The Worry Jar Technique: Help Your Child Overcome Worries and Anxiety

Nervous-ChildIt may seem like your child worries a lot of the time and about everything. Children can worry about all sorts of things, such as safety issues, tests and school work, friends, family, health, the planet, and more. They may seek reassurance and ask you questions repeatedly about their worries. By asking you about their worry, your child may feel better for a short while, but then some time later, you may notice that your child asks you again about the same worry. This tells you that your child’s worry did not go away (as you had thought or had hoped). Click here for more information on children’s anxiety.

In a previous post called Help for the Anxious Child, Anxious Teen, and Anxious Parent, I introduced breathing techniques as a good foundation for the toolkit to cope with anxiety and stress. I also presented in another post about the “What If” Game the idea of distancing yourself and gaining a new perspective over worries by recognizing the ‘game’ the mind is playing and calling it like it is. Learning about how the brain works and how to regulate one’s emotions through mindfulness practices will further help you and your child manage big feelings. You can read more about it in My Brain Team: What To Do When Emotions Run High.

My Brain Team: What To Do When Emotions Run High

Liv is a fun and creative 10-year old girl who explains how the brain works through the different imaginary characters in her brain team. We learn how the ‘amygdala feelers’ serve to protect us from danger while the ‘prefrontal cortex thinkers’ help us to calm down, solve problems, and relate to others.

In this post, I will share with you about the worry jar, which is one of my favourite techniques to help an anxious child contain their worries.

Let’s together build on the toolkit to overcome anxiety and worries that we have started. In my clinical work, I have found that being creative and making the strategies concrete and come to life improves their effectiveness and usefulness, especially with young children. I encourage you to do the same in helping your child.

The Worry Jar

A Worry Jar is a place for your child to put their worries so that they do not need to keep thinking about them. It is like storing them or putting them away for safe keeping. Just knowing that their worries are contained in the jar can free your child from having to replay them in their minds.

worry-jar

Create a worry jar with your child. Find a real glass or plastic jar. Have your child decorate it (which is the really fun part) and then label it with a name (e.g., ‘Johnny’s Worry Jar’ or ‘My Worry Jar’). Once the jar is finished, help your child write down all his or her worries in a list on paper. You and your child can then cut each worry into its own strip of paper. Fold each worry and put it in the jar. Once all the worries are inside, have your child close the jar.

By the way, if you do not have any jars handy around your house, I have found a few options that you may be interested in considering.

ImageProductRatingsPrice
Ball Regular Mouth 32-Ounces Mason Jar
Ball Regular Mouth 32-Ounces Mason Jar

Ball Regular Mouth 32-Ounces Mason Jar

  • 2-Regular mouth glass preserving mason jars. 2-Regular mouth lids. 2-Regular mouth bands.
  • These jars are BPA-free. Dishwasher Safe and Reusable
9.7
Check Price
3 Pack Glass Storage Vintage Glass Canisters
3 Pack Glass Storage Jars Vintage Glass Canisters

3 Pack Glass Storage Jars Vintage Glass Canisters

  • Pack of 3 square airtight glass jars with bamboo lid, 800ml / 27 OZ in capacity. Perfect size for everyday home use.
9.5
Check Price
Ball Jar Rose Vintage
Ball Jar Rose Vintage Regular Mouth Pint Canning Jars

Ball Jar Rose Vintage Regular Mouth Pint Canning Jars

  • Limited-edition, versatile Ball Mason jars are ideal storage jars, crafting jars, and more
  • Rose-colored glass jars make beautiful vintage decor anywhere in the home
9.1
Check Price
1 Gallon Glass Jar Wide Mouth
1 Gallon Glass Jar Wide Mouth with Airtight Foam Lined Plastic Lid

1 Gallon Glass Jar Wide Mouth with Airtight Foam Lined Plastic Lid

  • BPA free approved caps are easy to twist on
  • 1 gallon glass jars are great for many uses.
8.8
Check Price
Jars with Airtight Clamp Lids
Jars with Airtight Clamp Lids, 3 Pack

