Children of all ages worry.

Activities for Kids Who Worry

by Tiffany Barry

Worrying is a normal part of development, and depending on his age, your child may worry about his family dynamic, academic grades, making a sports team or if he will make friends easily when the new school year begins. Because every child's personality and temperament is unique, your child may worry more than others, and that's okay. Help your child manage his worrying by providing activities that encourage him to cope with and redirect his anxiety.

1. Communication

An open line of communication is important to have with your child, but it is especially important in the instance of a worrisome child, since bottling worries up can increase worry and anxiety. Invest in your child's activities at school and during extra-curricular activities. Engage in dialogue throughout the day to discuss the events in your child's life. Say, "How did the test you were studying for go?" or "How are your planning to prepare for soccer tryouts next month?" If your child seems hesitant about sharing his thoughts and fears, explain how talking about your problems can make you feel better. Actively listen as she talks about her worries, and avoid harsh criticism or judgment. You should be supportive and help guide your child to a solution that makes her feel better. Your child may benefit from approaching what worries her with a plan of attack, like developing a study plan for an upcoming spelling test, so help her devise one. Ask, "What would help you remember these words best? Would you like me to help you study? What do you need me to do?" If your child insists on "facing it alone," reassure her that you are always there for her if she needs you.

2. Visualization Activities

For some children, talking about their worries may not be enough, so try some visualization activities. An activity encouraged by licensed counselor Kim Peterson involves yarn and index cards to help your child visualize and process his worries. Have your child write down each worry on an index card. Punch a hole through each card and tape it to the wall. Give your child a ball of yarn and a pair of scissors and have him cut strings to represent how much each problem worries him. The longer the piece of yarn, the more the problem worries him. Adapt this activity for a younger child by having him draw a picture of what worries him on the index card and cutting the yarn for him. Take this activity a step further by choosing one activity to solve. Talk about ways to ease your child's worry about the problem. Then ask, "Do you feel a little better about this problem? How long should the yarn be now?" For children who like to be more active and hands-on, especially young children who love bubbles, a worry-bubble activity is ideal. Find a place free of distractions and open a bottle of bubbles. Have your child think about something that worries him. Say, "Now, blow your worry into the bubble." When your child blows the bubble, tell him, "Look! Your worry is floating far away." You can even tell your child to chase and pop the bubble so his worry disappears.

3. Dramatic Play

If you've ever watched a group of children playing together or overheard your child's imaginative play, you've probably heard your child re-enacting social scenarios. A figurine who falls and gets hurt may be bandaged by another figurine in the same way you bandaged your child's scraped knee. Dramatic play is a way for children to rehearse social scenes, and it can be an ideal outlet for worry. Gather a few of your child's favorite toys and engage in imaginative play with her. Encourage your child to express her worries through play. If your child is worried about ghosts really existing, introduce a friendly ghost into the play to befriend your child's figurine. Another dramatic play option is to act as the audience for your child's puppet show. Ask about a recent event that's worrying your child, such as a mean classmate at school, and then transfer it to the puppet. Say, "What would the dragon do if his friend was being mean to him?" Let your child express herself through her puppet show and she may work it out for herself without even realizing it.

4. Calming Techniques

Reduce worry and anxiety in your child by practicing calming activities together. Start by doing the activities together before helping your child learn to do them on his own. Teach your child how to control his breathing by blowing up a balloon. Say, "Take a big breath in. Now blow it out into the balloon." For children who can't blow up a balloon yet, let your child pretend to have a balloon or practice blowing out a pretend birthday candle. When your child becomes worried and anxious, remind your child that breathing will help him calm down and feel better. Say, "Let's calm down. Can you practice blowing up your balloon? That's good. Nice deep breaths. Make you balloon nice and big." Yoga is also a beneficial calming technique for children because it teaches them to be still and quiet their mind. It puts the child's focus on posture and breathing, and it helps reinforce breathing exercises like the balloon and bubble-blowing. Enroll your child in a yoga class in your area or try a few simple poses found online. Many yoga poses are named after animals and are a great way to focus your child while having fun.

About the Author

Tiffany Barry is a freelance writer with a background in early childhood education. She has been in the childcare field for more than 10 years. Barry writes about education, parenting and motherhood.

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