The Worry Tree – Getting Started

Nov 24, 2013 by

If you have young kids, you have no doubt encountered the occasional bout of bedtime anxiety, or the teary-eyed tot pulling at your bed sheets, telling you they had a nightmare. There comes a point when our children start gaining awareness of the world around them, a world that does not seem nearly so safe as they had always believed it to be.

An awareness compounded by the fact that we are, all of us, inundated with fear-based journalism, fear-based parenting… really, fear-based-just-about-everything. And it sells, and sells well.

My personal tools for managing these anxieties aren’t exactly kid-friendly – I’m a big fan of long mental soaks in facts and statistics to ease my ailing nerves. However, the little people in our homes enjoy facts more as a seasoning than a broth. What they really, truly want is for us to assure them all is well and they are safe. The problem being that there comes a time when they realize we are keeping the scary stuff from them, and they (rightly) don’t entirely believe us when we assure them there is nothing to worry about.

We are left with two choices: give them the uncensored truth (knowing they are wholly incapable of understanding it in a way that won’t terrify them) or come up with some other way to ease their worries.

I went with option two and began a bedtime routine that has become a staple in our home. After sharing it with a few of my dearest mommy friends, their enthusiasm has encouraged me to share it with the rest of you.

This little exercise is akin to a guided bedtime meditation, so set the mood: put the kids in bed, dim their lights, play some gentle spa sounds and channel your inner zen master. Don’t worry she (or he) is in there somewhere – probably hanging out with that gal who drops by just after that first sip of wine slips down your throat.

Fret not my friends, even MY zenniest zen master gets bored with saying the same thing over and over again, so I’ve come up with a number of variations to keep this sucker fresh. Just stay tuned (like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss them) and I’ll post one a week until they’re all up.

For now, enjoy the serene slumbers of your children, and who knows, maybe you’ll drop a few of your worries at The Worry Tree as well…

The Worry Tree 

(NOTE: Take a few deep breaths yourself before beginning, find your zen girl (or guy) and speak in a soothing, slow rhythm)

Close your eyes and take a deep, slow breath. As you breathe in, feel the air fill your tummy and go all the way down to your toes. With every breath you feel more and more relaxed and calm. Your toes are relaxed. Your feet and ankles relax. You can feel the soft feeling of relaxation travel up your legs to your knees and then to your stomach, making your legs feel light, as though they are floating.  That floating feeling travels up through your tummy and chest with each deep, calm breath. Your shoulders relax and you breathe all the way down through your arms, relaxing all the muscles, your elbows, wrists and fingers. With every breath, you feel your whole body relax, like you’re resting on a cloud. Even your head feels light and full of air as you breathe each breath.

(NOTE: after a few readings of this story the kids don’t need all the preamble. The preceding paragraph can usually be shortened to “Close your eyes and take a deep slow breath that goes all the way down to your toes, relaxing your whole body with every breath”)

Now, keep your eyes closed and we’re going to go on a little adventure to visit The Worry Tree.

You are walking down a wide dirt road, surrounded by trees. The sky is bright blue, and the sun is warm on your skin. You can hear the soft, scratching sound of the dirt beneath your feet as you walk, and your body feels strong and ready for an adventure.  

Up ahead you see a beautiful, big, green meadow, and you walk towards it. The meadow is filled with tall grass that reaches halfway up your legs. As you enter the meadow, you carve a path through the tall grass with your feet. Your fingertips brush the tops of the grass, ticking your hands as you walk. And as you look around, you see little wild flowers speckling the meadow. Little blooms of pink, purple, blue and yellow seem to float above the sea of green grass.  As you walk you can see the grass sway gently from the wind. The wind blows though your hair, and feels good on your warm skin.

You’ve come to the edge of a forest, and as you step into the shade you are grateful for the coolness of it. This forest is not dark, it is speckled with sunlight coming through the branches of the trees. You follow a path through the trees and notice the happy animals living in the forest. Birds are chirping in the branches. Bunnies are rustling through the bushes. Deer walk calmly between the trees. All the animals feel safe here, just like you do.

You notice a clearing in the forest up ahead, where the sunlight is coming through much more brightly. The path is leading you right towards it. As you come out of the forest you see a giant tree, much bigger than all the other trees of the forest. This is your worry tree. It is so big and strong, nothing could possibly hurt it. You are always safe here with your worry tree.  You look around to find a place to rest your body after your adventure. You can lay under the tree and look up at the sky through all of its branches. Or perhaps you want to lean against its big strong trunk. You can climb up into it’s branches, where you will find a place that fits your body perfectly, holding you safe, high above the ground. Or maybe you want to lie in the hammock that is gently swaying beneath the tree.  You pick your favorite spot and go there.

Now, I want you to tell The Worry Tree one of your worries. Don’t say it out loud so I can hear it, say it inside your head so only The Worry Tree can hear it. When you say your worry to The Worry Tree, it comes out of your mouth, goes into The Worry Tree’s big strong trunk, up through it’s branches and into the leaves. Then it sets those leaves free so they can float away in the wind. Every worry you share with The Worry Tree, no matter how big it is or how many you have, will go into it’s big strong trunk, up through it’s branches and then be released into the wind. Your worries don’t bother The Worry Tree at all, It’s so big and strong, nothing worries The Worry Tree. So tell that tree as many worries as you need to until they’re all gone.

 Now I’m going to give you a kiss and hug good night, and when I leave you can continue to tell The Worry Tree your worries, and they will go into it’s big strong trunk, up through the branches and into the leaves, floating off into the sky.

When you’re all done, you get to decide what you want to do next… maybe you want to stay and sleep in The Worry Tree, feeling the strength of its branches keeping you safe all night long. Or maybe you want to continue your adventure, because anywhere you go in Worry Tree Land is safe, nothing bad can happen to you. And if you start to worry about scary things again, just come back to your worry tree, it will always be here. Just tell it your worries, they will go into its big strong trunk, up through its branches and into the leaves, and they will float off into the sky.


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