Relaxation strategies can help reduce stress in children at any age. You can listen to relaxing music together, try breathing exercises, or practice yoga and meditation.
Teaching your child simple relaxation exercises can help prevent stress, calm a difficult moment, and offer relief when a situation feels out of their control.
Those who can especially benefit from relaxation techniques, including children:
- who worry a lot, or who can’t settle down
- who are distractible or hyperactive
- who are dealing with depression or anxiety
- who have difficulty falling asleep
Once your child learns these easy to try relaxation activities, they keep them up throughout their lifetime. Relaxation strategies tend to work the best in stressful moments when they have been practiced. If your child doesn’t like one type of relaxation strategy, that’s OK! There are lots to try.
Deep Breathing (‘belly breathing’)
Deep breathing can be one of the easiest and quickest ways to relax. Teach your child to find their “calm centre” anytime they’re feeling overwhelmed by stress.
By slowing down their breathing your child learns to “turn down” their body’s natural response to stress (e.g. quick breathing, speeding heart, and muscle tension).
When you try belly breathing for the first time, do so when your child is feeling relatively calm. That way, they’ll have some practice in before a stressful situation comes up.
Belly breathing in 3 easy steps:
- Sit down with your child and explain you’re going to teach them a new type of breathing. (Practicing belly breathing together often works better than telling them to do it!)
- Put your hands on your stomach and feel your bellies move in and out as you breathe. (Make sure to sit up straight, or to stand and do it.)
- Now take a deep, slow breath, together, then slowly breathe out through your mouths.
Follow along with Stresslr, a friendly robot, for some belly breathing:
There are many different ways to breathe deeply, so play around to find one that your child likes.
As long as you’re breathing slow and deep, no technique is better than the others. You can try ideas such as box breathing or having younger children blow bubbles.
Our muscles often tense up when we feel stress. Here’s a muscle relaxation exercise you and your child can do together.
Contract your muscles as tight as you can, all at the same time – including arms, legs, face muscles, and clenched fists. Now hold for a few moments, and then release. Tighten then release. Feel the wave of relaxation that follows!
Another approach is to have your child relax each part of their body, starting with their toes, and working up until they get to their heads. The idea behind progressive muscle relaxation is to breathing in and when you tense, and let go when you breathe out.
Follow along with Stresslr, a friendly robot, flexing his muscle relaxation strategies:
Summon up soothing feelings using your imagination and visual imagery.
One way is to close your eyes and think of a calm place - and now picture yourself in that place. Visualization is easy to practice with your child, and there are many ways to do it.
Some visualization techniques focus on stress, while others can be used to manage worry.