Activities to Calm Anxious Children (And Their Parents)

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CaptureIf your child struggles with anxiety, he or she might worry excessively. Your child may even experience panic attacks or refuse to participate in social activities.

Psychological evaluation and treatment are your first line of defense. Your psychologist can teach you and your children strategies to deal with anxious thoughts and behaviors.

Along with coping strategies, it’s important to think of some calming activities that might help your child. Every child is different, so choose the activities that work best for your child. You can also bond with your child as you participate together.

1. Color

When coloring, your child gets to focus intently on the task at hand. He or she doesn’t have to think or worry about anything else besides creating a beautiful picture.

Children aren’t the only ones who enjoy coloring. Adult coloring books to calm anxiety are selling at a rapid pace. Adults feel that coloring gives them a break from a fast-paced modern world and allows them to slow down and unwind. Grab an adult coloring back and join your child in a coloring session.

2. Go on a Nature Walk

Research shows that exercise can improve mood. In fact, a literature review in the Journal of Neural Transmission concluded that exercise can treat depression and panic disorder.

Taking a walk outdoors is a good exercise choice. It removes your child from blaring televisions, phones with constant alerts, and other anxiety-causing technology. Plus, seeing natural beauties and breathing fresh air may help him or her feel calmer and happier.

Taking a walk with your child will help you, too. Exercising and connecting with your child can improve your own anxiety. Take your child to your favorite spot and point out the plants and animals you see along the way.

3. Dance to Calming Music

Let your child pick out a playlist of his or her favorite relaxing music. This could include classical, instrumental, or new age music that helps your child feel calm and at ease.

As you listen to the music together, move gently to the sounds of the music. Tell your child to imagine with you that you’re both in a relaxing place, such as a beach or a forest. This can help both of you escape your current anxieties and fears.

4. Create a Craft

Creating a craft together can also help you and your child engage in something constructive and calming.

One craft idea is to create colored beans. Place a cup of beans in a container and add 15 drops of food coloring. Close the lid and shake the bag. Then spread the beans on a paper towel and let them dry for a few hours. Younger children will enjoy touching and running their fingers through the beans. Older children will enjoy creating bean artwork.

Yet another idea is to create an ice tower with treasures inside. Collect a bunch of cheap prizes, such as plastic jewelry and foam shapes. Place about ¾ cup water in a vase along with some of the items. Then put the vase in a freezer for a few hours. Once it’s frozen, add more cold water with more of the items, and freeze it again. Keep going until your tower is as tall as you want it to be.

To remove the tower, run cold water over the vase’s exterior and then hold it upside down. Now, your kids can use eye droppers and water bottles to try to melt the ice and retrieve the prizes.

5. Play a Game

Both boredom and stress can lead to anxiety. Playing a simple game your child is familiar with can both relieve the boredom and calm the stress in your child’s life.

For younger kids, try Go Fish, Candy Land, or Chutes and Ladders. One simple game for toddlers and preschool-aged children helps your child learn about shapes and pairs. All you need are markers and bunch of craft sticks. Put two craft sticks next to each other and draw a shape, with half of the shape on each stick. Repeat with different sticks and different shapes. To play the game, mix up the sticks. Your child tries to put the right sticks together to create complete shapes.

Older children can play a wide variety of board games and card games, from Monopoly to Banana Grams. Encourage your child to use his or her creativity. Your child might enjoy creating his or her own storybook, comic book, game, song, or play. Help your child along by suggesting a setting, topic, or character.

Write down a list of your child’s favorite calming activities. Next time you notice your child getting anxious, you can pull out one of these activity ideas.

If your child’s anxiety affects his or her daily functioning, set an appointment with a pediatric psychiatrist at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights.