Bridget Steed; Art by Julie Norton
Children ages 5+
Anxiety Monster is an activity for children and teens who are experiencing fear, anxiety, confusion, or any other uncomfortable or unpleasant emotions.
The objective here is to help kids process their feelings and fears around the unknown. By personifying something that feels scary and a bit mysterious, making it more tangible and allowing kids to dialogue with it can lessen the fear around it and give them a sense of agency over the situation.
Offer for a child to co-create an “Anxiety Monster” using any art materials you have on hand. Depending on what you choose to use, this could be a drawing, sculpture, painting, puppet….or anything else you and your child can imagine.
Questions to consider asking a child to help them create:
If the virus/ current challenge were a monster, animal, or some kind of tangible “thing,” what do you imagine it would look like?
What color/size/shape/texture would it be?
Would it talk? What would its voice sound like?
Can you give it a new name?
After your child has finished his or her creation, invite them to interact with it by dialoguing back and forth.
Questions to consider exploring:
What do you want to say to the “Anxiety monster” (or insert its new given name here)
What does the monster have to say to you?
Can other family or community members interact with it as well?
Why do you think the anxiety monster is here?
Can you tell the monster how life has been different for you since its arrival?
Next, invite the child to create a cave or “bunker” to house the anxiety monster so it can’t harm them and suggest that they put it in its new dwelling and hide it somewhere out of sight. Again, use whatever materials you have on hand, such as construction paper or a shoe box.
The next time fear or panic comes up, remind the child that the anxiety monster is safely in its cave. Maybe invite him or her to dialogue with the monster more, if necessary. Allow them to vent their emotions onto the monster. (“I’m scared of you! I don’t like you! I want you to be nice and not hurt my family or my friends!”) Then allow the monster to go back into its cave. The idea is to give the child some sense of agency over this “invisible threat” by making it more tangible and something he or she can actually interact with and speak to.
*Note: It is important to stress to children that, although the virus monster is safely tucked away, it is still important to have healthful practices such as social distancing and hand washing.