In my mindful mornings group, we do meditations, grounding exercises, art activities, yoga, and nature connection activities. I like to do a wide variety of activities so that all of my students can find something that feels right for them. Not every kid will love yoga or meditation, and that’s okay. I just want them to find a mindfulness activity that helps them connect to the moment through whatever practice feels most comfortable. For many of my students, art activities are that practice! We recently did a grounding exercise and art activity to connect to our emotions in the moment and the results were amazing! Keep reading to find the mindfulness group art activity we did and how you can do it too.
Mindfulness Group Art Activity: I am Here
card stock or plain white paper
watercolors or colored pencils
To begin, I gave all of my students a piece of plain card stock paper. They placed one hand on the paper and pressed their hand into the surface. I prompted them to notice where on their hands they noticed pressure and how the paper felt under the hands. Then I had them slowly open and close their fingers to feel their fingers glide over the paper.
Next, I had my students trace their hands with a pencil. As they traced, I encouraged them to notice how the pencil felt along their fingers (many noticed that it tickled). After they traced, students continued to lightly press their hands into the paper.
I prompted them, “Notice how your hand feels connected to the surface. As you feel connected to the surface, feel your connection below your own surface. What emotion are you feeling right now in this moment? Where in your body do you feel that emotion? Can you connect this area to your hand?”
When students were clued in to their emotions, they began to draw inside their outlined hands on the paper. I didn’t give a lot of prompting with this, but I did tell students to design the inside of the hand to show their emotions. Some students drew symmetric mandala-style designs. Others drew a different design in each finger to represent different emotions they were feeling.
For my example, I traced both hands. I wrote feeling words in each finger to show the two sides of feelings I had about a particular event. On one hand, I described hopeful and excited feelings. On the other hand, I describe nervous feelings about the same event. I used colors to represent these two different experiences as well.
After everyone drew their designs, some painted their hands while others colored them with colored pencils. Students used colors that best represented the ways they were feeling. Afterward, we all shared our creations, and it was amazing to hear about the emotions students identified and hear about where in their bodies they most felt those emotions as we did the exercise.
This was a great way to help students connect with their emotions and practice sharing them with others!
We all work with students who worry. Helping kids overcome worries starts with skill building. When we can help kids understand what worry feels like and sounds like, we can help them make positive changes to overcome worries. Keep reading to find the 11 essentials skills I teach to help kids deal with worry.
Help Kids Deal with Worry with These 11 Essential Skills:
1. Body Awareness
A racing heart or excessive sweating can be pretty scary when we don’t know what’s causing it! Tuning in to their bodies is so helpful for kids when they can recognize signs of worry. There’s power in body awareness when kids can say, “When I was worried, my heart was pounding and my stomach felt sick,” or “My throat feels tight. My worries are affecting my body.” This can take away some of the fear that results from these physical experiences. Practice drawing where in their bodies kids feel sensations when they’re worried.
If they aren’t sure, help them keep a journal to look for patterns.
2. Grounding & Breathing Strategies
Teach kids to use grounding strategies when they notice the physical signs of worry in their bodies. These techniques will help them to focus on the here and now, feel connected in the present moment, control their breathing, and calm their bodies. Need some help with grounding strategies? Read about 10 strategies you can teach your kids.
In addition to grounding techniques, teach your students breathing exercises they can use in the moment when they feel worried. These breathing strategies can be simple seated exercises or you can teach them with art activities. Practice the breathing strategies and then give kids easy tracing cards or visual reminders of the breathing strategies that they can use anytime!
3. Trigger Awareness
Awareness of what events, places, or thoughts trigger worries is so important for kids to develop. When they have an understanding of the things that precipitate their worry thoughts, they can manage expectations or actions. For example, your student might notice that worry thoughts start when it’s time for math groups. When the student is aware of this, he can practice those breathing strategies or self-talk (discussed later) to help manage worries related to this triggering event.
Not sure what these triggers are? Go back to keeping a journal! Students write down their physical experiences related to worry or their worry thoughts and then identify what happened before those physical signs or thoughts started.
4. Thought Awareness
Thinking about thinking can be a hard concept to grasp, but once students are aware of the thoughts running through their heads, they can start to address them! What are the thoughts I have? What am I telling myself? Being aware of thoughts helps kids understand the emotions and actions that follow in the chain reaction! Just being aware of the worry thoughts will give students an opportunity to stop, reframe, or challenge them.
