The current world situation has created an imbalance in the family dynamics. This is affecting our motivation, focus, and performance, but most importantly, it is increasing our stress and anxiety levels. The uncertainty about what is going to happen in the near future is causing emotional discomfort not just to parents but also to our children.
However, even though these are challenging times, there could be an opportunity to provide your children with coping skills to help them throughout their lives. Here we explain to you a practical technique called the worry time, that will help you and your children to ease their worries about the current situation.
Worry time is a simple and effective technique to help your children to take control of their anxiety and worries. This technique focuses on teaching your child how to manage themselves to set aside their worries until a designated moment. Importantly, with this technique, you are not dismissing their worries, but empowering your child to learn how to postpone them.
To make this technique effective, first, you need to agree in a worry time and place. Second, your child needs to learn coping strategies to focus on other things rather than being worrying at that moment. Finally, discuss the worries at the designated worry time.
1. Define a ‘worry time’ to talk about your child’s worries
The ‘worry time’ is a predefined time of the day when you and your child seat together to talk about their worries. Choose a specific time that suits you, for example, 10 to 15 minutes after lunch. Importantly, don’t set worry time before going to bed or before their nap time. Your child should be able to do other activities after worry time that will allow them to focus on something else. It is important to remember that when worry time is over, you and your child must end worrying for the day. As it is normal for worries to come up during a different time, your child needs to learn coping techniques.
2. Coping techniques – The worry jar and the snake breathing
In order to use worry time effectively, your child needs to learn coping techniques to come back to the present moment and don’t get distracted with their worries when is not worry time. A useful technique is to create a worry jar. Whenever your child is worried about something, you or your
child write the worries down and put them on the jar to be discussed later. Remind your child that it is not time to worry yet but that you will talk about it at worry time.
After writing their worries down, it is normal if your child still needs to self-regulate and control their physical symptoms. They need to learn how to calm down their body, cope with their feelings, and focus on the present moment. An example of a self-regulation technique is the snake breathing technique for children. This technique consists of breath in, hold their breath for 3 to 5 seconds and then make a hissing sound as they breath out. It is important to explain to your child that feeling worried is normal, they need to accept their feelings first, and then, calm down whit
this technique. Try to make it fun and engaging!
3. Discuss the worries, get the facts; challenge your child’s thoughts
As worry time is coming, get prepared for it. Before your conversation, look on the worries your child has been putting in the jar to have an idea about their worries. Search for some answers if needed. Facts can help reduce stress and anxiety, but it is easy to get overwhelmed. A good strategy to search for specific data is to choose one or two sources of information and stick to them. Choose well respected and trusted resources. For instance, to look for information about the COVID-19 you could use the World Health Organisation website or the information provided by the Australian Government Department of Health.
When worry time arrives, use facts to challenge your child’s worries. As an example, if your 9-year-old child is afraid of getting sick because of COVID-19, put things on perspective, explain them the facts around the percentage of people that are actually getting sick, frame that to their age, and remind them that’s the reason why we are staying at home, to protect everyone and stop the virus.
Discuss the worries that your child is putting inside the jar every day. After the discussion, leave the worries in the jar again and check if the next day your child is still worrying on them.
Eventually, over time there will be worries on the jar that your child is not worried about them anymore. Whenever that happens, you should celebrate it as a victory! Similarly, there will be some days when your child will want to skip their worry time as he or she feels they don’t need it.
This is also a sign of success to celebrate.
Encourage your child to continue using these techniques and celebrate your successes!
At ParentalEQ we know these are challenging times. That’s why we provide you with the best psychological advice for you and your children.
We are ParentalEQ – a parenting platform to raise emotionally strong kids. To learn more, download our app in the App Store or Google Play here.