Childhood isn’t always the carefree time it’s cracked up to be. Studies show that one in ten kids suffer from mental health problems including stress, anxiety and depression. Time-outs and cuddles can only do so much, says Michele Pullo. The creator of happycalmchild.com says relaxation techniques can help kids cope with the pressures of modern life.
“Children today are under an enormous amount of stress,” she says. “If children can learn to practice relaxation techniques now, just as they learn to read and write, they’ll be better able to self-regulate their emotions and deal with stress when it comes their way.”
While Pullo’s company teaches relaxation techniques through guided workshops, she offers a few that are simple enough for anyone to learn:
Hold Relaxing Rocks
Find smooth stones that fit comfortably in a little hand for this exercise. Teach him to breathe in deeply and squeeze the stone as hard as he can. Tell him he’s sending all the negative emotions he’s feeling into the stone. He should slowly exhale and relax his fingers once he’s squeezed as hard as he can, secure in the knowledge that his problems are now trapped in the stone.
Blowing bubbles is a time-tested pastime for kids, but it’s also a great relaxation technique. Encourage your child to take a deep breath in, and then blow out all his worries and bad feelings into his bubble. As he watches his bubble float away, he can imagine his troubles disappearing too.
Wear Eye Pillows
Focus doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but Pullo says that weighted eye pillows can help. “They are made to create a weighted sensation on a child’s eyes and forehead,” she says. “Weighted blankets are used for some children with autism spectrum disorders. This is a similar idea, but I’ve found that most children can benefit from this soft, gently weighted pillow.”
Try Mindful Walking
Mindful walking takes the principles of mindful meditation and puts it in a more kid-friendly context. In mindful meditation, we are encouraged to sit quietly and calmly as we focus on the sensations we feel. In mindful walking, your child concentrates on his feet as he walks, noticing how they bend and move as they move forward and how the ground feels underneath them. By shifting focus to the feet, he takes his mind off his problems.
Listen to Binaural Beats
Music has always been a relaxation tool, but binaural beats aren’t quite music. They are sounds that are listened to through headphones, with different frequencies piped through each ear. The variance in frequencies and “pulsating” feel of binaural beats help stimulate signals in the brain that reduce stress. You can find binaural beats (also called binaural tones) with a quick Internet search.
Stretch and Breathe
Practicing yoga is a great way for children to relax. One of the most calming positions is even called child’s pose! Have your bundle of energy kneel down with his backside resting on his ankles. Have him stretch his arms forward until his hands and forehead rest on the floor and his stomach rests on his thighs. This pose effectively shuts the world out and helps people get a soothing moment of rest.
Write a Gratitude Journal
It can be difficult for anyone to see the world as a positive place when they feel anxious or angry. Encourage your child to write about the things he is thankful for. The process of writing in the journal and reading old entries can help him return to a place of calm.
Smell the Scent of Lavender
Pullo says kids respond well to lavender, an herb that naturally promotes relaxation. Add lavender essence to a warm bath or spritz a little lavender around the room to create a calming space.
Help the Imagination Run Wild
Simply imagining something positive can make children feel relaxed. Encourage your child to close his eyes and visualize something that makes him feel good, like being at the beach, playing with puppies or receiving an award at school.
Get in the Water
Floatation therapy has been practiced since the 1950s because it’s calming and easy. All you do is jump in the swimming pool and float! Play some gentle music and encourage your child to close his eyes as he focuses on the feeling of weightlessness. Older kids can float independently, but young ones may feel more secure wearing a floatation vest.
Trying out some of these relaxation techniques can help smooth over a few of childhood’s rough patches and even give your kid lifelong tools that he’ll use to become a happier adult.