The Huge Bag of Worries: a comforting tale for little or big worriers

...she even worried about wars and bombs… until one day she woke to find… a HUGE BAG OF WORRIES

My Ivy is a worrier; she comes from a long line of worriers on my side so there was really no escaping it. She worries that she will miss out, that someone might speak unkindly and that she won’t get to hug me when I’m in hospital having the baby. Nearly every day there is a new worry or 10. I wasn’t really sure how to help her because it’s something I only learned to deal with in adulthood, and those methods don’t really work for a 5 year old.

Talking to a friend, she recommended The Huge Bag of Worries (she uses in her speech pathology practise) and it has been a game changer!

The Huge Bag of Worries is the story of Jenny, who is a mostly happy girl with a happy life. But slowly she starts to worry about things. She worries that she is getting too fat or that her dog has fleas. She worries about her parents arguing and kids whispering about her at school.

 “she even worried about wars and bombs… until one day she woke to find…

The bag followed her everywhere… to school, to swimming, to the toilet, and it stuck by her even when she was watching TV.

Jenny tries everything she can think of to get rid of the bag but nothing works. She tries talking about The Bag to her family but no one else can see it so they don’t understand. One morning Jenny has had enough; she goes and sits on the curb to cry. But she isn’t as alone as she feels:

“’Goodness!’ said the old lady. ‘What on earth is that HUGE bag of worries?’

Through her tears, Jenny explains how it had followed her for weeks, and got bigger and bigger, and just wouldn’t go away.

Now let’s just open it up and see what’s inside,’ said the old lady.” 

Together, Jenny and the lady look at and talk about the worries.

This is a fabulous book for visualising and giving voice to feelings. It gave Ivy a way to open up and a method for communicating what she was feeling, and it’s been a great anchor point to return to when she’s feeling overwhelmed. We’ve had some wonderful discussions along these lines:

  • Worries don’t like being talked about, so voicing them can help.

  • Who owns the worry? Kids often worry about things outside of their control so I find it can help to take Ivy’s worries from her because ‘as her mum that’s mine to worry about, not hers’.

  • There are worries we can do something about vs worries that everyone has.

  • How to scare/fix worries, like frightening them or breathing them away.

  • Everyone worries, it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.

  • We can’t see other people’s worries, so it’s important to notice them and listen when they want to talk.

The Huge Bag of Worries is suitable for children ages 3 to 10 years and is great for helping both children and adults communicate about feelings. I’ve tagged it in Emotional Resilience and Anxiety, but also Heartwarmers, Emotions and Empathy.

The Huge Bag of Worries
by Virginia Ironside illustrated by Frank Rodgers – Macdonald Young Books, 1996
ages 3 to 10 years