The Secret about overly anxious children (Hint: It’s not about letting them get everything out)

The Secret about overly anxious children (Hint: It’s not about letting them get everything out)

In my blog post 3 Steps to Get Your Child to Talk About Difficult Things, we looked at ways to help your child express himself when he doesn‘t like to talk much. What about a child who talks too much? Perhaps this is a child who worries a lot and needs constant reassurance and a way to express his worries? He will calculate all the different possibilities of something going wrong and always ask “but what if…”

In the book What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner she introduces a great technique she calls “worry time.”

Worry Time

  • She suggests that parents choose with the child a certain time each day for worry time, which should be about 15 minutes.
  • During that time you sit with your child and listen to whatever worries he has. There should be no interruptions. No Computer. No Phones. No little siblings wanting to play, needing help, or interrupting.

There is just one very important rule about worry time:

  • If a worry bothers the child any other time of the day, he is not allowed to spend time thinking about it or talking about it until worry time.
  • If a worry pops into his mind and it’s not worry time, he should imagine a strong box. He can close his eyes and picture the box in his mind. Make sure it has a cover and a strong lock. Then he can imagine himself putting his worry in the box and locking it up (alternatively you can create a box together and have him write worry notes and when a worry thought pops into his mind, he can put it physically into the box until worry time).
  • He can remind himself that he can think about the worry again during worry time but for now these worries are to be left in the box and he should simply walk away and get busy with something else.

For your part, you will stop answering your child’s worry questions and stop reassuring him about worries unless it’s worry time.

It might feel hard for you or your child to wait and it may even seem mean, but it really is for the best because talking about worries and answering worry questions over and over again whenever they come up will actually make worries grow like crazy!

When your child learns to put his worries away for a while something interesting happens.

  • At first he’ll find it hard to wait for worry time because he has so many worries to talk about
  • After a while he’ll find that by the time he gets to worry time some of them will have gone away on their own. His box won’t be quite as full and some silly worries will disappear.
  • Worry time will change a little as there are fewer small worries to talk about and he might talk about the bigger things that are on his mind.
  • Finally, he’ll find that there aren’t big problems to deal with every day, so you can use your worry time with him to just chat together.

Keep spending the 15 minutes together; you might decide to call it something else, like talk time.

This technique might take time to get used to and implement, but as much as it’s important to broaden and open up communication with a child that doesn’t talk, it is important to contain communication with a child that talks too much.

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