5. Thought Stopping
Thought-stopping is a challenging skill, even for some adults. But you can help your students develop this skill with these strategies:
When you notice the worry thought, say in your mind, “Stop! I don’t want this worry right now,” and actively try to think about something else that’s unrelated to the worry.
Snap your fingers to signal the stop of the thought
Imagine a big red stop sign in your mind
Picture your worry as a bug. Imagine yourself stepping on the bug to squash it and stop the worry
Imagine your worry as a balloon. Picture yourself popping the balloon with a pin to stop the worry
Get up, move around, and change activities to totally shift your body and your attention
Sing a song in your mind or aloud
Replay a memory of a time when you were successful
Set a timer to signal the end of “worry time”
6. Thought Reframing
Teach kids to reframe their worries in a way that gives them power! Instead of just using purely positive self-talk or reframing, help kids develop alternative thoughts that are realistic and highlight their power in the situation. Here’s an example:
Worry thought: I’m going to strike out.
Purely positive reframe: I’m an amazing player! I won’t strike out!
Believable and realistic reframe: I might strike out, but I also might get a hit. I will do my best.
Are there any other facts? Am I focusing on just one detail?
Has something like this happened in the past? How did it turn out?
Is there any evidence to prove this worry wrong?
Are there any other explanations for this? What else could explain this?
What’s the best thing that could happen right now? Is there anything good about it? Is this going to matter next year? Next week?
8. Thought Redirection
Teach kids to shift attention to something unrelated to the worry. Here are a few ideas:
replay a happy memory
focus on something you’re looking forward to
replay a favorite movie scene in your mind
imagine yourself as a superhero conquering something hard
picture your favorite calm place
Kids can also redirect their thoughts with positive action. Try these:
Write in a gratitude journal
Move your body! Do your favorite exercise
Get creative! Paint, draw, doodle, or color a mandala
Write a story or letter
9. Realm of Control Awareness
An awareness of things that are in and out of our control is so important for everyone, especially kids who worry! Help kids differentiate between things that are in their control (i.e. their behavior, their words, etc.) and things that are not in their control (i.e. other people’s actions, the weather, etc.). If they notice they are worrying about things that are outside of their control, they can redirect their thoughts, use breathing exercises, or self-talk to manage the worry.
In My Control School Counseling Activity - YouTube
10. Self Talk
Kids can also learn to change the ways they talk to themselves about their worries. Turning, “I’m not brave enough to handle this,” into “I’m stronger than my worries,” or “I can ask for help,” or “I can find one small task to accomplish” will bring about huge changes in the ways kids feel about themselves when worries creep in! Help your students develop positive, healthy self-talk they can use when they experience worries. Like the reframes, try to keep the self-talk statements specific and realistic.
11. Asking for Help
We can empower kids to manage their worries on their own, but the truth is, it’s not a solo job! Teach kids how to ask for help – whether it’s for a break during an overwhelming assignment at school or for reassurance during a storm – so they know that there’s no shame in asking for help and sharing their worries with others!
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How do you help kids deal with worry?
What other skills do you want your kids to learn to help them manage worries? Leave them in the comments below. And check out all of these resources that will help your kids become warriors over their worry!
When worries creep it, it can be really hard to make them stop! But intentionally teaching kids thought-stopping strategies is a great way to help them get a handle on worry thoughts and break the worry spiral. Keep reading to find the thought-stopping strategies for kids that I teach my students (and my own kids!).
Thought-Stopping Strategies for Kids
1. Simply Say, “Stop!”
When kids notice their worry thoughts creeping into their minds, teach them to simply say, “Stop!” This can be something they say aloud or just in their minds. Tell those worry you don’t have time for them right now and then actively think about something else.
2. Snap Your Fingers
When you say, “Stop!” snap your fingers to signal the end of the worry. The physical act and the sound can be a reminder to change your train of thought.
3. Imagine a Big Red Stop Sign
In your mind, picture a big red stop sign. Imagine yourself coming to a complete stop. Toss out the worry and then pick up another thought.
4. Squash the Worry Bug
Picture your worry as an annoying bug. Imagine that it lands on the ground in front of you. Now, imagine that you squash it with your foot.
