I don’t know of anyone who isn’t struggling with some anxiety this year, and that includes kids — especially since their school lives are changing drastically, whether that means virtual learning or heading back to campus. Thankfully, there are grounding techniques for kids with anxiety to utilize, especially if they’re heading back to school in person.
Things are going to be looking very different for kids this year — everyone wearing masks, smaller classrooms, spaced out desks, and maybe even some plastic barriers. Lunch and recess might not be a great reprieve either. It’s not a stretch to assume that this may cause a bit of anxiety in our kids. I mean, it’s causing me anxiety thinking about it for them, and grounding techniques can definitely help with these feelings.
“Grounding techniques are strategies that help reduce uncomfortable feelings and sensations such as anxiety, worry, and stress. Grounding exercises can be mental, physical, or a combination of both,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Manly, Ph.D. Grounding helps you be in the moment and not stress about the past or future.
“This mindfulness-based approach prevents the child from focusing on negative possibilities and worrisome events in the future. And, as anxiety arises from a fear of a future event, ‘be in the present’ grounding strategies naturally alleviate anxiety by calming the child’s body and mind,” she says.
Basically, these techniques are meant to help a child stop and pause, says Maureen Healy, author and emotional coach.
Children can begin using these grounding techniques as young as 2 years old, which may be helpful for those toddlers heading back to day care soon. Manly says they can start as soon as they can mimic a parent’s behavior. “For example, a 2-year-old who is able to sit next to her mom for even a few minutes while the mom ‘belly breathes’ is practicing grounding skills,” Manly says. “A 3-year-old who is able to mindfully stretch next to daddy — if only for five minutes — is practicing a grounding technique. A 4-year-old who learns to enjoy tossing a ball gently back and forth to ease anxiety is also practicing grounding techniques,” she says. “That said, by the time a child is about 5 years old, the child can often consciously choose to engage in a grounding behavior that has been modeled by a parent or caregiver. This is why many toddlers will naturally go to a quiet spot to cuddle up with a toy or pet, or lay in the grass to breathe.”
Below you’ll find more examples of grounding techniques for kids with anxiety, and perhaps even parents can utilize these eight different techniques. Let’s face it, 2020 has definitely thrown everyone for a loop, and all families could use a little bit less anxiety.
Go For A Walk
To be honest, going for walks has been my saving grace during this whole ordeal, and I can totally see how this would help kids feel more grounded.
"Going for a walk slowly and mindfully is a grounding activity," says Healy. "Walk slowly and maybe even make it a contest to see who can walk the slowest and feel their feet touching the ground with bare feet or walk softly with shoes." She says it helps for them to be aware of when the top of their foot touches the ground and then the middle or heel of their foot. "So becoming aware of their steps, slowing down, and paying attention that every step matters."
"Counting is an age-old grounding activity," Manly says. "Whether counting sheep, various colors in the room, or the number of trees outside the window, counting games are terrific for decreasing anxiety and increasing a state of calm."
Use A "Grounding Kit"
"What I have come to term 'grounding kits' can be especially helpful for children as they return to school and day care settings," Manly says. "The parent can create a special little packet for 'emergency' use. Grounding kits can contain school-approved items such as a favorite, tiny painted rock, a picture of a pet, soothing lip balm, or other special, calm-inducing items."
Manly says to have the child help select the items for the kit, because that will make it more meaningful and effective.
"These little grounding kits are often simple reminders for the child that the comforts of home are not far away. And, interestingly, it’s often enough for the child to know that the kit is close by in the event it’s needed; simply thinking about the grounding kit can be grounding in itself."