If anxious thoughts are overwhelming your child, they may wish to create a worry box.
When your child is feeling calm, you can either work on this project together or, if they are older, they may prefer to do it themselves.
A worry box can be any container where children “post” their anxious thoughts. Children often find this really calming because it is a physical way of dealing with their worries so they are not having to store them just in their heads.
When we do something practical with our thoughts, we are able to see that they are just thoughts. Our thoughts are not facts, and they do not need to define us.
Putting aside 10 minutes after school to write thoughts down and try to find solutions can be empowering and helps your child to feel more in control of the situation. Also, this gives your child an opportunity to tell you what’s worrying them. Young children often feel relief when a grown up understands their worries.
The thought can then be posted during their “worry time”, freeing up headspace for the rest of their day.
Talking To Your Child About Their Worry Box
It is important to let your child know that we all worry sometimes, it is completely natural, but when our heads get too full of worries it can be difficult to do or think about anything else. Therefore, by making the worry box together, you are giving your child a special place to store their worries safely, so they don’t need have them in their heads all day.
Explain that there is no worry too big or too small to go in the worry box and they can decorate it any way they choose!
Let them know that making a worry box will help them feel more in control of their thoughts and feelings, and gives them special time to talk with you.
Let your child know you will have the opportunity to discuss solutions together each time a worry is acknowledged and written down. If a solution can not be found there and then, the worry will get posted in the box.
Once a week, you will review the worries together. Sometimes the worry will be gone and your child gets to understand that not all worries come true ie if they were having a sleepover and the event has now successfully passed. Other times, you may be able to come up with a solution to the old worry if you have new information.
If a solution can not be found, it will be reposted into the worry box and safely stored there till next week, when it will be reviewed again.
What you'll need
- a small box or container, ie old tissue box or shoe box, or even a jar
- things to wrap the box with ie wrapping paper, tissue paper, old magazines
- things to decorate the box with, ie paint, stickers, glitter, pipecleaners
- glue, tape, scissors
- a small pad of paper to write worries on
- a pen
Making The Worry Box
- Choose a box!
- Use scissors to cut a slot in the top, big enough to post their worries on a piece of paper
- Paint the box, or wrap it in paper
- Decorate it
- Label the container ie Toms Worry Box
- Agree where to store the box, preferably not in their bedroom. Ideally in a cupboard so it is out of sight until worry time.
- Ensure there is a pen and plenty of paper beside the box, for worries to be written down and posted.
Using The Worry Box
Try and come up with a consistent time each day that will be worry time. After school is often a good time as your child can then relax for the rest of the evening.
Once they’ve told you about a worry encourage them to write it down on the paper, or you can write it for them if they are very young, but try to use their own words.
Can you think of any strategies or solutions together for the worry? If they believe the worry still persists, get them to fold the paper in half and post it in the box immediately. Move onto the next worry and do the same.
Remind them that once their worry is in the box it can stay in there for as long as they want.
Once they have finished putting all their worries in the box, they can take it back to its safe place, knowing they don’t have to think about them now.
Once a week, they can take their worries out of the box and talk about them some more. Has the worry passed? If it stops being a worry, they can tear it up and throw it away. This reinforces the feeling of it ending, and enables them to know they can take control of their worries.
If the worry persists, can they think of a new strategy or solution? Has it changed in any way? They can then rip up the old worry and write a new one, or post the ongoing worry back into the box again.
The box can then be placed back in its safe place.