As it has recently been Children's Mental Health week, I wanted to share some activities that I have used when supporting my child who is experiencing anxiety.
Given the challenges of the past couple of years, it feels essential that parents share any tools or strategies they have used when supporting a child who has anxiety or is feeling overwhelmed.
As we and our situations are all unique there will never be a one size fits all, however it good to try new things.
Here are my top 5 activities that proved successful for us.
1. Calming Glitter Jar
This was not only a wonderful activity that we both enjoyed making together in the moment, it was also a tool that my child could use whenever she felt she needed to. Simple and cheap to make, it not only looks beautiful, it has also been very effective in helping my child to slow down and focus when feeling overwhelmed. The swirling glitter has a beautifully mesmerising quality which demands attention in the most positive way.
A quick search online and you will find an abundance of glitter jar recipes (including eco versions) and video tutorials.
For the past couple of years, I have been practising meditation in the mornings. I meditate sitting on a meditation cushion, I know that a cushion is not really essential for meditation, but for me, having the cushion is more of an incentive to keep going with the daily practice. My child became really interested in my cushion and would come and sit on my lap while I was meditating. For the last minute or two of the meditation we would hug and breath together - it was just such a lovely connection for both of us and she would relax very quickly.
During the second lockdown, when my child began displaying feelings of anxiety, meditating together became a daily ritual, so much so, that she now has her own meditation cushion which she delighted in choosing herself, brightly coloured with pom pom's, she now recognises the cushion as a space not only to meditate but take a few minutes of space and to be be thoughtful.
3. Singing Bowl
We discovered the singing bowl when visiting friends, my daughter immediately loved the sound it made and she delighted in making the bowl sing.
Fast forward to the pandemic and the singing bowl ( she now has her own) has been a great tool. She loves the tone of the bowl that she has and she particularly loves feeling the vibration, through the palms of her hands. She loves the ceremonial aspect of the bowl ringing the change and quite naturally seems to associate the bowl and its tone as a way of making some space when the day gets too overwhelming.
4. Loo roll tube creatures
This is a great fun activity that we do together - every time there is a new loo roll tube it gets saved to be included within our new loo roll community! The beauty of this is that you can literally use whatever you have to hand at home - pipe cleaner hands or kitchen towel hair, stickers and glitter, literally whatever is around.
We've been adding emotions, through expressions and this can be as simple as drawing on some facial features. Its been really good for my daughter in being able to identify and name her feelings and also for having the awareness that all her feelings are valid.
You can buy craft kits online that are similar, but I often feel that like with most things, simple is best and in terms of resources, empty loo roll tubes are something that we all have at home.
5. Making Balloon Animals and Creatures
To say this has been a winner has been an understatement as she loves nothing more than getting home from school and taking on the challenge of a new animal or creature each day. There is a wealth of simple easy to follow tutorials on Youtube. We sit together watch the tutorial and then get to work on our own animals - its fun, it takes focus and the sense of achievement she feels when mastering a particularly tricky design is clear to see.
Once a design has been mastered, chatting will creating a a family of balloon dogs gives the space to explore what's gone on throughout the day and how she feels about it.
There is shock when a balloon pops , as they inevitably do sometimes, and that can bring anticipation of further pops, however, as time goes by, when completing a particularly tricky lock twist , I can see the sense of empowerment when the fear of the pop is felt but the twist manoeuvre is completed anyway - it is so great to see.
What I particularly love about theses activities, is that not only are they a really good way of connecting with my child they also enable her to develop her own skills to manage her anxiety.
[This article is written from personal experience and not by a practicing therapist or health professional, so if you do have concerns regarding your child's mental health and wellbeing, we would always suggest that you make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your GP or book an appointment with a Counsellor.]