It is common for a child to have worries after a loss. In the case of a parent’s death, the child may be concerned about the health of the surviving parent or guardian. Your child may worry about doing well in school and about money issues. In the case of a divorce, the child may worry about the new schedule and if their mom and dad will get back together again.
One technique to deal with anxiety is to make a worry box. Find a shoe box or purchase a small wooden box at a craft store. Your child can paint the box and decorate it with stickers and glitter. Place blank pieces of paper beside the box and explain to your child that he or she can write down a worry and place it in the box. The box will now have the worries and the child should feel free of the worries. Children often internalize their feelings, so this is a helpful activity. Keep the box in a place that is accessible to the child.
This is a strategy that the entire family can benefit from using. We use this activity in our support group with our children. They always enjoy creating their own boxes. Each child has an opportunity to share what they wrote, but only if they are ready to share. I have found that this activity gives children a way to control their worries.
I like to read a children’s book about worrying before creating the worry boxes. Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook addresses the problem of anxiety and offers children tools to deal with anxiety. Worrying can cause a child to feel helpless. This book will help children to feel more in control over their anxiety.
For a tip to the parent or guardian, please do not discuss money concerns around your child. The added stress of money issues can lead to increased anxiety.
If your child’s worrying is interfering with daily life activities (school/ friendships/ eating/ sleeping) then you should talk to your pediatrician. Your pediatrician might need to refer you to a child therapist.