“Worry time” is a method to help children (and adults!) who have a tendency to worry at night (before bed and/or during the night). The goal of this exercise is to create time earlier in the day when you and your child can proactively anticipate and address the worrisome thoughts which take over during the night when the brain is less rational. It takes a few sessions of practice for this technique to work.
- Choose a time every day for your child to tell you about their worries (older children can choose to do the exercise alone if desired). The exercise should take 5-30 minutes depending on the age of the child and the number of worries. “Worry time” should not be done within 1 hour of bedtime and should not be done in the child’s bedroom. The ideal time is often right after dinner or in the morning if there is adequate time before school.
- Sit down together in a quiet place and ask the child to “worry as much as possible”. They can write down their worries in the chart below, or tell you about their worries as you write them down. If you are the scribe, your job is just to listen without offering advice.
- Once they are done listing their worries, look at the list together and ask them to complete each column. Make them complete the chart and resist the temptation to offer solutions. They can simply write down “I don’t know” and try again tomorrow. If they are really struggling, you can tell them how you might handle a similar situation, but it is important for them to be the one to draft the final solution.
- When they are finished with the exercise, fold the worry list in half and place it in a drawer away from the bedroom (sometimes putting it in a drawer/closet in the parent’s bedroom or office works well).
- When your child appears worried at other times of the day or at bedtime, remind them that they can address the worries tomorrow at worry time.
- Continue to practice “worry time” daily until the child no longer expresses worries. Even if they have no active worries, continue to set aside that time of day to spend together and let them choose an alternative activity.