Worry Jar Activity: Managing Big Feelings (Free Workbook)

Written by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Dr Lucy Russell Clinical Psychologist Founder of They Are The Future
Author: Dr Lucy Russell, Clinical Psychologist

A printable worry jar a visually appealing image of a jar that you can print (and laminate if you choose).

The idea is to write down any concerns or worries on small pieces of paper and place them in the “jar”.

I have been a child psychologist for 20 years and this is a classic and enduring strategy for all ages.

I’ve used it time and time again in my clinic.

My own children have also found the worry jars activity, and I have used it personally too. It really helps me to make sense of complex emotions.

Sometimes the simplest strategies are the best!

The worry jar printable gives your child a sense of control over difficult emotions, and over time will instil a vital life skill: The ability to manage worry by deliberately separating it from your mind.

This will have lasting positive effects on mental and emotional well-being.

It’s an all-round win!

A girl writing

Worry Jar Worksheet

Download Your Free Printable Worry Jar PDF Here

Download your free printable worry jar to help your child successfully manage their big emotions and mental clutter.

These printable worksheets are a great way to engage anxious kids of all ages in a reflective yet hands-on mindfulness activity.

Print out the free printable worry jars on page 5 and the “worry slips” on page 4 as many times as you wish!

How to Use Your Worry Jar Worksheets

  1. Start by explaining to your child what a worry jar is and how it can help them manage their worries and strong emotions.
  2. Print out the worry jar worksheet and give it to your child.
  3. Support your child to cut out the worry slips provided in the worksheet. Ask your child to write down or draw their worries on the slips. Encourage them to be as specific as possible.
  4. Once your child has written down their worries and cut the slips out, use glue to place the worry slips “into” the worry jar.
  5. Explain to your child that the worry jar is a safe place to keep their worries. Put the worksheet in a safe place. They can leave the worries here and don’t need to keep them inside their heads. Explain that they can come back to it whenever they need to.
  6. Encourage your child to talk to you about their worries and emotions, and remind them that it’s okay to feel anxious or upset sometimes (see worry time instructions below).
  7. Repeat the worry jar exercise at least once a week. Take time to look back at previous worries and reflect on what has happened with these worries. Did they go away? Did they shrink? Use the worry jar worksheet as a tool for ongoing conversations with your child about their emotions and how to manage them in the most helpful way.
a little boy holding a mason jar

Creating A Physical Worry Jar

Your child could also create a physical worry jar as a container for their worries.

Simply the process of writing (or drawing) helps your child name and process their emotions.

As they place the worry in the jar, they are learning to mentally let go of anxious thoughts.

Choose a Suitable Container For Your Child’s Worry Jar

To create your child’s own worry jar, begin by selecting an appropriate container.

This can be a glass or plastic jar, with a lid to securely store their concerns.

Ensure that the container is clean and empty, without any labels or residue.

A boy is sat listening to a parent

Preparing the Jar

Next, they can personalise the worry jar by decorating it in a way that expresses their identity.

They might want to paint it, cover it with stickers, or write inspirational quotes or comforting words on it.

This step is optional but can help make the jar feel more special and personal.

A boy and a girl cutting out shapes.

Filling and Emptying the Worry Jar

Now that your worry jar is prepared, your child can begin to fill it with their concerns.

Just as with the worry jar worksheet, your child writes each worry down on a slip of paper, folds it, and then places it in the jar.

This helps them to recognise and externalise the thought, allowing them to let go of the burden temporarily and have a mental escape from worry.

Commit to periodically reviewing and emptying the worry jar, perhaps weekly or monthly. This will help your child to gain perspective on their worries, better manage stress, and maintain a healthier mental and emotional state overall.

The worry jar encourages healthy self-reflection and emotional growth.

As your child creates, fills, and empties their jar, try to chat about the progress they are making towards a more balanced and resilient mindset.

TAKE THE QUIZ!

Worry Jar Combined With “Worry Time”

The Importance of Worry Time

Worry time is an incredible tool that mental health professionals (including me!) regularly recommend to help children cope with anxious thoughts.

It’s an excellent way to provide a safe space for your child to express their “big feelings” and ease anxiety by dedicating a specific period of the day to focus on their concerns.

I recommended devoting 10-20 minutes to worry time each day.

Worry Jar Activity Plus Worry Time: Help Your Child Process Worries

If your child chooses to share the contents of the worry jar with you, support them to explore their feelings without judgement.

