What Is The Purpose of Labeling Anxiety As A “Worry Monster” and Why Is creating An Anxiety Monster Important?
First, labeling anxiety as a monster allows us to externalize the anxiety as something that is separate from the child. This sends a clear message that your child is not fused with their anxiety. We are sending a message that as they learn to manage their anxiety and their symptoms reduce, they will not lose part of their personality.
Second, it provides parents with language to use around their child. It becomes clear that the parent is not angry with their child, they are angry with the child’s behavior (i.e., The Worry Monster).
Thirdly, it creates a team spirit. You, your child, your therapist and anyone else involved in helping your child are on the same team, working together to beat The Worry Monster. The metaphor emphasizes that this is not an “us against you” mentality. Rather, a “We together against The Worry Monster” mentality.
Won’t the idea of a “Worry Monster” scare my child?
In our experience, the concept of a “Worry Monster” does not scare the child. In fact, it empowers most children and helps the child to explain why they feel compelled to do certain things or avoid certain things. Rather than becoming a constraining and frightening foe, the “Worry Monster” can liberate them. If you are concerned that the monster might be scary to your child, we can generate more neutral references such as “The Worry Cloud” or “Sticky Brain”.
My child is very mature- the “Worry Monster” seems silly and childish. Should we still use the metaphor?
We feel that the concept of the “Worry Monster” is useful and not just for kids! In fact, we also encourage our adult patients to name their Worry Monster. The goal of the monster is to learn to take control of The Worry Monster so it no longer influences the child. As long as the adults who are involved in your child’s care continually refer to the monster by name, it will not seem silly. If there is still resistance, we can make use of the concept by referring to anxiety-triggered behaviors as, “This is your anxiety taking over.”
Who Needs To Call the “Worry Monster” by its name? The Child? The Parents?, or The Teachers?
Anyone who has direct conversations and/or fights with your child about their anxiety needs to refer to the anxiety by the monster’s name. This creates a dynamic where your child will understand that you are not fighting with them. Rather, you are angry with the “Worry Monster” because it is bullying your child and/or your family in that moment.
We suggest parents use phrases such as:
- “I am not having a conversation with The Worry Monster right now.”
- “We can continue this discussion later when The Worry Monster is not involved.”
- “We love each of the five members of our family. The Worry Monster is not a family member and is not welcome here.”
- Or, “This sounds like a Worry Monster rule.”