5. Pop the Worry Balloon
Picture your worry as a balloon. Imagine that you have a sharp pin in your hand. Picture yourself popping the worry balloon with the pin.
6. Get Up and Move
If you’re sitting while the worry thought creeps in, actively stand up and move around. Shift to a new activity like a favorite exercise. Or move around to get a change of scenery! If you’re sitting at a desk, move to a window or a calm corner.
7. Sing a Song
Aloud or in your head, sing a song that you know all of the words to. Focus on just the song lyrics!
8. Replay a Memory
In your mind, replay a favorite memory. Maybe it was the happiest day of your life. Maybe it was a day when something really funny or silly happened. Or maybe it was a time when you were successful and overcame an obstacle. Turn all of your attention to just that event!
9. Set a Timer
Set a timer for 1 minute. At the end of the minute, the timer will sound, and that sound signals that it’s time to push the worry out of your mind.
What are your favorite thought stopping strategies for kids?
I’d love to hear your ideas! What do you teach your students? Leave them in the comments section below. Let’s collaborate!
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Want more strategies to help kids deal with worry?
Career education starts early! Kindergarten students love learning about careers and community helpers (and they love making up their own careers for the future: robot pilot and balloon princess are a couple of my favorites). I find the best way to talk about careers with younger students is to actually not do that much talking at all but instead let students explore careers through fun centers. Keep reading to find my favorite hands-on Kindergarten career activities you and your students will love!
Kindergarten Career Activities for School Counseling
Where do they work?
Get kids thinking about workplaces of community helpers with clip cards. These will help students start to think about places they might enjoy spending their days and start to make connections between community helpers who work together.
There are so many great books to kick off your Kindergarten career activities as a way to introduce your students to community helpers. These will get your students excited about careers and get them thinking about workplaces, on-the-job tools, and more. Here are a few of my favorites:
Whose Tools Are These? by Sharon Katz Cooper
What Hat Will You Wear? by Julia Cook
Whose Hat is This? by Sharon Katz Cooper
Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do by Kathryn Heling
What tools do they use?
What’s in that community helper’s daily toolbox? Use clip cards to get students thinking about what kinds of tools community helpers use on a daily basis.
Build a tool.
Speaking of tools, why not let kids build their own? Students can pick a community helper card and then use play dough to build a tool that the community helper uses on the job.
What do they make?
Community helpers produce all sorts of things that make our world an amazing place! These clip cards will help students to identify just what those community helpers are making and start thinking about those people who are involved in producing things they love and use every day.
Finish the scene.
Time to use that imagination! With a finish the scene activity, students draw what they imagine the community helpers doing on the job. Students start with handouts showing a community helper and bits and pieces of a scene. Then, they get to add all of the details to show what the community helpers are up to.
What are your favorite Kindergarten career activities? I love doing hands-on centers to give students a chance to play and explore!
Sometimes when I get ready to start a classroom guidance lesson, I can just feel the energy in the room operating at a 10. The kids are excited, moving around, maybe chatting a little bit. I know I need to bring the energy level down just a bit to get students focused and ready for my lesson or activities. I wanted to share a counseling lesson warm up activity that I use to get kids focused that’s great for students of any age!
Counseling Lesson Warm Up Activity
To start, I have all of the students sit in a circle away from desks or anything they could pick up or touch. I want the circle to be as distraction-free as possible. I start the activity with a simple hand pattern. I’ll tap my lap with both hands and then clap. Tap, clap, tap, clap. I ask students to follow this pattern with me. Some students take this as a challenge for a race and go at lightning speed, so I have to remind them to go at my pace.
When everyone has the pattern down and is moving at the same pace, I ask a student to add one step to the pattern. It might be tap, clap, snap. Tap, clap, snap. All of the students add this step on to the pattern, and we do just this until everyone has it. Then, I ask another student to add on to the pattern.
We keep moving in this way until we have a longer pattern and everyone has the pace. For each additional step, we do need longer to practice, and that’s fine! Depending on the age of the students, this can be a 4-10 step pattern (maybe even more if your group is really on it!).
