Since the beginning of 2020, we have been living in a world of the unknown...not fully knowing when kids will go back to in-person school, when we will be allowed indoors without masks, when kids can see their friends in-person, again, etc. I’ve seen a lot of kids feeling frustrated about all the restrictions in place and increased anxiety about what other curveballs they might have to experience. Anxiety can really take over kids’ lives with the constant worries they might have throughout their day, especially with all the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought into our daily lives. Worrying can lead to missing out on playing with other kids, having difficulties at school, and not completing daily living activities like eating and sleeping. As adults, we often learn to compartmentalize these worries into different parts of our brains, like file cabinets or write things down to follow up later. For kids, it can be helpful sometimes to make a real, tangible place for them to store their worries and thoughts. Creating a worry box can be helpful for your kiddo.
What do you need?
A small box with a lid or flap
Supplies to decorate the box (e.g., markers, construction paper, stickers, etc.)
Pieces of paper- small enough to fit inside the box
How to explain to your child?
Sometimes worries and thoughts enter our minds when we aren’t ready to confront or talk about them, like when we’re trying to sleep or finish schoolwork. When a worry enters their mind, have them write or draw it down on a piece of paper and put it in the worry box.
Talk about a scheduled time during their day (or every other day, or every week) where you two will discuss some of these worries for a specific amount of time, like 15-30 minutes.
Things to think about during these talks:
Validate their emotions- some of their worries or thoughts could be reasonable, real-life worries and some might be due to their imagination; either way, let them know they are being heard.
Help them determine if their worry is a real problem or due to their imagination.
Real-life problems (e.g., a test coming up, forgetting to complete an assignment, conflict with a friend or sibling, etc.) could be causing them to feel intense worry throughout their day. Even if it was a temporary worry, it could still be helpful to explore problem-solving strategies in case the worry or situation arises, again.
Worries due to their imagination may not exist or might happen in the future. Helping them realize the likelihood of something happening can be a good strategy to challenge their anxious thoughts.
Are any of their worries within their control? – see In My Control vs. Out of My Control Avocado example to help them figure this out.
The worry box is not to replace working on self-advocating skills. If there is a problem in your child’s life that needs them to act on it right away, asking for help might be the next step. Talk about who they could get help from, and practice what they could say.
The worry box can be a helpful tool for many kids and families; however, if you notice your child worrying about things most days of the week for a prolonged period of time (months), actively avoiding activities they used to enjoy and participate in, or appear too stressed or anxious to complete daily activities, it could be beneficial to get professional help for them to work on identifying triggers and coping strategies to manage these emotions.
Allie can be reached at CORT@I-can.center.