SPARKLERS / Managing emotions

Managing Worries

Helping tamariki understand and manage their worries.
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki understand how sharing our concerns with others can help us with managing worries.

He aha ai? – Why we love it

Feeling anxious and worrying are normal responses to challenging situations or times. These emotions can help us stay safe and get things done, but anxiety can affect our ability to feel good and function well.

We know worrying and anxiety are issues for many young people and this activity, along with the recommended reading, is about helping students to manage worries, keep them in perspective and reach out if their anxious thoughts start to feel overwhelming.


We all get stressed and worried sometimes. To start the kōrero, talk about a couple of times you’ve been worried. Then ask:

  • How do we know we’re worried? What does it feel like in our body?
    Sick, overwhelmed, sore tummy, head aches, sweaty hands or armpits, hard to talk, heart beating fast.
  • What can we do to help worries go away?
    Talk to someone, do something to fix it or feel good. Take deep breaths.
  • What shouldn’t we do? What makes it worse?
    Keeping it bottled up, pretending it will go away, thinking scary things, not telling anyone, or talking to people who also tend to worry.

Hei mahi - What to do

For this activity, you will need a bottle of fizzy water and an outdoor space.

Remind students that if we bottle up a big worry or hold on to lots of little ones, the pressure can really build up.

Then ask tamariki to form a circle outside, and to think of the sorts of things they might worry about.

  1. What worries us? Take turns saying a worry, then shaking the bottle and passing it on. Younger tamariki may need help holding and shaking the bottle. As you do this, make the connection between what’s going on in the bottle and what happens when worries bubble up and we don’t do anything about them… the pressure builds.
  2. What helps? Take turns sharing a solution, and releasing the pressure just a little, until the bottle gets back to you.
    - If the bottle explodes: Explain that this is what can happen if worries are kept ‘bottled up’. They can feel out of control! What can we do when worries bubble over? Help each other out.
    - If the bottle doesn’t explode and the fizz runs out, let tamariki, shake it again, then release a little of the pressure as they say a solution.

When you regroup ask them to explain what the experiment demonstrated in relation to worries. What might we do rather than let our worries build up? Share them! Not let them build up. Work together. Sometimes even laugh at them. Taking action can help the pressure lift.

Ask them to think of two people they could share their worries with (you could be one of them). As homework, they could tell these people that they’ll come to them when worries arise and start to build up.

What next?

Your class may have enjoyed the 'experiment' aspect of this activity. Two other great experiments which are useful to kōrero about worries include:

It's also a great way to kōrero about other emotions too - annoyance, if left, can bubble away inside of us and lead to frustration, anger and rage...! You might like to use different colours (food colouring or mentos) to identify and kōrero about different types of emotions!

Continue the kōrero about worries as a class by reading some of these great books:

  • The Rising Tide, by Sarina Dickson (best for Year 4 and up). Available here - free as an e-book and audio book alongside lesson plans.
  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (especially good for younger tamariki who find it hard to be away from their parents)
  • Aroha's Way by Craig Phillips (best for Year 3 and up)
  • Outsmarting Worries by Dawn Huebner (best for Year 5 and up) - includes excellent manageable strategies.

If you've got tamariki in your class with big worries we'd also suggest:

Ngā mihi

This activity was extended by a cool team of University of Canterbury students - Grace, Rebecca, Emily, Charlotte, Jenna and Sarah, as part of their HLED122 paper.

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