Jars with Airtight Clamp Lids, 3 Pack

  • Sturdy and Clear Jars; made of premium BPA free durable glass.
  • The Lids of these glass containers are airtight design, with rubber gasket clamp lids.
8.6
Check Price
Glass Jar Canister Airtight Storage
Glass Jars Canister Airtight Storage

Glass Jars Canister Airtight Storage

  • The clear food storage container is made of high borosilicate glass with bamboo lid.
  • The airtight glass canisters adopts the design concept of flower shape, exquisite and beautiful.
8.2
Check Price
Glass Jar with Airtight Cork
3 Pack Glass Jar with Cork Lid

3 Pack Glass Jar with Cork Lid

  • Clear glass canisters are great for storing and preserving a variety of ingredients.
  • Sealing with cork round ball.
8
Check Price
Mlopyuti Glass Storage Jars
Mlopyuti Glass Storage Jars

Mlopyuti Glass Storage Jars

  • This decorative cookie jar is made of high-borosilicate glass, bamboo wood and is BPA free.
  • The crystal Clear glass Jar allows you to see what is inside.
7.7
Check Price

Schedule Worry Time

The next step is to schedule “Worry Time”. Worry time is a set time of day when your child has permission and is encouraged to worry as much as he or she wants. This specific time serves as another way to contain the worries. The key is to remember that when worry time is over, you and your child know that the worrying must end for the day.

Choose 10-15 minutes a day after school or after supper (but not right before bed) and write down when worry time is on the worry jar (e.g., 4 PM to 4:15 PM). You may want to set a timer or alarm to notify your child that worry time has begun. Once worry time starts, your child can open the worry jar, look inside, and proceed to worry all he or she wants. Your child can choose to review all the worries or focus on one or two each day. Depending on the child and your child’s developmental age, worry time can be spent alone or with you. To end worry time, have a timer or alarm sound to indicate that worry time is over for the day. Your child should close the jar to put his or her worries away.

Of course, it is normal for worries to come up at other times during the day. After all, your child may be an expert worrier (like so many of us). If a worry appears at another time, you or your child can write it down and “save the worry” for worry time. That is, remind your child that it is not the right time to worry and he or she can think about the worry at the next worry time.

By using the worry jar, at some point your child will likely tell you that he or she is no longer worrying about something he or she had previously put in the jar. This is the exciting part for your child as this discovery represents success at overcoming a worry! Celebrate these moments together and make a big deal out of it. Have your child remove the worry and rip it up.

Similarly, you may also notice that your child decides to skip worry time some days as he or she feels they don’t need it. This is another sign of success to be reinforced and recognized!

What do you think about this tool? In my experience, anxious kids really get into this technique and find it very helpful. Will you try it? Please let me know how it goes.

I welcome your feedback, questions, and comments!

Best wishes,
Dr. Stephanie

P.S. I recently wrote the book My Brain Team: What To Do When Emotions Run High with an introduction to mindfulness practices for children ages 6 and older, which can be very helpful for managing anxiety and worries. I am very proud of this work and am hopeful that you will benefit from reading it. For more information, read this post.

My Brain Team: What To Do When Emotions Run High

P.P.S. Another resource worth checking out is Sam’s Big Secret. I wrote this book to help teach children cognitive-behavioural skills to cope with fears and phobias. You can read this post to learn more about my favourite little turtle who is afraid of water and gradually overcomes his fear!

Sam's Big Secret: Coping With Fear

P.P.P.S. Sometime ago I wrote the foreword and collaborated with author Elaheh Bos on A Spot of Blue, a story for young children about anxiety, in which this coping technique and others are shared. You may want to take a look!

A spot of blue

Post last updated May 25th 2021.

Image at top courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2 thoughts on “The Worry Jar Technique: Help Your Child Overcome Worries and Anxiety”

  1. Thanks for this brilliant advice! I tried it with my 6 yr son and he liked the idea. I also told a friend if mine about it to try for herself!

    Reply

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