Five tips to help children relax
Being a kid can be stressful.
Lisa Hemmings, a massage therapist who teaches “Chill Skills for Kids” classes, and counselor Allan O’Keefe, hope to help with a new book.
“Imagine Me with the Three Owls” encourages children use their imagination to bat away stress. Using nature, the book walks parents and children through relaxation techniques.
Hemmings and O’Keefe provided Metro a few tips on how to help kids relax:
Simple belly breathing exercise
A simple way to relax our mind and body is to slow our breathing down to a steady rate. Start by asking your child to take some deep slow breaths. Continue until they settle. Then, ask them to put their hands on their belly. When they breathe in, they can feel their belly rise, and when they breathe out they can feel their belly drop. Keep doing this until they feel more relaxed and settled. This can be very useful for anxiety or panic attacks or just simply to relax.
What we think influences how we feel and also how we act. Positive thoughts can help children feel better about themselves so they can be happy and calm. To help change the thoughts that they don’t want to have and help put good thoughts in their minds, they can think of some positive words or affirmations. Affirmations are positive words that remind us of how we want to think, feel or act. Some examples: “I am calm,” or “I am confident.” Have fun making positive thoughts together with your child. It can take time and perseverance to learn to be positive.
Relax the body
Relaxing the muscles in our body from our toes to the top of our head is a great activity to help children relax or to help them with sleep. Find a quiet space. Start by sitting or lying down. Ask your child to close their eyes and relax the part of the body as you say it. Read in a slow, steady voice.
Imagine a special place
Children often have great imaginations. Help them to use this imagination to create in their mind a special place, such as a beautiful garden, forest or sunset where they can go anytime. Use this example: “Close your eyes … imagine you are watching the sun setting over the mountains. Look at the beautiful colours of the sunset, and how each color blends into the next one. There are different shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and gold. Imagine the colors are flowing into your heart … You feel peaceful.” Then for fun, ask them to share what they imagined or draw it.
Encourage expression of feelings
When a child feels worried they can feel alone, and if they can’t share it with someone, it can lead to stress and anxiety. If they tell you they are feeling worried about an issue, always validate how they are feeling, which helps them feel safe to talk about things. Explore what they are feeling and what it is like for them. What is small to an adult can be big to a child. If they can’t express it in words ask them to try drawing it, or use colors to describe how they feel. Be patient — they may not know straight away what is bothering them.