How to Teach Kids About Anxious Thoughts Using a Jellyfish Suncatcher

IMG_2070My thermometer hit 34 degrees celsius today. And it feels HOT. The sky is cloudless. The sun is blistering. All this summer has me wishing for the beach.

With that thought in mind, here’s a fun, beachy craft you can make with kids struggling with anxiety. This activity will help children talk about anxious thoughts and how those thoughts feed the feelings of worry and anxiety. You will probably find this craft works well for a middle stage activity, as children should already know what anxiety is, what it feels like in their bodies, and some basic coping skills like deep breathing and relaxation. Since the cognitive aspects of worry can be difficult for really young children to grasp, this activity will work best with school-aged children.

You will need:
– Construction paper
– Tissue paper
– Tape or glue
– Ribbons (thick enough to write on)
– Sharpie or other thin permanent marker
– Con-tact paper (I used a roll of “removable self-adhesive vinyl” from the office section at Dollarama)

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You will be making a “Worry Jellyfish Suncatcher”. I got the idea from the i heart arts n crafts site and changed it a bit to make for this awesome session activity.

Craft instructions:
1) Start off by cutting out two jellyfish shapes (place two sheets of construction paper on top of one another to make sure they are the same size and shape). Then cut out the middle of the jellyfish bodies so you are left with an outline. You can make the craft with only one outline, but using two will allow the suncatcher to be reversible.

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2) Cut a piece of the adhesive vinyl and lay it on the table sticky side up. Place one of the outlines on it.

3) Place pieces of tissue paper onto the vinyl on the inside of the outline. I pre-cut my paper into rectangles, but you can use whatever shape, size and colours you like. Make sure to fill the entire outline, but also trim any tissue so that it does not go past the outside edge of the jellyfish.

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4) Once the outline is covered, attach pieces of ribbon to the bottom of the jellyfish body. Choose ribbon that is thick enough to write on.

5) Tape or glue the second outline directly on top of the first. As I mentioned, you can skip this step if you want, but I wanted to make the jellyfish reversible, so it could hang in the window on either side.

6) Place a second piece of adhesive vinyl over the jellyfish, sticky side down. This stuff is very sticky, so, to minimize frustration, it may be best if the adult does this part.

7) Trim around the fish (careful not to cut the ribbons off), leaving a bit of a border all the way around to make sure it stays sealed.

8) Write worried thoughts on the tentacles.

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9) Voila! One Worry Jellyfish Suncatcher. You can write “Worry Jellyfish” on the body if the child wants, but it will block some of the sun from coming through.IMG_2069

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Discussion:
As you make the craft with your client, you can talk to him or her about jellyfish facts. Discuss how these fish look harmless, and how often people don’t even notice them in the water until they get stung (Use your discretion here; this discussion may not be helpful if you think that it is going to lead your client to worry about jellyfish stings when he is swimming).

Explain how our thoughts are the same way at times. Worried thoughts can sneak into our minds (give some examples) and we don’t even notice, until they take over our thoughts and we are “stung” with anxiety. You can review the physical symptoms of anxiety to demonstrate the symptoms of a “worry jellyfish” sting.

Once the child has completed his jellyfish, you can identify specific worried thoughts that he struggles with (e.g., What if my parents get in an accident? What if someone breaks into our house? What if I say something stupid?). At this point you will use the sharpie to write these worries onto the different ribbons (jellyfish tentacles) to represent the fact that these worried thoughts can “sting” him and cause him to feel  anxious.

Next, discuss some positive thoughts that your client can use to take the “sting” out of these thoughts. For older children, you not only teach them to replace the anxious thoughts with more positive thoughts and affirmations, but you can teach them to challenge their stinging worries with questions like “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “How likely is that to happen?”

Make sure to send the jellyfish home with the child. He can choose to display it in a window as decoration, and it can also serve as a conversation starter with the child’s parents about his worries.

Please let us know how your clients/children enjoyed this jellyfish activity.

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Carey EmmersonHow to Teach Kids About Anxious Thoughts Using a Jellyfish Suncatcher

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