22/05/2020 - Published by


Terrorism is indiscriminate and it is not only adults that end up as victims.  In the United Kingdom, we are focused on Covid 19, in certain parts of the world, violence continues.  May 2020 has seen the Taliban and Daesh committing numerous attacks across Afghanistan.  One such attack was on a maternity hospital and it killed and injured many, including newborn children.  Such an atrocity may seem geographically distant, but the grief and hurt that must be being felt in that Afghan town is very imaginable.  Three years ago today, 22nd May, young people and children were the targets of terrorism in Manchester, an appalling act that will be affecting many people with their own memories of loss, grief and hurt.

At the Peace Foundation, our terrorism victim support caseworkers faced unprecedented numbers of people seeking our assistance.  Many were parents, many young people and many young children.  But how on earth do you speak to infants and primary school children about such awful matters?

As party of mental health awareness week, we want to show you the method our caseworkers used.

It came down to adapting a tradition from another distant part of the world.

The indigenous people from the Highlands in Guatemala created Worry Dolls many generations ago as a
remedy for worrying. According to legend, children tell their worries to the Worry Dolls, placing them under
their pillow when they go to bed at night. By morning the dolls have gifted them with the wisdom and
knowledge to eliminate their worries.

Although normally aimed at younger children, Worry Dolls may be another useful resource for young people
and are particularly effective when someone is experiencing high levels of anxiety.

In addition to placing Worry Dolls under their pillow at night, children or young people can be encouraged to give the Worry Dolls to an adult as a way of expressing their anxiety and to prompt the adult to provide reassurance and support.

In addition to the traditional Guatemalan Worry Dolls, there are other variations such as the ‘Worry Monster’
who destroys worries by eating them and the ‘Worry friend teddy bear’ who stores worries in his pouch.

In our meetings with children, and their parents, our caseworkers used the worry dolls as intermediaries, to channel conversations and listen to children.  We also gave the bags of dolls to the children so the help carried on outside of our therapy.

At this time, when many parents are struggling to explain the pandemic, the lock down and facing the fear of a return to a new normal and going back to school, we want to share the impact worry dolls can have, and maybe suggest to end Mental Heath Awareness Week, with the theme of kindness, that these little dolls can make a real difference.

Our Mental Health Consultant, Nikki Lester, has put together a guide to making your own dolls.  You may need some craft items online – but why not try making some dolls and using them to help with the conversations and transition out of lock down to deal with any fears…and, of course, tell us how you get on.

HOW TO MAKE WORRY DOLLS – a guide – download here