The Worry Motel

14 Jul

The Worry Motel


You may have noticed that worries love nighttime, especially bedtime. This is the time when there are no distractions, and worries can have your child’s undivided attention. Fears, darkness, some creepy shadows and some anxiety about tomorrow are the perfect recipe for a restless night, and lots of calling out for Mom and Dad.


Here is a serviceable, standby solution that is quite simple and can also be a lot of fun. It draws its value from the idea that fears can be labeled and contained. You and your child need to go into the hospitality business and open a “Worry Motel.” An empty shoe box, decorated with your child’s help and guidance, makes a perfect motel where worries can stay for the night—and hopefully, once they check in, they won’t check out!


Here is how to use a Worry Motel. Before bedtime, you and your child should draw or write down any worries that might be lurking around, left over from the day or waiting in ambush for tomorrow. You can model this process by writing down some hypothetical worries that anyone might have. Put the slips of paper in the Worry Motel, and leave them there.


Of course, we all know that worries do not cooperate. So ask your child to gather up some action figures, stuffed animals or dolls that would be willing to stand guard overnight and remind the worries to stay in the motel. It is important to emphasize that the worries will need to be taught to stay in the motel, and that this takes a lot of practice—there is no “presto, change-o” magic here. The more you enliven the situation by being playful, the more likely your child is to participate. So you may want to talk to the “guards” and give them special assignments, such as “We really need your help to watch this throw-up worry…he’s a real pest!”


When you put the worries in the motel, it can also help to give the child some alternative ideas to absorb him. Have him help you put together a scrapbook with about ten pictures of things he finds interesting or comforting. These might be pictures of a family pet, a summer vacation spot or a favorite sport. If a person is interested or engaged in something, it is hard to be anxious at the same time. So give your child something productive to think about, because trying not to worry does not work.

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