Counseling Lesson Warm Up Activity - YouTube
Why I Love This Counseling Lesson Warm Up Activity
To perform this task, students absolutely have to get focused. They have to attend to the pattern, they have to let go of other thoughts, and they have to clue in to their bodies. This requires a lot of body awareness! They also have to tune out distractions from peers because if someone misses a step in the pattern, it can get them off pace too. This activity is great for
When I Use This Activity
Most recently, I did this activity as a warm up with my Mindful Mornings group. It was the perfect way to bring down the energy level first thing in the morning so that we could focus on our mindfulness exercises for the day. I have also done this to kick off a classroom guidance lesson with younger students. It’s a great way to start any classroom guidance lesson or small group activity, especially when students seem to enter the room distracted!
In the past, I’ve had one, maybe two, stress management lessons on the yearly schedule. I do one before the holidays and one around testing time. But this year I realized that 2 lessons weren’t going to cut it. My students were more stressed out than ever. From more demanding classes to more extracurricular responsibilities and activities, the kids I’m working with reported high levels of stress in multiple domains when we did a self-assessment. So I reevaluated my plan for the year and worked in more stress management activities to target this. Keep reading to find out what stress management activities for kids I use and some creative ways to fit in a whole unit if you’re short on class time.
Stress Management Activities for Kids
Why I Teach a Whole Unit
While one- or two-time lessons work fine for some topics, the data showed that my students really needed more than a general overview of stress management. What once was 1-2 lessons throughout the year turned in to 6-lesson unit to give the students the stress management skills they really needed. I did have to rearrange the calendar I planned and let some things go, but it’s okay. It’s what they needed. After I rearranged my calendar, I sent home a letter to parents to fill them in on what I’d be covering in class lessons. The response I got was overwhelmingly positive with parents saying they could tell their kids were stressed but they didn’t know how to help.
What’s in the Unit
First things first, we talk about what stress actually is. We talk about the biological processes involved in the stress response. We talk about fight, flight, and freeze responses. Then, students do a self-assessment to see in what areas of their life they may be experiencing stress (family, school, community, friends/relationships, money, health).
Many of my students report high levels of stress related to school. They say that they’re overwhelmed by the number of assignments they have or that they struggle to get things in on time. From here we talk about planning and organization. I walk them through the process of evaluating the size of an assignment, breaking it into smaller, more manageable tasks, gathering necessary materials, and identifying people who can help in the case of a roadblock.
For students who say that relationships and friendship issues are a stressor, we cover conflict resolution. We also talk about what makes a supportive friend or the qualities supportive people have.
We also cover things like yoga, cardio exercise, positive self talk, practicing gratitude, using humor, and listening to calming or happy music. All of these skills can be weaved into other lessons as well, but we do rotating centers to practice these skills. Then, I have students create a stress plan. They name situations or stressors and then identify stress management strategies that will be helpful in the moment.
When to Fit it In
I’m lucky enough to have the time to be a little flexible, but I know many counselors aren’t able to get into the classroom as often as they may want to. If you’re thinking you don’t have time to teach a whole unit, try pushing in for morning meeting, teaming up with your specials teachers, or even a “working lunch” with a class. Many of the stress management activities will seamlessly fit in with art or PE activities, so a team effort with specials may be just the way to go!
Do you teach stress management as a comprehensive unit? What stress management activities for kids do you use? Click the image below to see more of what’s included in the stress management classroom guidance lessons I teach:
Many of the students I have worked with in a group or individual setting who are dealing with worries share a similar belief. They think they need to “just be positive” to get rid of their worries. Well-meaning adults or friends in their lives have given them this advice in an attempt to help. But the truth is positivity isn’t the most effective way to deal with worries. It’s important that we help our students or kids learn to reframe worries with realistic and believable thoughts. Keep reading to see how you can help kids deal with worry by reframing worries with this strategy.
Reframe Worries in a Way That Sticks
Worries, Feelings, Actions, Thoughts Chain Reaction
To teach this skill, I first want students to see how their worry thoughts start a chain reaction. Worry thoughts lead to emotions like worry, fear, nervousness, and more. Those emotions lead to actions like hiding, withdrawing, or skipping events. Those actions lead to more thoughts like, “No one likes me,” or “The world is too dangerous.”
Once they can see how this chain reaction starts and cycles, we look at an alternative thought – something that challenges the worry. Here’s an example:
Worry thought: What if no one at the party talks to me?
Alternative thought: I can think of at least 1 thing to say to someone at the party.
In this situation, the worry thought places all of the control in others’ hands. But the alternative thought gives the thinker power to take control in the situation. As you can imagine, the chain reactions for these thoughts look really different.
