Relaxation Techniques for Children
It’s no secret to anyone that today’s society can be enormously stressful at times. We all feel the tension in our daily lives, with the many responsibilities we have to meet. Our children feel the stress, too.
They may not have to worry about paying bills yet, but kids these days have plenty to get stressed about–whether it’s their academic performance at school, a sibling rivalry at home, trouble in their parents’ marriage, or simply meeting the demands of a modern-day schedule that’s likely to include daily commuting back and forth from school and trips to other events that the child or the family may participate in.
We as parents are well advised to take advantage of different useful tools to help us cope with daily stress. But stress management is not only a healthy choice for adults–children will derive great benefits from stress-reducing techniques, too.
Different relaxation techniques work well for different people
While that’s true, it is also true that one of the most important things that a parent can do to encourage a relaxed state of mind and body in a child is to promote exercise. If your child is no longer a toddler, he or she is not too young to pay mind to such things as physical fitness and healthy blood pressures.
As the growing childhood obesity epidemic illustrates, eating an unhealthful or unbalanced diet, and the more sedentary modern lifestyles that many of us live, are combining to make one in three children and adolescents in the United States overweight or obese–a near tripling of the number from 50 years ago.
Daily exercise remains an important choice for promoting many physical as well as mental health benefits for our children:
- Regular exercise will decrease the chances that your child will become overweight
- For overweight children, exercise will help reduce weight and body fat, adjust the metabolism, and decrease the chances that the child will develop type 2 diabetes
- Exercise will lower your child’s blood pressure and strengthen the entire cardiovascular system, thus helping to prevent heart disease
- Exercise creates a stronger immune system, making children less prone to colds, allergies, and diseases (including cancer)
- Exercise increases blood flow to all body tissues, which means more oxygen and nutrients for the body’s cells
- Moderate to heavier exercise helps detoxify the body by increasing blood flow to all the tissues–greater blood flow promotes the transportation of metabolic byproducts and toxins out of the cells
- Cardiovascular exercise–the kind that makes you breathe hard and work up a sweat–is also a great body detoxifier, as the body expels waste products through our breathing and sweat
- Physical exercise is also proven to improve children’s confidence and strengthen their self-esteem–just like it does in adults
Not all exercise has to involve equipment or even other participants, of course. My six-year-old daughter is quite fond of dancing; periodically, we play some of her favorite music videos or different types of music, and she loves to show me new moves she’s working on!
Some parents like to teach their children stretching or yoga-like exercises. These promote muscle tone and agility, as well as relaxation.
Other more low-key, stress-taming activities that are good to try with your children are such simple things as watching a movie together here and there, doing arts and crafts, sewing, gardening…even cooking! A parent does well to enlist their child as a helper in the preparation of family meals. Not only can this be a fun bonding time for parent and child, it helps relieve stress, it makes the child feel useful–and if your kid helps out and watches you enough, they’ll also learn valuable cooking skills that will be useful to them later on.
Encourage hobbies that your child may be in the process of developing. If he or she likes musical instruments, let them tinker with them!
If you’re trying to get your child to wind down, you can also play different types of relaxing music for them. The music should be soft: children’s songs, faith-based music, classical, or instrumental are good choices.
For older children, board games such as checkers or even scrabble are another great way to relieve stress, especially when several children are present.
Many people swear by breathing techniques: deep breathing helps children relax by slowing their breathing rate, decreasing the heart rate and normalizing blood pressure. Teach your child to first get comfortable by sitting down. Then, have them take a few deep breaths. Each time, they inhale slowly and to capacity, hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly and completely. Deep breathing should be practiced on a regular basis–even daily–and it will then become a useful relaxation tool that the child will readily turn to when they’re feeling stressed.
Visualization can be interwoven into breathing techniques. Have the child close their eyes, then quietly breathe in and out; they can picture a pleasant scene, or imagine that a wish of theirs came true. Picturing something positive will help them feel relaxed and uplifted.
Laughter, we all agree, is a terrific way for adults and young ones alike to forget about problems and feel rejuvenated. Try comic books, comedy movies appropriate for children, and joke-telling.
For younger children, nothing is better than reading stories to them. Not only will this help build their vocabulary and create regular parent-child bonding opportunities, it will also help your child relax…and if it’s bed time, it will help induce sleep!
Finally, it should be pointed out that as a parent, it’s important to lead by example. Your children will watch how you de-stress, and likely mimic what they see. It’s up to you, their number one role model, to cultivate in them healthy ways to avoid and respond to stress.