Caring for our kids is every parent’s priority and that includes all aspects of their health, including their mental health. Today for our 31 Days of Activities series we have a lovely activity to help you do just that thanks to Joanna at My Anxious Life. Today, Joanna teaches us how to make a worry jar to help our kids open up about their emotions.
It’s been such a difficult couple of years for our children (well, for all of us!) The pandemic has seen kids experience loss; disruption, as they were moved in and out of school; they’ve missed out on nativities, trips and playdates – my eldest is in Year 2 and I’ve never even seen a sports day!
We’re often prone to saying how resilient kids are – and in a lot of ways, it’s true, they are – but there’s no denying the scary statistics we’ve seen when it comes to children’s mental health. A YouGov survey in 2020, found that: one in three UK children between five and 18 years old (36%) told parents that they were lonely when the government shut schools; almost a third of parents (32%) noticed negative changes in their children’s behaviour; and over one in five (22%) children were concerned a family member or close friend could die from catching COVID – and the stats have only gotten worse, particularly in light of the recent tragic invasion of Ukraine.
These are big, scary things for little minds to deal with.
And as parents, as much as we try our best to help our children, often we don’t have the right tools to communicate with them in quite the right way. They don’t have the vocabulary or the emotional intelligence that we, as adults, do and it’s easy to forget that.
So why not try this really easy craft for kids, make your own worry jar, designed to help children open up, describe their worry and get it out of their heads. This can help them to better understand their worries, feel less overwhelmed by them and help them to develop healthy coping mechanisms which can be expanded upon and supported with other techniques, as they get older, such as journaling or mindfulness.
It’s also a great way for you, as a parent, to understand how your child is feeling and discuss it on their terms, and in their words. And since it’s ‘disguised’ as a craft, you should have no problems in encouraging your child to have a go!
What you need:
- Empty coffee or jam jar, washed thoroughly,
- Craft paper or card, or even scrap wrapping paper,
- Coloured pens or pencils,
- Your child’s choice of decorations – it could be glitter, sequins, ribbon, mini pom poms… anything they have lurking in the craft box,
- Glue stick / tape, and,
What to do:
- Cut a piece of coloured card or paper to make a label for your worry jar. It can be any shape your child chooses, mine went for a large rectangle.
Use coloured pens or pencils to write the name of the worry jar. If you’re doing this activity with more than one child, they might like to include their name, eg ‘Isla’s worry jar’ and ‘Noah’s worry jar,’ to make sure their worries stay separate and private. Because this is a child led activity, designed to help them manage anything that might be bothering them, you might find that your little one doesn’t want to use the word ‘worry.’ They could choose to make a ‘bad dream’ jar if they’re suffering with nightmares or even an ‘angry’ jar, if they’re struggling with big emotions. Whatever they choose will help to give you an insight into how they’re feeling.
Now the fun part, decorations! Your child can use any craft items they have lying around the house to decorate the label, the jar itself – or both!
Once your child has finished their jar, they can start thinking about their worries. Each one is written on a piece of scrap paper and folded up, so no one else can see it. Tell them that, when they place those little notes into their jar, they are taking those worries out of their heads and storing them somewhere else. Those worries no longer need to live in their head and cause them sadness or fear. They can choose to go back and look at them, but they can do that as and when they feel ready. Your child might want to share their worries with you at the time, or keep them private. If they do want to keep them private, don’t push them to share them with you. Just remind them that you’re there to help – this is a great way to build trust and boundaries. And the likelihood is that, at another time, your child will bring you a worry, or even the whole jar, to talk about, once the process of writing them down and ‘taking them out of their head’ has lessened the fear they might have about them.
Expanding the activity:
This is such an easy, cheap and adaptable craft that you can use in so many different ways.
Why not try making a gratitude jar? It’s a great way to teach the concept of gratitude to children in a simple and engaging way. And, just like the worry jar, it can really help to give you a lovely insight into your child’s feelings, when they don’t quite have the words to share them directly with you.
You might find that this works wonders for you as a parent, too, when it comes to overcoming things like Mum guilt. Often you have so many worries, swirling around your head, about whether or not you’re doing enough for them but, from your child’s perspective, their daily gratitude that meant so much could just be fish fingers and a cuddle.
If you’re feeling brave, you could try making a surprise experience/activity jar – children and parents alike write down an activity or trip on a scrap of paper, fold it up and pop it into the jar. It could be a picnic, trip to the farm, baking afternoon, movie night, theme park day, building a living room fort – whatever you enjoy (and is within your budget). Then on a Friday evening, before the weekend, someone is nominated to choose an activity at random! It creates excitement – and alleviates sibling arguments! You could even have a rainy day jar and a sunny day jar to make sure you get an activity that suits.
I hope this idea really helps you to connect even more with your children (or just helps to fill a rainy afternoon!) Let me know what you make and how it went, I’d love you to tag me in your crafts!
Looking for more ideas? We have some wonderful resources to get your kids discussing their feelings. Have a look.
There are also more resources on the web, so have a look a those for inspiration as well.
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