My striped, plush Worry Eater immediately caught kids’ attention as they gave them a squeeze. One little boy was examining his and said, “What do you think he does? Grabbing the zipper, “This looks like he eats something.” You’re right. What a perfect entree to a conversation about “What is a worry?” Kids replied, “You’re scared, you think about it,” or “You’re nervous, not sure of something.” and what kinds of things do kids worry about? “Scary movies, night time in my bedroom, testing, my report card, forgetting my homework, something you might have to see, tragedies, or a kid who makes fun of me at school.” What do you worry about? What do I worry about? I got a variety of answers from kids from 5 to 10 years of age, as they opened up and entered into conversation about what was “scary” or “sad” to them. They loved writing down or drawing their worries, stuffing them into Saggo’s mouth and leaving the worrying to him. And by the way, Moms wanted one too! A terrific language learning tool, the Worry Eater inspires a conversation using, learning and building emotional vocabulary, adding words like frustrated, sad, hurt or embarrassed to a situation a child might describe as simply making him mad. “Giving kids the vocabulary is huge,” a school counselor told me. Much has been written about how building a child’s emotional language positively impacts behavior. As we listen and help kids name their emotions, we can also do a little problem solving together, talking about what we just gave to the Worry Eater. One mom said the first note her son zipped into Saggo’s mouth said, “Movies” because he is scared of them. They talked further about now that the Worry Eater has his worry, maybe they could try a movie together, and over time maybe it wouldn’t feel so scary. When I saw that family a week later, Dad reported that they’d seen a few movies as family! A 6 year-old started in on a story about being bullied last year and another told me how frightening it was to be in his room at night in the dark. What wonderful conversations were started by our little zipper-mouthed friend!
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