What Is A Worry Box?
A worry box is a cognitive-behavioral therapeutic approach to addressing excessive worry and anxiety in children. This modality aims to take the worry and anxiety off of the child, and places it onto a tangible item such as a box.
A box (typically, an empty Kleenex box is great for this exercise!)
Art supplies (pending the interests of the child)
How it works
Pending the interest/s of the child, this activity begins with the child decorating the box. This helps the child to feel some sort of ownership over the activity as well as empowerment in dictating the physical appearance of the worry box. Some children feel more comfortable talking and expressing difficult or uncomfortable feelings while either moving their body or by being distracted by something else. Therefore, this initial phase of the project serves as a beneficial time for the parent/therapist and child to discuss, explore, and process concepts and ideas relating to the project.
Next, ‘worries’ that the child is experiencing are written down onto strips of paper which are then folded and added to the worry box. Depending on the child’s abilities and age, adult assistance in writing down worries may be required. If this is the case, it is helpful to also allow the child to draw a picture of whatever is being written down. This allows the child to have that connection and ownership over the ‘worry.’
Every day (or however often is deemed appropriate), an adult and child can check in with each other through the use of the worry box. For example, begin by having the child take out one strip of paper at a time. The strips of paper with worries written on them serve as excellent visuals to spur conversation and processing. Through discussion, the child will indicate whether or not that particular worry is still causing them anxiety. If that is the case, the child can fold the paper back up and place it back into the box. If the child feels as though this is not something that is a worry anymore, the child and adult can discuss a ritual for disposing of the paper. For example, maybe the child would like to rip it into several pieces and throw it away. Other children may want to stomp on the paper and then throw it away. This is also an excellent place in the project for the child to exert some independence and control in deciding the mode of disposal.
Similarly, after the child and adult have processed through each worry, the adult can ask the child if there are any other worries that should be added to the box. Providing the child time and space to think is important.