Worry thought: What if no one at the party talks to me? Emotion: Scared, nervous Action: I stand alone in the corner or don’t go. Thought: I’m unlikeable.
Alternative thought: I can think of at least 1 thing to say to someone at the party. Emotion: Confident Action: I talk to one person about the big game last night. Thought: I can have conversations with others.
The Problem with Pure Positivity
There’s certainly nothing wrong with positivity – we teach positive thinking all the time! But when it comes to worries, it’s more important that reframed thoughts are believable and realistic than positive. If a student creates positive reframes that are general and un-actionable, chances are that these thoughts won’t have long-standing benefits for dismissing worry. Here are some examples:
Worry thought: I’ll probably mess up all my lines in my speech.
Purely positive reframe: Everything will be fine!
Believable and realistic reframe: I practiced my speech a lot. I might mess up a line or two, but most people won’t even know. I can keep going.
Worry thought: I’m going to strike out.
Purely positive reframe: I’m an amazing player! I won’t strike out!
Believable and realistic reframe: I might strike out, but I also might get a hit. I will do my best.
See the difference? The problem with telling students to “just be positive” is that it doesn’t really help them change their thinking. It’s like sweeping worries under the rug. Instead, by helping students reframe their worries with thoughts that are believable and realistic, they can acknowledge other possibilities and also harness any control they may have in the situation.
The key to helping kids reframe worries is to make sure those reframed thoughts are believable and realistic, not just positive!
How do you help kids reframe worries? What are some of your favorite activities to teach this skill? Let me know and check out more worry busting activities and resources below:
Need More Worry Activities? Try These Activities to Help Kids Deal With Worry:
If you’re a Worry Warriors group counseling curriculum user, I’ve got big news for you! The curriculum just got a major update, and it’s jam-packed with new activities to make your group even more engaging, even more effective, and even more fun! I’m outlining all of the updates in this post so you can see what worry management activities are in store for your students. Watch the video below or read on for the specifics on each session!
Worry Management Activities for Kids: A Look Inside Worry Warriors Group Counseling Curriculum - YouTube
New Worry Management Activities in the Worry Warriors Group Counseling Curriculum
Aside from the sessions, the new Worry Warriors has even more supplemental materials to get you started. I included a new pre/post test to use with students. In one version, students color or circle thumbs to indicate their responses to statements. In the other version, they can circle statements (always, sometimes, never). I also included an adult rater form so teachers or parents can provide information as well. You’ll also find a teacher nomination form, parent letter, reminder bracelets, counselor passes, and completion certificates.
Session 1: Group Introduction
In this session, students get to know the counselor and are introduced to the group process. Students will set group expectations and share more about themselves. Your students can make a worry warrior shield to introduce themselves by decorating it with symbols to represent who they are. Then, they can play a roll and respond game to learn more about one another and share how they’re feeling about being in group.
Session 2: What is Worry?
In this session, students will learn more about what exactly worry is. There is a printable booklet that describes the physical and biological process of worry as well as visual aids that describe physical signs of worry. Students create their own handout to show the physical signs of worry they experience. Two options are included here – one works well for students who are comfortable writing and have the vocabulary to describe their bodies and the other works well for students who aren’t comfortable writing or will be more successful identifying specific regions of their bodies that experience physical signs of worry. Wrap this session up by teaching students to use their Worry Warrior breath! There’s a simple visual script to practice controlled breathing.
Session 3: Grounding
In this session, students will learn and practice simple grounding strategies. Practice using these skills when students are in the midst of high activity by having a dance party. Pause the music, and stop and ground! Then, wrap up your session with a simple yoga or stretching sequence. A script is included as well as visuals that use the yoga and stretching terminology.
Session 4: Personifying Worry
Get ready to build your own worry monster! In this session, students learn about personifying their worry so that they can talk to it and tame it! Use a simple handout to name and describe a worry monster, or use the monster kit to build your own worry monster. Students can choose their own eyes, mouths, bodies, arms, and legs to build a worry monster and then describe their worry monsters using the booklet pages. Practice taming worry monsters with statements like, “I don’t have to listen to you! You’re not in charge of my thoughts.”
