Mental Health Monday: The "Worry-O-Meter"

This is something that I recently came across as a tool to help children address things that worry them – it’s a tool used by social workers a lot when children unfortunately end up involved in the court system for a number of reasons, and it works like this…

There’s a bright, colourful, sliding scale on which children can place their worries.

Right at the bottom, you have the TINY WORRIES, then next up you have the LITTLE WORRIES, MEDIUM SIZED WORRIES, BIG WORRIES, and, at the top are the GIANT SCARY WORRIES.

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This is the “Worry-O-Meter” as used by Cafcass

Using this system, children can write down what is worrying them, and they can put them into boxes according to what is worrying them the most.

As soon as I saw this, I instantly thought that this was a brilliant idea for all children. As parents, our children’s wellbeing is at the forefront of our minds, and those of us who have experienced mental illness want our children to grow up knowing that it’s okay to seek help and to talk about how they feel. This tool can really help us to do that, and it can be used in any environment.

At the moment, it’s pretty much only used for children with social services involvement for any number of reasons, but this could be used at school in liaison with the family if either of them raise concerns about a child’s wellbeing, and you could even use it at home yourself if you think your child is worrying about something and not opening up to you.

It’s a very child friendly way of opening up a dialogue with your child, and we all know how difficult that can be sometimes! How many times have you asked your children how their day was to be met with either silence or shrugged shoulders? While that may well be a very normal part of being a child/pre-teen/teen, sometimes it might not be normal. There might be something lingering below the surface that just needs a gentle pull so that your little one feels like they can talk to you about it!

I hope that sharing this is going to help someone, somewhere – it’s definitely a technique I’ll be employing later on when my daughter grows up a bit more!

Let me know if you have any other ways of getting your children to open up to you!

Travelling with a toddler… How bad can it be?

When I’m out in the car with my daughter for a bit longer than she has the patience for being stuck in a car seat for, then I’ll get the high pitched screaming alarm or a frustrated hissy fit. She doesn’t hold on to her toys in the car for longer than five seconds before hurling them somewhere. With that in mind, she does pretty well to keep herself entertained most of the time on our car journeys, but it doesn’t stop me feeling a little anxious if I’m stuck out for longer than I intended, especially after I had a particularly bad car drive on the motorway… I will admit I haven’t really ventured away too far from home with Imogen and I do try to stick to some sort of daily routine. So when we decided to go abroad, I was left thinking how on earth we would cope with a toddler on a plane trip.

It seems silly now in hindsight of our holiday that I was a bit worried, but it’s because toddlers are so unpredictable, as you all know!

Perhaps you’re waiting to go away somewhere or you’re unsure of how you would cope… Please don’t let it put you off!

Think of when you need to leave for the airport and then add extra time! You just know that with kids, that something is going to happen… a last minute stinky nappy or a refusal to get ready. I never get out of the door on time anymore anyway, so despite feeling super prepared we didn’t leave home until later than our plan to.

On the motorway we were diverted off course due to road works and the sat nav took us through town after town. Watching the time ticking by, I’m not going to lie, I thought we weren’t going to be leaving the country at all, but in an attempt to keep my partner calm I kept saying just drive safe, it will be fine. At the end of the day, it’s not worth putting our lives at risk to catch a flight. Imogen slept the whole car journey and I’m glad we picked an early flight for this reason. At least she wasn’t adding to our stress.

Once we got to the airport there was no time to shop, we were racing through the airport and got to the boarding gate with 20 minutes to spare before it shut! We could finally sit and relax we thought. Imogen had other plans though, she wanted to run around. She most definitely did not want to sit nicely Mummy! So we had squealing and tantrums. At this point I noticed some panic stricken faces from people knowing that they were about to share a flight with a screaming toddler. This was one of the things I was a bit worried about but I thought ah yes, I’ll get her bottle ready for the flight. The milk will make everything better…

… Then it dawned on me that I hadn’t picked up the cartons of milk from the bag check. Eeek!

We were keeping Imogen as entertained and calm as possible, with my partner’s brilliant idea to download some Peppa Pig from Netflix onto his phone before we left home. This helped while the flight was delayed for almost an hour on the runway before take off.

Imogen was a bit squawky by this point on the flight and wanted to get off my lap to run around but the whole experience for her was new, exciting and strange! There was very little we could do, other than try to keep her occupied with the toys we’d packed for the flight, (one of them being a new toy that we thought she would be excited about), and once we could, we bought some snacks from the on flight drinks trolley. There were other babies and toddlers on the flight and they all did really well. Yes there was a bit of noise but if other people have a problem with that then I’m sure it’s nothing that a pair of earphones wouldn’t help with. Don’t let this worry you. Kids have as much right to travel as anyone else!

We found out once we reached our holiday destination that our relatives with a small child had to wait hours for a delayed flight the day before. I suddenly felt that our experience could have been a lot worse!

We had a lovely week with family and we were all feeling pretty sombre about the holiday ending.

When we were headed back to the airport we were stuck in traffic and I think the constant stopping and starting was what caused Imogen to be very sick all over herself. I was cleaning her up and once we got to the airport I was able to change her into fresh clothes. So I think in future I will remember to keep a spare change in our cabin bag.

We then had a forgotten Toot Toot dog set off the scanner for our hand luggage, which caused us a bit of delay but at least it gave the staff a few giggles! We again got to the boarding gate with very little time to spare… 10 minutes this time! But the strange thing is, we were so much more relaxed. When we were queueing to board the plane we were told our cabin bags would have to go into the hold! So on the flight back we didn’t have all the toys and entertainment that we had on the trip there. This time though we had the trusty milk and Imogen fell asleep for the whole flight home.

When we returned to the car, thinking all had gone pretty well and feeling eager to get home, we found our car had a flat tyre in the airport car park! We wouldn’t be home for another 5 hours! Instead of worrying though, we took it in our stride and managed to get it sorted, despite having no phone, (the battery died) and being somewhere unknown.

What I learned from our trip was that we coped. We could have spent ages planning for the trip and things still wouldn’t have gone to plan. What happened though wasn’t really so bad! I’m so glad we went abroad with Imogen and now I know I won’t worry so much about travelling again. Perhaps we’ll go further away next time. Maybe I will try doing longer car journeys or a train trip on my own? I feel far more confident for next time.