AT and tips for helping your child with anxiety (or you)
By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff
It seems I get all my news and information from Facebook lately and when my good friend (and Montessori teacher extraordinaire) posted a link to an article “13 Helpful Phrases You Can Say to Help Calm an Anxious Child” from the Lemon Lime Adventures blog I did a little bit of falling down an internet rabbit hole. Initially when reading it, I thought that these are great and not just for kids. Then I jumped to the need to blog about them. Then I started clicking through to the links and found out about sensory backpacks, calming jars, books, tools and resources for anxiety (geared at kids but some of these are going to be great for us adults too).
Once I dove in, I realized this has been done well before—so I’d like to just get you started on
I have worked in schools with kids with anxiety, have kids with anxiety in my life that I love, and have adults with anxiety in my life that I love (including me). I know when I, or someone I care about, are in anxiety mode, it really helps to have a go-to resource. So, I’d say first, take a look at all these options of phrases, practices, and tools and make a list of ones to try. Then try them and keep the ones that work for you/the child/the person you care about on a laminated list or a list on your smartphone or both. Make copies of that list and put them where they are easily found. Your and your child’s processing skills decline steeply in crisis. Pre-plan and prepare and have that list and items ready for the urgent. times you need them. I also keep my list in the WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) app on my smartphone—but I also know that when I’m spiraling into anxiety I sometimes don’t even have it in me to check that list. So, I either need to notice the beginning of the spiral and use the list or have people around me help me use the list. Your child needs that help too—someone helping them notice earlier signs of anxiety and using tools to slow/stop it and someone there to guide them through useful practices and tools when the anxiety gets high.
OK—let’s get you started where I started—after visiting and reading the 13 tips for phrases/practices to help calm anxiety, why not take a peak at 15 tips for helping calm down which includes links to making a calming jar, creating a peace corner, hugging it out; creating an anxiety box, squish kit, sensory kit; and the “blow out your fingers” activity. Then, to round out your adventure, take a look at “Beyond take a deep breath: Helping your anxious child practice calming strategies at home.” There, you can follow links and learn about relaxation CDs, Kimochis (to help learn about and express feelings), having fidgets available, and using alternative breathing, activity, and relaxation techniques.
Finally—take another swing through the Lemon Lime Adventures and look at 10 Simple Sensory Hacks for Calming an Angry Child. These tips work for both anxiety and anger—and many times anxiety in children is expressed as anger. My favorite hack is to create a fire breathing dragon out of a simple cup to help children practice deep breathing. There are also great tips on making your own fidgets, calm down ice cubes, and DIY squeeze balls.
Which devices or practices to you use to help with anxiety for yourself or a child you care about?