Session 5: Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions
In this session, students will learn more about the connections between thoughts, feelings, and actions. A printable booklet is included to describe the chain reaction that comes after a worry thought. Students will work together to complete sequencing puzzles identifying the sequence of thoughts, feelings, and actions. Then, they’ll learn about how alternate thoughts that challenge the worries can change the chain reaction! By the end of the session, they’ll practice reframing their own worry thoughts and thinking about how this can change their own chain reaction.
Session 6: Can I Control That?
We all have students who worry about things outside of their control. This is super distressing! This session is all about helping kids see what they can and cannot control and develop self talk to help themselves through this. Students will review cards and decide if the things on the cards are things they can control or cannot control. If they can control them, they’ll place the cards in the Worry Warrior’s satchel. Make it fun by hiding the cards and letting the group members find them! Afterward, practice self talk like, “I can’t control Hannah’s words, but I can control my reaction,” or “I can’t control the weather, but I can control my breathing.”
Session 7: Thought Checking
Time to evaluate those worries and see if they hold water! Use the included printable booklet to show students how Worry Warrior’s can use their special skills to investigate their worries. Then, practice checking worry thoughts with the included printables and activity mat. Students can make their own thought-checking sliders to keep on their desks or inside their notebooks for quick reference when they need it!
Session 8: My Responsibilities
Along the lines of things that are in their control, many students worry about things that are not their responsibilities. Students will sort kid responsibilities vs. adult responsibilities and practice self talk to help themselves remember what they can do in the moment.
Session 9: Controlled Breathing
This session is all about helping kids find controlled breathing exercises that work for them! Four breathing exercises are included with vibrant visual aids to guide the session. Then, students can create their own breathing exercises from one of the 9 blank breathing exercise cards. This really helps students solidify their understand of the process and gives them a chance to make it their own.
Session 10: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
In this session, students will go on a Worry Warriors adventure through the forest, into a cave, and to a Worry Warrior party while they practice progressive muscle relaxation! A script is included, as well as a yoga stretching activity to wrap up the session.
Session 11: Social Supports
In this session, students will do a movement-based activity to explore the need for supportive people! They’ll think about supportive qualities in others and identify their Worry Warrior Battle Buddies. They can create a Worry Warrior shield craft to name their battle buddies too.
Session 12: Termination
In the final session of the group, students will do a 3-2-1 discussion to reflect on their own growth and personal changes. Then, students can create a card deck of all of the Worry Warrior battle skills they’ve learned throughout group!
As you can see, it’s jam-packed with new activities! Be sure to download your free update from your account on either Teachers Pay Teachers or on my blog (wherever you purchased the group). Be sure to email me and let me know how it goes – I love hearing from you!
While I do my stress management unit with my 7th graders, one thing always pops up as a stressor: social media. My students talk about everything from feeling like to need to buy cooler things to feeling like they need to look differently after comparing themselves to their peers and to celebrities online. Ironically, I got an idea for a lesson while scrolling Instagram. Social media can be awesome too, after all. If social media is a stressor for your students, keep reading to find the social media lesson that was a huge hit with my students!
Social Media Lesson: Social Media Stress in Teens
To kick things off, I had my students work with a partner to talk about this: how might social media affect your mental and emotional health? There were some really insightful thoughts that came from this activity:
Can social media have positive and negative influences?
If you don’t use social media, can it still affect your mental health?
Can you get addicted to social media?
After this discussion, we watched a TedTalk about exactly this. Many of the students’ questions were answered by this talk!
Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health? | Bailey Parnell | TEDxRyersonU - YouTube
Afterward, we talked about highlight reels and social currency. This really resonated with my students, as they said they often deleted pictures that didn’t get enough likes or felt the need to constantly check how many likes they get.
At this point, I had a few students who shared that they had actually deleted certain social media apps and talked about how they felt better. Others chimed in to say that they just unfollow accounts that make them feel bad about themselves. Some students said they could never delete apps or unfollow people for fear of being left out or making others upset. I was happy to sit back and let them take the lead on this discussion and it was a really productive talk! But at the end we arrived at one question: how can teens use social media in a way that doesn’t cause unnecessary stress?
You might remember I mentioned that my inspiration for this lesson came from Instagram. One of my favorite accounts to follow is Positively Present by Dani DiPirro. She’s an artist who posts encouraging, inspiration, and funny illustrations that I always find myself saving. She created an illustration of “apps I need on my phone,” and I knew this would be the perfect thing to show my students.
