Welcoming Sherene from Coping with Anxiety to talk to us about how Crafting Can Reduce Your Child’s Anxiety!!
It’s such a buzzword these days, isn’t it?
You see famous celebrities opening up to the media about their struggles with anxiety and other mental health issues.
And I’m fairly certain that you have at least a handful of people in your immediate circle, either family or friends, who are affected by anxiety.
But maybe you’re wondering to yourself;
‘What exactly IS anxiety? Does my child have it? And how on earth is it related to RedTedArt? I thought this was a crafting website where I find super-cute things for my kids to make? What’s she on about?’
Well stick with me. Yes, you’re reading an anxiety post on a crafting website. To be honest, one of the best crafting resources out there at the moment for kids of all ages (I’ve looked and this is by far one of my favorites!)
Today, I’d like to show you exactly HOW crafting can help soothe your anxious child and reduce their stress. It may be an avenue you hadn’t considered before but research indicates that crafting can help reduce both anxiety and depression (as these often go hand-in-hand).
This is pretty straightforward. The Oxford Dictionary defines anxiety as:
‘A feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something
with an uncertain outcome.’
Sounds about right. And with the hectic, ever-changing and stressful environment many of us now find ourselves living in, statistics show that anxiety and related mental-health conditions have been on the rise over recent years.
In fact, studies show that up to 1 in 13 people are affected globally (source – Futurity.org). That’s a lot of people!
And it affects your kids too. These statistics are US-based but reflect worldwide trends – the Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that around 1 in 8 children and young teens suffer from anxiety and depression.
Perhaps you might have been wondering lately if your small people are part of this statistic? Let’s look quickly at some common signs of anxiety.
Types Of Anxiety In Children
There are several types of anxiety that kids can experience;
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder : this is common in children and is an ongoing worry, fear or concern about many things in their daily life.
- Panic Attacks – These come on very suddenly and out of the blue. Most frequent when your child is under, or perceives to be under, some form of stress e.g. a performance or test.
- Separation Anxiety Disorder – As the name suggests, anxiety stems from being apart from their parents or primary caregiver.
- Social Anxiety Disorder – Here, children are afraid of situations where they need to interact with others. They are overly concerned with what others will think of them. This goes beyond normal shyness in a child.
- Selective Mutism – Even though they may be little chatterboxes at other times, when a child finds a situation particularly overwhelming, they clam up.
- Phobias – Characterized by an intense, and often irrational, fear of things, situations, people, objects or events. The dark, clowns, spiders and dogs are common phobias (my daughter actually has an intense dislike of spiders, to the point where she can’t even bear to look at a picture of them)
How Does Anxiety Manifest In Kids?
Anxiety can appear in a number of ways. It could be as a stomach or headache, not wanting to go to school, irritability and tantrums.
Or it could be more pronounced and severe – resulting in nightmares, eating disturbances, low self-esteem and confidence plus repetitive, negative behaviors.
Regardless of how it comes about, anxiety for your child is incredibly real and scary.
Anxiety Relief For Children
Just as there are several forms of anxiety that can affect children, there are also a variety of methods to help them. Some of these include:
- Focusing on a healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep
- Natural herbal supplements suitable for kids
- Relaxation and breathing exercises
- Visualization, mindfulness and focusing on positive outcomes
- Play therapy and self-help techniques, plus
- Just being there for them as their rock and support when anxiety strikes.
All of these approaches are sound, but increasingly therapists, counsellors and other medical professionals are using tactile solutions to help reduce anxiety in children.
Coloring, drawing, knitting and crocheting are examples of tactile solutions, but one of the best for your child could be crafting. Just using materials that you have around the house to create amazing crafts can be incredibly therapeutic.
And this is where websites like RedTedArt are invaluable – there are crafts and activities to suit all levels, so it will be easy to find something for your anxious child to focus on.
How Does Crafting Help Reduce Anxiety?
For children who suffer from anxiety, a lot of what they are experiencing is mental. By this, I mean it is their thought processes and patterns which are creating the anxiety, not the actual situation itself.
Adults who are affected by anxiety know this. They know rationally, there isn’t really an explanation for why they are so anxious and that it’s their thoughts that trigger it rather than an actual event or situation.
Children, however, aren’t as developed cognitively and it can be hard for them to rationally understand how to manage and control their anxiety. All they are aware of is that they are feeling pretty crap and want to know why.
This is where a technique such as crafting comes in. It will help your child to come out of their head and focus instead on the experience in front of them.
Let’s take a closer look……
Six Ways Crafting Helps Reduce Anxiety
Anxious children are often riddled with self-doubt and lack confidence. They don’t believe that they’ve ‘got what it takes’ to succeed in life. Crafting helps them to achieve this. As they make each individual craft, be it a simple finger puppet to a more involved crocheting pattern, actually completing the task instills a sense of accomplishment.
That feeling of ‘Yes, I CAN do something!’ is very powerful for a child affected by anxiety. They can use that feeling in the future as well when faced with another difficult task that needs to be completed. And best of all, they can actually see the results of all their efforts and be complimented on them. These compliments trigger dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for that feel-good feeling.
RedTedArt has a wonderful variety of options to suit children of all ages and crafting ability. It doesn’t need to be particularly difficult or expensive. Get together with your child and use your imagination – what can you find around the house that can be turned into a paper lantern, colorful bookmark or handmade gift for a loved one.
