Activities for Treating Anxiety in Children
Creating artwork can be both relaxing, and therapeutic. Invite children to paint/draw designs or pictures of things that make them happy or calm. This can be accomplished during a school-based therapy session, and/or you can encourage children to engage in artistic activity at home. Children who are engrossed in an art project may be more open to sharing their innermost feelings and struggles. By allowing the conversation to flow in a low-pressure atmosphere, those in therapy jobs can foster a non-judgmental environment where students can feel comfortable talking as they express themselves through art.
● Start a Journal
For some, keeping a journal can be very therapeutic. Reflecting on events through writing can help an individual view their feelings and anxieties in an objective way. Even young children can engage in this form of self-exploration—whether through words or pictures. There’s no right or wrong way to journal. And kids shouldn’t feel like they need to write every day. What’s important is that children trust and understand that their journal is a safe place to reveal anything – including their deepest secrets, fears or desires. And yes, this means no parent peeking!
● Create an Emergency Checklist
A great way to reduce anxiety in almost any situation is to have a plan! In the heat of the moment, it’s difficult to think clearly, especially when feelings of anxiety rise to the surface. Encourage the young people you work with to anticipate what might happen in a situation they’re nervous about and chart a step-by-step method to calm down. Perhaps, the first step is to stop and breathe. A second step might be to evaluate the situation. Next, they may want to look for a person they trust (parent, friend, mentor, teacher, etc.) to ask for help. Some children may want to have a hard copy of their checklist that can be easily stashed in a pocket or backpack for safekeeping.
● Create a Gratitude Box
Those in school-based therapy jobs can help students cultivate gratitude by introducing the concept of a gratitude box.
What you’ll need:
- An empty tissue box
- Decorating items (e.g. stickers, white labels, colorful markers, patterned duct tape)
Have the children affix a label saying, “Gratitude Box,” “Why I’m Grateful” or similar label. They can decorate the label with colored markers and/or place and decorate other plain white labels on the box. Stickers and patterned duct tape (there are even variations at craft stores with penguins!) are a nice touch that will help each child personalize his or her box.
The idea is for the child to write on a small piece of paper something for which they are grateful. This can be whatever is relevant or important to the child. Children in speech therapy, for example, might feel anxious about how they talk; to combat anxiety, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can encourage them to be grateful for their voice, ability to speak, ability to listen, etc. This will help them to appreciate their present situation and reduce anxiety. Occupational therapists (OTs), physical therapists (PTs), behavioral therapists, counselors, and social workers can try this with students on their caseloads as well!