If you’re a mental health worker dealing with kids, you’ll undoubtedly understand that many of the calls you get from parents will have to do with fear or tension. As someone who also works with children, I can sympathize with mental health practitioners in that they have an extremely essential and daunting job of teaching and helping children in a clinical environment that is simultaneously effective and enjoyable. Especially with children in early childhood can be especially challenging and will require strategies to keep it new and exciting day after day! So, the essential question for parents and the mental health professionals that assist them is, how can we help children build the communication strategies they need whilst holding them focused (and not staring out the window)? Here are ten therapists (and children!)-approved, enjoyable exercises that tackle anxiety-based disorders and facilitate relaxation and stress management in kids:
This practice is something that children would remind you to perform again and again, which will hopefully give them some consolation in their time spent away from you or their loved ones. Purchase oven-baked clay at the favorite art store and let children select up to three colors to help them feel relaxed or cheerful. When they form the colors into a ball and then softly move their thumbprint into it, speak to the kid about what this stone symbolizes for them; maybe have a calming note, a hopeful thinking, or a motivational affirmation like, “I will get through this.” Since being baked for 30 minutes at 250 degrees, it can be held in their pockets and used in tough times as a sign that they are healthy and in charge. Adults should also participate in this task to render an anxiety stone a symbolic tool for children who have difficulty splitting. (Note: Most of the time, the stones are made in treatment, but are baked at home).
2. Cooldown jars
Another enjoyable thing kids want to do is “calm down the bottles.” Put some hot water, glitter glue, and glitter in a glass (or even better, plastic) jar, and let your kids shake it up to watch the glitter float slowly to the bottom. It ‘s extremely calming and enjoyable to watch so kids should use it at home during a tough or frustrating period. Encourage them to take a deep breath while they observe as well as add some thoughtfulness. Smaller variations of the cooldown jars can be produced with small plastic baby oil bottles that can be placed in the car or Mom’s pocket for a simple calming device on the go.
3. Reading age-appropriate books on courage.
A perfect way to keep kids interested and showing them some valuable social strategies is to read age-appropriate books on the subject with them. It can be anything appropriate for their age, and it is essential that parents read it with them and even offer up self-reflective questions, such as…
For boys: “What would you do in this situation?”
For Girls: “If you were so and so, how would you feel and what would you do?”
Yes, the questions bring into account their gender. Gender is an important (but not the only) aspect of how they may express their feelings.
4. Pleasant bracelet for mantra
Creating an optimistic slogan bracelet is an easy yet enjoyable way for kids to learn about positive thoughts and, more importantly, what mantras better relate to them and their problems. Begin by starting up a conversation around the issues they’re most concerned around, and having them come up with three or four mantras that can be reiterated to themselves in an uncomfortable moment, such as “I’m free,” “Mom will still come back,” or “My good is great sufficiently.” Allocate each slogan to a specific color bead and put it on a pipe cleaner or lanyard to be carried on the wrist as a regular reminder to think good thoughts and relax. The lightweight pipe cleaner and sleek, moving beads often serve as an amazing but discreet fidget for our sensitive little ones.
5. Fear box, please.
Too many children will feel as if they are dominated by their nervous thoughts and feel powerless in preventing them. Their parents often complain that their child can not quit thinking about such things, so they sometimes feel irritated because they may not have enough room in their day to answer the needs of their child. A perfect idea for kids coping with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is making a “concerned enclosure.” This task may be as easy or as complex as you wish. Kids decorate a package on how they like — with podge, glitter, stamps, stickers, etc. When they design their boxes, psychologists should clarify why the package is going to be a location where they store their problems while they don’t have time to talk about it. They write their worry about a piece of paper and place it in a box to be addressed at a later time. This allows children a feeling of power about their insecurity, so parents should set out any time of day to speak to their children about their fears. If they no longer believe like they ought to answer any of the issues that are in the envelope, the sheet of paper will be torn up and tossed into the trash, which is a healing practice in itself.
6. Butterfly in the belly
This butterflies in my belly is fun and unthreatening way to open up conversations with children regarding their doubts or worries. The instructor sketches and removes butterflies in all types in preparation and marks the child’s head and body on a large sheet in the oak paper. (For children with a history of physical and sexual abuse/trauma, it might be better to get an adult to explain before the session starts). Speak to your child regarding the actual feelings that you experience in your body when you are nervous, such as butterflies in your abdomen. Tell them to write down various issues that they fear over butterflies, and use the different sizes to concern large or tiny. Start the debate on how to quiet down the techniques to use when “butterflies in their abdomen” turn up and put them down in a butterfly net to symbolize “keeping the butterflies.”
7. Make a paper
Some of the children we deal with have a rough time voicing themselves emotionally, whether they don’t have an adult whether family one they trust to speak to about their emotions. It ‘s crucial to convey to these children that they don’t have to speak about their problems or discomfort if these things cause them upset, but they will need to find a new way to express themselves. Let these kids adorn a paper that is special to them, use buttons, markers, or even a magazine cut-out with encouraging words, and motivate them to journal when they first sit with you, as well as during sessions.
8. Balls of stress.
Stress balls are a real fan favorite, and you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a kid that doesn’t love this game. Fill a balloon with rice, flour, orbeez, or play dough with a little tube, attach the end of it, and make sure you double cover it in another balloon for additional protection (mother and father can thank you!). Pain balls provide a perfect fidget for our anxious kids and function as a fantastic diversion while dealing with Trichotillomania kids.
9. The Slime
Slime’s all rage lately, and a fast google search can yield hundreds of recipe variants. The best thing about creating slime is that kids consider the cycle super enjoyable, but it’s also a great therapy resource for our sensory kids. Add some lavender oil to the slime as a bonus to calm them down as they play. Only a couple minutes of rubbing the mucosa around their fingertips will push a child’s average degree of anxiety down a few notches.
10. Bringing it all together in a useful “toolkit”.
Our role as educators is to provide kids with the support they need, to ultimately bring them to the stage that they can control their feelings in difficult times. A wonderful way to encourage and motivate our children to soothe themselves is to help them settle down the toolbox with several of the things listed in this post. It’s helpful to clarify that what could help to settle us down one day does not function the next, so use an example like “you wouldn’t pick up a hammer to repair a leaky bird” may help us appreciate that we need a lot of “resources” in our toolkit. Provide a practical discussion with them on what allows them to settle down while they feel nervous, and place certain items in the package. Apart from their anxiety brick, notebook, soothing box, optimistic slogan necklace, tension ball, and slime, kids can have breathing bubbles, a memory folder packed with fun memories, a plush toy, candy, an iPod for music, or coloring books and pencils. You should also make a compilation of the main ring of tactic suggestions that do not fit into a package, such as having a bath or walking.
Which activities you chose for your meetings, note that the most critical aspect of your practice is to build a healthy and caring healing environment built on honesty and independence of judgment. Providing children with this experience will make things better for them because even if they do not recall creating a stress ball, they can still know how you made them happy! Have some joy!