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How I helped my child with Anxiety: Activities and tips that I found useful

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

After Christmas when Ireland went back into another lockdown, I found our 6 year old was waking in the night a lot, up to 5 or 6 times each night. He would wake asking for cuddles and kisses, to be tucked in, crying in his sleep, asking to sleep in beside us, asking questions like will we ever see Nana and Granda again? After 3 weeks of very little sleep I knew I had to try and do something as it was beginning to get out of control. I reached out to a few people who are experts in the field and did some research myself and found out that when children's sleep is disrupted like this it could be down to Anxiety. I knew in my mind it was down to yet another lockdown, fears over the virus, not seeing people again, more cancelled trips, everything being closed, all the things I as an adult was thinking about. Since the first lockdown my husband and I decided that it was best we dont watch/read or listen the news, we dont talk about it in front of the kids and we tried so much to shield them from all the negativity that surrounded it but its hard to be completely closed off from what's going on in the world when its all that everyone seemed to be talking about. So with this in mind, I went and researched activities that could help him with this and developed some activities myself that I felt would help him work through all these fears and worries, along with making some small changes in our routine.

Control breathing activity:

I have been doing different variations of these down through the years when working with kids. They are always a big hit! Great for helping children understand about controlling their breathing, patience's and concentration. This was aimed at Mr6 to help with his deep breathing when he gets anxious. Other fun activities to practice breathing techniques are blowing with a straw into water to create bubbles, blowing bubbles from bubble mix and creating bubbles with your hands. This one is particularly good for concentrating on slow breathing for older children.

Watch the video on an activity set up for control breathing

Exploring Emotions and feelings:

This activity was particularly good to help both boys to be able to name, recognise and discuss what that feeling does to us and how we feel. First we made some cloud dough together. We added in some coconut oil into it to add an extra sensory element to it. It smelt unreal! I printed out some free downloads on emotions from @twinkl_ireland and laminated them the night before. We used our emotion mirrors from @discoveryplaytime and googly eyes and cocktail sticks from @mrpriceireland.

First Mr6 picked an emotion. I read the emotion to him then we talked about how that emotion makes our bodies and faces feel. We used the mirror so we could see our facial expressions. We then talked about the different times we felt that emotion. And yes you guessed it the virus was top topic of most emotions! He then made the emotion using the cloud dough. He felt some of the emotions were very similar so he grouped them together. There was lots of talking which was great. This was directed at both boys however Mr4 had no interest in joining us!

When we finished we listened to belly breathing from @fionaformanwellbeing resource pack we downloaded from her website. Mr6 really seemed to enjoy these! This activity was great for recognition of feelings and emotions, sensory play, language, listening skills, memory, recalling events/feelings and awareness of our own mental health.

Grateful Hoglet:

We used Irish author @bexsheridanillustration beautiful book from @theobrienpress Go to Sleep Hoglet. We combined children's mental health week and #nationalhedgehogday and Valentine's day into this activity. You could still make these grateful Hoglets with out the book. The boys told me what they were grateful for and I wrote it on each heart for them. This was the only help I gave them and did not direct them in anyway on how to make these. I just love how Mr4 put ears onto his. It was a lovely activity to do and we had a great chat about being grateful for all that we have in our life. Practicing gratitude even at a young age increases overall happiness, improves your self-esteem and helps to lower levels of stress and anxiety.

To see the video on how we made them go to

Corona Egg smash:

Corona emotions egg smash was inspired by @hayleyriceplaytherapy corona balloon smash which she shared on Instagram. We tried out Hayley's balloon smash the night before for games night and I seen how effective it was so this was what inspired our egg smash. We talked about each emotion that was on the cards and mr6 then told me something that is associated with this feeling for him. I found it really good for mr6 to be able to identify, name, associate that feeling to his worries. Then saying out loud what's on the egg and the emotion for instance I am sad I cant see my cousins, he smashed the egg with the hammer. It was also a great way to release all that negative energy and tension. I even had a go and felt so much better after it! Emotion cards from @twinkl_ireland.

To view the video

DIY stress balls

Mr6 was asking one day what was a stress ball and how do you make them so we gathered all the things we thought you could put into a stress ball, flour, sand, lentils, rice, water beads, fake snow, chick peas and kinetic sand and made some. They are really easy to make using balloons, things from your cupboard and a homemade funnel from a bottle. They are great for hand strength and dexterity and it can help calm your nerves and brain by releasing bottled up feelings through flexing your hands.

To watch the video

These are just a few idea of the activities we done to help Mr6 with his anxiety and combined them with the changes in our routine we seen a noticeable difference within about a week.

Some Changes in our routine:

These are the changes we did that worked for us, please remember that every child is different and what works for one child might not work for another.

1. We made sure everyday we got outside for at least an 45mins to allow to burn of some of that energy inside them.

2. We made a wishing poster. You could also do a jar. We wrote out all the wishes we had for 2021 things like giving people hugs, being allowed in to peoples homes, getting to the beach lots of different ideas and we will tick them off as we do them.

3. We set up video call/playdates with his cousins 2 -3 times a week which was suggested by @triona_earlyyearsinsights. We still continued this even though they have gone back to school.

4. We changed the bedtime routine, Mr4 goes to bed first and Mr6 stayed up an extra 40 mins and either myself or my husband would do an activity with him (his choice) a lot of the time it would be sensory based.

5. We made sure we filled up his secure base cup by playing during the day with him, focusing on hand eye coordination and touch. These activities before bed also helped with this. This was suggested to us by @hayleyriceplaytherapy.

6. We have a grateful book where each night we write in 3 things that we are grateful for that day.

7. If he wakes a night, I ask him to think of 5 things that make you happy. This is to help get the negative thoughts from his head and fill them with positive ones.

8. Practiced deep breathing exercises when he felt overwhelmed.

I hope you found these tips and activities useful and if you have any you have tried out that has helped a little one, please do share it in the comment box.

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