How To Make A Worry Box: A Guide For Parents
What is a worry box? A worry box is a physical tool designed to support kids in managing their concerns. It is a physical place where children can store their anxious thoughts. By leaving them behind in a symbolic way, children are encouraged to deal with their worries and concerns. This means awareness, acknowledgment and addressing them healthily and productively. No worry is too big or too small.
This process is also known as Emotional Containment – which is one of the main areas of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT.) The main goal of containment is for the individual to feel safe and protected. Everyone can benefit from exploring their worries and making positive steps toward change – but this is super helpful for children who experience social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs. Worries can seem even more intense for kids with anxiety challenges or Autism Spectrum. Therefore, emotional regulation can be extra challenging, making it difficult for them to get to the bottom of a worry and then let go of that feeling.
It is also an activity to encourage connecting with your kids when building and visiting their worry boxes. It doesn’t have to be a box! Try The Very Hungry Worry Monster – maybe your child could create a worry jar, drawer or suitcase!
How do worry boxes help kids?
For younger children, this enables them to connect thoughts to the physical activity of getting them down on paper, so they don’t need to carry them around anymore. This makes them feel safe and can prevent getting overwhelmed by worry. It also encourages comprehension of their thoughts being internal, not things that happen in real life. For older children, this expands to promote self-management, emotional resilience and refine coping skills. It can act as a mindfulness tool, as well, to reflect on previous worries and support regulation.
Worry boxes encourage emotional relief; the feeling of letting the monster eat worries is positive and ‘freeing’ in the moment. What happens when the worry remains, and your child asks, “But my monster has eaten my worries, why do I still have them?” though?
What do you do if the worry box doesn’t always work?
There are various approaches to managing those stubborn worries that don’t get eaten straight away. If your child is still anxious and does not understand why the box/monster hasn’t worked, this may be an opportunity to discuss what else you can do together to help that monster eat the worries up.
Discuss the worries with your child. Anxious feelings about some things are very normal, and we all experience that at times. Explain that putting our worries into a box (or monster) will only help to let go of it. Set aside time to revisit the worries and talk them through one-by-one.
How is it feeling now? What has changed in between? What made them feel better about the worry?
Encourage your child to keep engaging with coping skills, and remind them that they are doing great!
Grown-ups can benefit from having a worry box too! Having a pack of sticky notes and a worry jar next to your workspace can work wonders for coping with the little stressors that build up.