Tactile Nature of Crafting Is Very Soothing
Have you ever run your fingers through a bowl of glass beads? Isn’t that a lovely, calming feeling – the cool glass and the tinkling sound as each bead falls back into the bowl.
If you have an anxious child, you know that they can indulge in repetitive behaviors which can border on OCD. They may like to continuously rub some material like felt or squeeze a squishy toy to help relieve their stress.
With crafting, your little one will get the opportunity to work with many different materials. Paper, felt, cardboard, tissue, pipe-cleaners, fuzzy wool, paint, slime, ribbons, buttons, beads, leather, string, feathers, pom poms, sand, glue…..the list is endless!
These materials engage the senses and as your child uses these to create different things, it takes their brain down a notch. This is a variation on sensory play which has an incredible calming effect. Here, your child will focus on one or two senses and ‘block out’ the others while becoming absorbed with the materials in front of them.
Here are some of our favourite tactile crafts on Red Ted Art:
- Snowy Pine cone Owls – the contrast of cotton wool and pine cones is fabulous!
- We also love working with Hama Beads – a joy to run your fingers through a pot of beads
- Alternatively, have a go at air drying clay – these Apple Pinch Pots are so easy and satisfying
Breaking Down Social Barriers
Social anxiety can plague many children. It can be incredibly intimidating and downright scary to approach a group of kids and introduce yourself to their social circle. Just imagine how you feel entering a room full of strangers and then quadruple that for your tiny person!
This is where crafting comes in very handy. It could be at a holiday camp or daycare. If there is a craft table already set up, it’s easier for your child to slide in, take a seat, get a few materials and then start putting them together.
This common activity is what bonds both them and the other children around the table. It can be used as a natural icebreaker for your socially-anxious child. Focusing attention on an activity takes attention away from the fact that a ‘newbie’ has joined who may be feeling nervous about fitting in.
Making small talk about how to do the crafts, watching and learning from each other, as well as helping where needed are all natural ways for communication to occur. Kids love to show that they are capable of doing an activity and crafting is no exception – they’ll be more than happy to show your child how to complete something if they get stuck, paving the way for natural friendships to occur.
These are crafts that we enjoy in small groups:
- we love these Friendship bracelets – they are also very meditative to make.. and so easy and look great!
- Paper Spinners – fun to colour, assemble, and play with
- Any of our Corner Bookmarks!
Can Be A Practical Way To Handle Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety occurs most commonly when you drop your child off at preschool or kindergarten. Tears streaming down their face while clinging to your leg, they stare up at you with that look (you know the one I mean);
‘How could you POSSIBLY be doing this to me? How could you LEAVE me here? I’m going to DIE here all alone!!!!!!’
The teacher looks on and gently takes their hand, leading them towards the craft table already set up with interesting flowers, insects and animals they can create. This distraction, along with the promise of being allowed to get messy with paint, is often all that is needed.
My sister is a director at a local childcare center in the inner city and uses this technique to great effect. She has made it a daily feature for children who become teary and clingy at drop-off. All the carers know which children are more likely to be affected by separation anxiety and also the specific crafts they enjoy the most. (I have heard stories though of one or two wily kids who refuse to be distracted by such activities – there are always a few I guess!)
It’s a relatively small thing to have ready, but has paid off hugely for both the parents and children who attend the center – my sister has received numerous compliments on how useful this approach is and how much the children talk about the ‘craft table’ each evening. Winning!!
Here is an example of messy painting
- Messy painting with kids – love these keepsake canvases
- But making pocket pets friends is also a great activity for kids with anxiety
The Devil Is In The Detail
Children who are affected by mental health conditions such as anxiety tend to be very detail-oriented. They love to sort through things and order them as it gives them a level of control over their environment. This control is very soothing for your little person as it gives them a way to manage their anxiety.
Sounds like crafting could be the perfect way to achieve this. Not only do they get to order all the materials they will use e.g. sorting beads and buttons by color and size, there are so many possibilities with crafting that you can help your child make something pretty easy or incredibly complex, depending on their age and abilities.
This focus on the activity brings their awareness away from their anxiety and back to the task at hand.
Crafts we love for detail:
Crafting As A Form Of Mediation
There are a number of different activities that can fall into this category e.g. cooking a meal, gardening or even washing up are repetitive tasks that can have a meditative and calming effect.
For your little one, crafting is the perfect way to achieve this. For example, knitting and crocheting fall under the crafting niche. Both of these activities are repetitive and require quite an intense level of focus to achieve success.
Once your child has started knitting, they can get into the flow of the activity and this is where the meditative benefits are realized. Concentrating so much on the activity, they forget the outside world. It simply ceases to exist for that short period of time and their anxiety is all but forgotten.
From a physiological perspective, it’s been shown that these repetitive tasks dampens the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of your biology responsible for fight or flight and is a key part of why we get anxious in the first place.
We particularly love this craft for it’s meditative qualities:
- God’s eye weaving or check out this Flower God’s Eye version
- Similarly Finger Knitting is great for getting into a repetitive pattern making craft!
Pretty cool, huh?
Increased self-confidence, reducing separation anxiety, meditative effects, reducing social anxiety, soothing nature of the tactile and the attention to detail required are all key ways crafting can help to soothe your anxious child.
I really hope that you enjoyed this article and it gave you some insight into your anxious child.
If you’d like to learn more, then please feel free to visit my site https://copingwithanxiety.org and leave your advice, comments or suggestions.
I’ve also included a few posts that you may be interested in:
Thanks so much and I’d love to hear your thoughts!