Then, I challenged my students to create their own phone apps to describe things that create happiness in their lives instead of stress. There were some really insightful responses like hugs from parents, puppy snuggles, time with a book, and more. I won’t post any of the students’ work here, but I will share the exemplar I made to show them:
Is social media a stressor for your students? This activity was loose and mostly student-led, which is what I loved about it! You can download the free outline and handout for the social media lesson here. It was a great way to get those students who do experience social media-related stress to think about alternative activities where they can put their attention.
We all work with kids who worry or struggle to gain control over their thoughts in the moment. While we can work over a longer period of time to help kids examine and restructure their thoughts, we need to also give them the tools to interrupt those thoughts in the moment! Grounding techniques are a powerful tool to help kids to connect to the here and now and interrupt spiraling worries. Keep reading to check out 10 of my favorite grounding exercises to help kids manage worry and anxiety.
Help Kids Manage Worry with These 10 Grounding Exercises
1. 5-4-3-2-1 Senses
This grounding exercise is a great go-to for kids. All they need for this exercise is their senses! Have students practice identifying:
5 things you see
4 things you hear
3 things you smell
2 things you can touch
1 thing you taste
Some people swap the final 2, and that works too! I find especially with younger students that identifying 2 things they taste in the moment can be tricky (“but I’m not eating!”) so I have them do just 1 taste identification.
2. 5-4-3-2-1 Sights
If noticing each sense is tough for your student right now, try an exercise just with sights. Create categories and have students name what they see. Here’s an example:
5 colors I see
4 shapes I see
3 soft things I see
2 people I see
1 book I see
3. A-B-C Around the Room
This exercise will get students connected with that place where they are right now. Have your student look around the room and name something they see that starts with A, then B, then C and so forth. See how far they can get through the alphabet and then check-in to see how they’re feeling once they reach the end.
4. Be a Tree
There’s nothing more grounded than a tree! Teach your student to feel his or her connection with the ground by imaging him/herself as a tree. This sounds like, “I am firmly planted. I feel my feet rooted to the ground. My back is a strong trunk helping me feel stable in the moment. I feel my toes connecting with the ground. My arms are my branches. I feel them reach out into the world.” Simply noticing their bodies and feeling their connection with the room helps kids feel grounded!
5. Power Hug
Firm pressure is great for grounding. Help students create an affirming statement to use for this exercise. It could be something like, “I am in control,” or “I am safe in this moment.” Practice placing the left hand on the right shoulder for a tap and then the right hand on the left shoulder for another tap. Then squeeze into a hug and say the affirmation. Tap, tap, squeeze, affirm. Tap, tap, squeeze, affirm. Repeat this as many times as needed!
6. Object Focus
Keep some unique items on hand with different textures and colors. These could be sensory items, colorful rocks, snow globes or something else. Students can hold an item in their hands and tune in all of their focus to the item. Notice the colors. Notice the textures. How does it feel in my hand? How does it feel when I squeeze it? What colors do I see? Just notice everything there is to notice about the item!
7. I am Here Hand Trace
For this exercise, you’ll need paper and a pencil, marker, or crayon. Students will trace a hand on the paper. You can take this a few different directions. Students can simply press the hand into the space on the paper and feel the connection between hand and table. Or they can use the space inside the hand to write things they see or describe the room.
To re-orient to the moment, just have students name facts about the moment. You can give them a card to keep with them to remind them of facts they can state and practice practice practice! It might sound like:
My name is…
I am in…
The season is…
The weather is…
I am wearing…
9. Stomp Stomp Blow
For an active grounding exercise, have students stomp the left foot, stomp the right foot and then exhale deeply. Continue this pattern of stomp, stomp, blow, stomp, stomp, blow, stomp, stomp, blow. Feel the connection of feet with the floor. Blow away anxious thoughts.
10. Room Search
Pick one broad category and search the room. Name everything in the room that’s green. How many stars can you find in the room? Say the type of shoe everyone in the room is wearing. Count the bricks on one wall.
How do you help kids manage worry?
Grounding is a powerful way to interrupt anxious thoughts in the moment! Give your kids who worry a chance to practice each one and see which one works for them. What strategies do you teach your kids? Do you have a favorite grounding technique that wasn’t mentioned here? Leave it in the comments below so I can give it a try!