered.

Not all children who worry have a disorder or need a diagnosis. Some children worry more than others and can learn easily how to keep it manageable.

However, if chronic worrying persists it is time to meet with a therapist so both you and your child can find some relief.

Sarah is a Dickinson resident who graduated from Dickinson State University with a degree in psychology. Are you looking for advice? Email, visit her at or write to Speak to Sarah c/o The Dickinson Press

at PO Box 1367, Dickinson, ND 58601.