Of course, older children may prefer to reflect on their worries alone and it’s important to respect this.

Whether they share or not, over time this practice will help your child develop healthy emotional habits and cope with feelings like anxiety in a constructive way.

Young children need your support and patience as they learn to manage their emotions. Worry jars should be used alongside caring conversations and active listening.

You’re helping your child develop the tools they need to handle their emotions and create a healthy mental space.

How to Do Worry Time With Your Child

To effectively use Worry Time with your child, follow these simple steps:

  1. Schedule a consistent slot: Choose a suitable period during the day (preferably not right before bedtime) for worry time, and ensure that your child knows the designated time.
  2. Create a worry jar: Together with your child, create a worry jar where they can write down their concerns and store them until worry time.
  3. Set a timer: During worry time, set a timer for 10-20 minutes, allowing your child to focus fully on their concerns without going overboard.
  4. Discuss worries: Encourage your child to open the worry jar and read what they’ve written down. Ask them how they’re feeling and if they have any actionable plans to handle their concerns. If the problem is solvable, you can create a simple action plan together. If it’s not, focus on empathising with your child’s feelings. You may not be able to “solve” the worry. That’s okay. Your child will feel heard and understood and their subconscious will be getting to work processing and managing the worry at a deeper level.
  5. Put worries away: When the timer goes off, decide together which worries your child will put back in the jar. You can return to any remaining worries next time.
a dad talking to his son on the couch

Safe Spaces for Anxious Thoughts

The combination of a worry jar and worry time creates a safe space for your child to express and process their anxious thoughts.

Teaching your child this coping skill encourages open communication and helps them build emotional resilience.

If you want to deepen your understanding about anxiety so you feel clear on exactly which steps will help for your child, consider our mini-course, Knowledge is Power!

Knowledge is Power: Understanding Anxiety in Children course

Worry Jar Example: MaeLynn

You can see MaeLynn’s worry jar inside the worry box worksheet.

MaeLynn was struggling with various worries that were affecting her daily life. Her mother noticed that she was becoming increasingly anxious and unhappy, so she decided to introduce her to the concept of a worry box. Together, they printed the worry box worksheet and cut out the blank “worry slips”.

The first worry MaeLynn had was that her friend Sophia would stop wanting to be her friend. MaeLynn’s mother encouraged her to write down this worry on a slip of paper and glue it on the worry box. They then talked about ways to approach the worry, such as talking to Sophia about how she was feeling. MaeLynn felt much better after putting her worry in the box and talking about it with her mother.

The second worry MaeLynn had was that someone might break into their house and hurt them. MaeLynn’s mother reassured her that they live in a safe area, they lock doors and windows, and that this was a worry she could take off MaeLynn’s hands. MaeLynn felt reasured and less anxious after putting her worry in the box. The worry didn’t vanish completely but it reduced enough for her to get better quality sleep.

The third worry MaeLynn had was that she wouldn’t cope with the school trip and would want to come home. They talked about ways to manage her anxiety, such as breathing exercises, positive self-talk, and creating a support plan with MaeLynn’s teacher, Mrs Smart. MaeLynn felt much more confident as a result of putting her worry in the box and talking it through. Her mother raised the issue with Mrs Smart and they created a nurturing support plan for the school trip.

The fourth worry MaeLynn had was that she would get in trouble at school for being bossy. MaeLynn’s mother helped MaeLynn to practise listening skills and taking turns. She helped MaeLynn understand when to let others have their say. They also reframed “bossy” into “assertive” and talked about the benefits of being assertive. For example, other children often look up to other children who are natural leaders. MaeLynn felt much more in control after writing and discussing this worry, and felt good about her assertiveness skills.

Overall, the worry box was a helpful tool for MaeLynn and her mother to explore and manage her worries together. By putting her worries in the box and talking about them, MaeLynn felt heard and supported, and her mother was able to provide her with practical strategies to manage her anxiety.

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Dr Lucy Russell is a UK clinical psychologist who works with children and families. Her work involves both therapeutic support and autism assessments. She is the Clinical Director of Everlief Child Psychology, and also worked in the National Health Service for many years. In 2019 Lucy launched They Are The Future, a support website for parents of school-aged children.

Through TATF Lucy is passionate about giving practical, manageable strategies to parents and children who may otherwise struggle to find the support they need.

Lucy is a mum to two teenage children. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children, rescue dog and three rescue cats. She enjoys caravanning and outdoor living, singing and musical theatre.


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