Therapeutic Activities For Children With Anxiety

Instructor: April Gwen Ellsworth

April has a master's degree in psychology and has experience teaching special populations from preschoolers to adults.

A variety of therapeutic activities help children cope with anxiety, reduce stress, and have positive mindsets. This creates healthier children as well as more positive and successful adults. Read on to learn some helpful strategies.

Therapeutic Activities for Children with Anxiety

Anxiety in a child can be caused by a multitude of factors ranging from everyday stresses of school or family challenges to specific fears like being in the dark, reading in front of the class, or seeing a dog. Teaching children how to cope with anxiety in healthy ways allows them to feel in control of themselves, even when they cannot control their surroundings. And this leads to healthier, happier, more confident, and well-adjusted children--and eventually adults.

Many therapeutic strategies exist, from relaxation tools to specific intervention activities that are regularly practiced for mastery. We'll touch on some effective stress inoculation activities here.

Belly Breathing

Deep breathing naturally calms the body and mind by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which influences the activities we engage in while resting. By reducing the heart rate, a child's mind and body naturally slow down to a more relaxed state.

Teach a child belly breathing using the 4-7-8 breathing technique:

Sit up straight. Breathe in slowly through your nose for 4 seconds and imagine filling up your belly with air like a balloon. Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Now let it out slowly for 8 seconds. Repeat this until you feel calmer. You can practice belly breathing anytime and anywhere!

Deep breathing can also be taught to children by blowing bubbles. Have the child hold his breath for a few seconds then slowly breathe out to form the bubbles. Encourage the child to remember to 'blow bubbles' when in the midst of a stressful situation, even when the bubbles are not there.

Progressive Muscle Tension and Relaxation Exercises

Tensing and then relaxing different muscles in the body also produces a natural calming effect. Scripts to guide children through progressive muscle tension and relaxation exercises are readily available on the internet in both video and written form.

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