Tool Kits For Kids (CBT techniques for common childhood concerns) - A User Review

by Sarah Myles

As a parent, I am highly sensitive to the emotional development and wellbeing of my children. My own treatment for my mental health problems has taught me the value of early intervention, and of learning the right skills at an early age. I am also well aware of the way children soak up the anxieties and stresses of their parents.

So, when my eldest child began to display signs of overwhelming anxiety, I began to look for ways to actively break the cycle of stress and worry. I was well-versed in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy strategies by this time, but only experienced with them at adult level. Not much use for a seven year old!

Some online research led me to “Tool Kits For Kids” ( This is an American organisation founded in 2006 by three mental health professionals, in response to requests from parents for practical strategies to help children deal with common childhood worries.

Dr Suzanne Reiffel, with a Ph.D in Counselling Psychology, studied at the Institute for Behavioural Therapy in New York and lectures in child development, parenting and anxiety management. Dr Erica Saxe Ross, with a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology, lectures on parenting techniques, social skills in children, self control training and families dealing with divorce. Joel Haber, also with a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology with a specialty in Behavioural Medicine, has written books for parents dealing with bullied children and lectures on parenting, civility, character education, stress, resilience and social cruelty. He is also a national consultant to The American Camp Foundation.

These three highly experienced mental health workers spent ten years developing a set of tool kits for children, each aimed at a specific area of emotional wellbeing, and available for 5-11 year olds or teenagers. For 5-11 year olds (the age group I am using), the kits are: “Outsmart Your Worry”, “Charge Up Your Confidence” and “Build Up Your Resilience”.

Having researched these kits extensively online and read many reviews, I ordered “Outsmart Your Worry” and “Charge Up Your Confidence” for my seven year old. The kits themselves are like CD storage wallets with 20 CD-sized cards. Each card outlines a specific, fun activity or strategy that the child goes through with an adult and learns. It recommends concentrating on one at a time and gives good advice to the adult supporting the child as to how to re-visit the strategy and build it into everyday.

As my child’s main issue was anxiety, we began with “Outsmart Your Worry”. The main message of the kit to the child is that when they are feeling overwhelmed by worry, their worry wants to be in charge. By taking back control – making the child The Boss of the worry – the child gains confidence and the anxiety is reduced.

As an example, the first activity of the kit asks the child to draw their worry as a character. There’s no guidance as to how they should make it look so it really is an eye-opener to see what they come up with! Having drawn their worry, they then give it a name – preferably a funny, ridiculous one – which reduces the worry from a big, sinister presence to a silly cartoon character. It also works by externalising the worry in a positive way. Having completed these tasks, the child then folds up the picture and puts it somewhere safe. They are then in charge of it and can revisit it whenever they like.

Later tasks include breathing exercises, the child addressing the worry by name and stating that they are in charge - not the worry - and creating “worry-free spaces” in the home.

Working through the 20 tasks builds a set of skills that the child can call upon at any time to help them deal with situations and worries independently. Working through them together encourages openness and effective communication about their emotional development, while keeping the process light-hearted and fun.

The results of using this particular tool kit with my seven year old have been astonishing. Knowing that he has the ability to take charge of his worry and soothe himself gives him a huge confidence boost. Having learned these techniques, he is able to calm himself down when feeling stressed and, most importantly, rationalise.

These Tool Kits have become an invaluable part of the education of my children, and I would heartily recommend them to anyone. The strategies really do work!   

Sarah Myles  


My daughter works away once a month but my granddaughter gets really upset she is nine 3NrMv