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Worry Bags

Anxiety is a horrible thing. It is all consuming, it takes over your body, your mind and stops you from doing things you want to do. People think that kids don't have anxiety. "What have kids got to worry about?" The answer is plenty. Being a kid is pretty stressful. You have to negotiate the social pressures of kids in the playground, trying to concentrate and sit still in class, dealing with siblings and the pressures of home. But on top of this, kids with Anxiety take on everyone else's worries too. They will worry about things that as adults may seem ridiculous but the worry is very real to the child. I have had clients that worried about their mother being struck by lightening, that their parent's work will be robbed, that there will be a sink hole in their backyard. All of these things sound pretty irrational, but anxiety isn't rational.

When a child has Anxiety, all of their worries can seem overwhelming. The best way I have found to deal with it is one at a time. A mountain of worries can be reduced if we examine each one and decide what to do with them. Usually these worries can be divided into groups connected with significant people in the child's life.

1. Start by writing down as many worries as you can think of. They can be big, small or things that sound completely outrageous. It doesn't matter, if they have been worrying about it, write it down. This serves two purposes. One, so you can see what they worry about and two sometimes just writing down a worry helps the child to externalise it and see that it isn't something they need to worry about.

2. Make your worry bags. You can be as creative as you like. You can use beautiful drawstring bags, paper bags or just envelopes. It really doesn't matter. As long as you have a bag for each of the people the worries belong to. So one for mum, dad, siblings, teacher etc. I have even made a bag for God because really, sink holes, cyclones, floods are His worries.

3. Once you have your worry bags ready, cut out all the worries and talk about who's bag they should go into.

4. Put each worry in the appropriate bag. Sometimes you need to talk this through as they have become pretty attached to these worries. So take the "mum might not pick me up from school" worry. They still might want to keep this one because it is about them. But as to you talk about how mum is the parent, it is her job to pick you up and if she can't then it is her job to organise something else. This is not the child's worry.

5. Now have a look in the child's bag. There is usually only a small number of worries left for the child. This makes the worries a lot more manageable. You can them problem-solve with the child with what they can do for their worries. Remind them that they will have to keep putting worries back in other people's bags as they come up because worries like to sneak back into your bag.

I have found this technique to be really effective. You can do it at home whenever you feel the worries are building up. There is a wonderful book that compliments this technique.

Reading this book regularly will help reinforce what you have shown your child. Also sometimes just talking about worries and letting other people know is enough for them to shrink or disappear.

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