One of the most effective activities that you can do with an anxious child is to make a Worry Jar. Since children are concrete thinkers, they need to see their worries rather than just letting them spin in their minds. Anxiety is nothing more than spinning thoughts and once you get those thoughts out of your head, you feel much better.
When I make Worry Jars with kids, I use Model Magic, which is, in my opinion, the easiest clay to use and the clay that makes the coolest jar. Any type of clay will work but what’s important is that your child takes ownership of the jar. If he or she wants you to help, go ahead. It’s more important that your child enjoy the activity than it is for he or she to make it all by himself and feel frustrated.
Start the activity by saying, “We’re going to make a Worry Jar for you to put all of your worries in.” Then make a pinch pot, which if you haven’t made before, this is very easy: roll a ball out of clay and push your thumbs in the middle, almost to the bottom. Then pinch your fingers around the pot making it taller as you go. Once you get the jar high enough to hold strips of paper, you are finished.
Then, cut strips of paper and have your child write his or her worries on them. Explain that the worries can’t be in the jar and in your head at the same time. This is where being a concrete thinker is important because kids can physically see their worries in the jar. With each worry that your child puts in, remind him that the jar will hold it and that there is no need to think about it any longer.
Cut extra strips of paper and keep the Worry Jar going for as long as you need. Your child can add to it and also take them away once the worries are gone. Many of the kids I work with put their Worry Jars on their nightstand and have them for years. Having a Worry Jar on the night stand will also help kids who have a hard time sleeping as they can write down their worries before they go to bed and can sleep more peacefully.
For more information about childhood anxiety and for 15 Tools for Parenting an Anxious child, check out Why Smart Kids Worry.