Friday, September 06, 2019

The Worry Time Technique for Anxious and Worried Kids

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Help your anxious kids by using a designated worry time at home. You can start using this simple technique today to help your child with their worries. You'll learn what worry time is as well as the four steps of the worry time technique.

All kids worry, yes, but some kids worry more than others.

Like my son does.

He's an anxious kid and I'm guessing - since you're here and all - that your child is too.

But how do you teach them to manage their anxiety? How do you not let their worries consume them and take over their day? How do you starting helping them?

One answer is the worry time technique.

This simple strategy is effective in helping anxious kids learn how to take control of their worries and I want to show you how it works. Oh and it doesn't just work great for kids. Many adults will find this technique helpful as well.

What is worry time? All about the worry time technique for kids

What is Worry Time?

Worry time is a technique that can be used to help anxious and worried kids postpone or set aside their worries until a designated time and place.

It's a technique that was first introduced to us by a psychologist we had been seeing and she encouraged us to try implementing it with our son. And we have found it useful.

This powerful technique teaches kids to be in control of their worries.


Well, by practicing setting aside their worries to another time of day, you're basically empowering kids by teaching them that they can worry about these things later.

You're not dismissing their worries by any means. You're simply just postponing them.

When you schedule worry time for your child, you're freeing them up to focus on other things or activities instead of being sucked into worrying their day away. Because, ultimately, they know that they'll have that dedicated worry time later to focus on the anxious thoughts they've had throughout the day.

How to Use the Worry Time Technique

There's four steps to doing this worry time technique:

  1. Decide on the worry time period
  2. Set aside your worries
  3. Use coping strategies and mindfulness activities to return to the present moment
  4. Use that designated worry time to discuss the worries
Let's break down these steps further, shall we?

Step #1: Decide on the Worry Time Period

The first thing you need to decide together with your child is what you feel is an acceptable amount of time to spend each day on worrying thoughts. It could be once a day, twice a day, or maybe you want to do it weekly. Only you and your child will know how much time to dedicate to worry time.

Then decide when and for how long the worry time period will be. Will it be first thing in the morning? Right after school? For 10 minutes? 20 minutes? That's up for you to decide!

Hint: don't schedule worry time right before bedtime. That's just asking for trouble! It will make it extremely difficult for your child to slow down, relax, and fall asleep. And I'm sure the last thing you want to do is impact your anxious child's sleep...We all know a good night's sleep can make an impact on your child's anxiety.

Next, you need to decide where worry time will take place. Similar to setting up a calm down corner for kids, you'll want the space to be comfortable and with minimal distractions. Make sure everyone else in the family is aware that it's worry time and not to disturb your child during this time. Or use these free printable worry time door hangers to let the rest of the family know it's worry time.

You'll also want to decide on who will be involved in the worry time period. If your child is quite young, then you'll likely want the worry time period to involve just you and your child. However, if your child is older, then they might prefer to do their worry time alone.

Step #2: Set Aside Your Worries

This step is all about noticing your worry, making note of it, and setting it aside. Or, as a parent, this step is about pointing our your child's worrying thoughts and reminding them that they'll need to wait until it's worry time to discuss it.

When you or your child becomes aware of the worry or anxious thought, they should write it down or make a mental note of it.

For example, you could use a worry box. Our son's psychologist helped him create an imaginary worry box in his mind that he could lock up those worries in until it was worry time. He even drew a very detailed picture of it, complete with half a dozen locks or so on it. Then when it was worry time, he could unlock that worry box and then proceed to work through the worries he set aside in there.

However, if you want to use more physical, tangible ideas, then you could try to:

  • Write down your worries on slips of paper and put them inside a real, physical worry box (you could even have your child decorate the box)
  • Carry around a journal and write down your worries as they come up
  • Fill in this worries worksheet throughout the day
  • Write down your worries on this printable worry jar (or create a physical jar to add slips of paper to)
It doesn't matter which method you end up using. The goal is just to help your child postpone their worries until later.

You can also teach your child a phrase like, "I will write this worry down and talk about it later during worry time."

Step #3: Use Coping Strategies & Mindfulness Activities to Return to the Present Moment

Once a worrying thought has entered your child's mind, it can be difficult for them to move away from the worry. That's why it's important to teach your child different coping skills and mindfulness strategies.

After your child has made note of their worry and set it aside, they may need help self-regulating and that's totally okay. They just had an anxious thought after all!

So this stage of the worry time technique is all about dong something to calm your child's body, cope with the anxiety, and refocus on the present moment. Here are some ideas to help your child with this step:

You may need to remind your child to actually use one of these coping strategies to help them refocus.

Step #4: Use that Designated Worry Time to Discuss the Worries

Now it's actually time to implement worry time and worry away!

The goal of this step is to let your child talk about their worries from the day. They might find it helpful to reference what's in their worry box, worry journal, or whatever strategy it is they picked for step two. All that matters is that they're thinking about and talking about any and all worries.

You might find that by the time worry time rolls around, your child is no longer bothered by a particular worry they had earlier in the day. And that's totally fine. They can simply discard those worries now.

The most important thing to note about this step is that you aren't allowed to spend more time than is specified for worry time. So if you agreed upon 10 minutes, then you must only spend 10 minutes. And once time is up, it's time to stop worrying and move on.

Then your child can empty their worry box, wipe their worry jar clean, crumple up the pieces of paper they wrote on, or similar as a way to help them finally let those worries go.

So Let's Recap that Worry Time Technique

Phew, that was a lot of information, wasn't it? So here's a quick recap of what you learned:

  1. Decide on the worry time period (e.g., 20 minutes every day before supper in your child's bedroom)
  2. Set aside your worries (e.g., lock them up into a worry box or write them down in a worry journal)
  3. Use coping strategies and mindfulness activities to return to the present moment (e.g., take some deep breaths and use a calm down jar to refocus on the here and now)
  4. Use that designated worry time to discuss the worries (e.g., talk about the worries you had and then let those worries go during that daily worry time before supper)
Now go forth and start implementing!

Other Anxiety Resources You'll Love

Anxiety Books for Parents

Free Anxiety Worksheets

Free Calm Down Cards for Kids

Worry time technique for kids - a simple way to help an anxious kid who worries