One of the most useful tools you can give your children is a coping mechanism for dealing with overwhelming worry. Whether your child is prone to this or not, this is an important skill, as excessive worry affects almost all of us at some point in our lives. As an adult I have learned, at times, to give myself permission to put aside my worries for a while to give me time to recharge emotionally. This in itself contributes to resolving the worry.
Children need something more concrete. After you’ve explained to them that they need and deserve a break from their worries (everyone does), you can suggest the following:
– Relaxation exercises (I will expand on these soon in future blogs)
– Doing something mindless that requires focus but not thinking. For example, cleaning their room, sorting your kitchen cupboard 🙂
– The Worry Waiting Room – This is an imaginary room in which children (and adults) can leave their worries temporarily. Have your child close their eyes, slow their breathing and when they are ready ask them to imagine a room. Spend some time with them creating this room with lots of details. Couches, TV, games, books etc can be placed here. It’s important that your child visualize this room as belonging to them. This is a space where they can place their worries in order to step back from them. The worries can take any form they like, such as boxes, heavy weights or any other way that your child imagines them. To help activate their imagination, you can tell them to look for their worries in the room in order to discover their form. Children have less trouble engaging their imaginations than we do!
Once they have stacked their worries somewhere in this room, you can teach them that they can return whenever they want to, take out one worry at a time, and deal with it. Tell them to let their other worries know that they will come back for them and that this room will keep them safe while they wait. You can help your child prioritize their worries by writing them down and then rating each one on a 1 – 10 scale.
The wonderful thing about a Worry Waiting Room is its ability to install a sense of control and sanity when it is most needed. Your child can be in control of their worries and when to deal with them. They have the capacity to manage them in whatever way they want, and the Worry Waiting Room will always be there for them when they need it.