10 Easy Ways to Help Your Child De-Stress and Relax
Unfortunately children feel stress much the same way that adults do, but because children are lacking the life experience that adults have, they are much less equipped to deal with it.
Stress in children can manifest in many different ways. Some kids become emotional or withdrawn, some become lethargic, and others do the opposite of what you might expect. They become so wound up their behaviour becomes overwhelmingly excitable and uncontrollable.
Here, we share some useful, child appropriate ways to help your child relax and cope with stress:
1- Positive Self Talk
If you are familiar with ‘Bob the Builder’, you will know his catch cry. “Can we fix it? Yes we can!” Or the little engine that could- “I think, I can, I think, I can!” They use positive self talk. You can teach your child to talk or think their way through tough situations. “I can do this”, I’m trying my hardest”, etc. This will help your child get through and at the same time bring self belief and a sense of calm.
2- Breathing Exercises
Teaching your child to control their breathing helps them to calm their mind and body. Taking slow deep breaths is an excellent way to increase oxygen to the body and bring peace. Having aw
areness and control over their own breathing means they may use breath as a relaxation tool to relieve anxiety, stress and emotion in their daily lives. They may even use it to defuse anger or a temper tantrum. Here is an easy technique for little ones:
Encourage your child to:
“Breath in 2,3,4, breath out 2,3,4,5,6.”
If this is too long for your child’s lung capacity, shorten the counts.
3- Emotional Awareness
Teach your child about their emotions. What they look like (facial expression/body language), what they feel like (anger feels like a raging fire inside your tummy), how to express them appropriately and strategies to cope with them (when confused, ask for help). Helping children to recognise, understand and express their own emotions helps them to cope with stressful situations in a calmer way.
4- Teaching Coping Strategies
If you help your child devise strategies for coping with a range of situations they will feel more empowered, helping to lessen the effects of stress. For example, if a peer has said something nasty, they can use a pre-prepared statement, such as “Stop it, I don’t like it when you are nasty”.
5- Managing Stress Through Play
Play is a very important way for children to cope with stress and anxiety. They will often ‘play out’ situations that scare, worry or confuse them. It is a safe and no threatening way for children to work through feelings. With this in mind give your child many opportunities to play.
6- Imaginary, Happy Place
Some children will find it useful to visualise a happy, safe, imaginary place that they can visit when things are getting too much. Help your child set up this happy place by conducting a visualistaion with them. Have them close their eyes and imagine walking through a secret garden, sitting at the end of a rainbow or swimming at the bottom of the ocean. Whatever the story, encourage them to visualise this safe place when they feel overwhelmed, anxious or stressed.
7- Positive Affirmations
Your child can affirm their own thoughts, feelings and actions. They can us these affirmations while having some down time to affirm their relaxed state. “I am relaxed, my mind is relaxed, my body is relaxed. I am calm, my mind is calm, my body is calm”.
Meditation is a very powerful way to help children unwind, de-stress and cope with a whole range of thoughts and feelings.
9- Sensory and Physical Activity
Some children will ‘work out’ their stress and anxiety through physical or sensory activity. Some will be soothed by water or sand play, while others will find pounding play dough or clay more beneficial. These activities can be quite therapeutic. Some children use their whole body to run, climb or ride their tension and stress away. Give your child plenty of opportunities for sensory and physical play.
Access to pencils, paint, pastels, crayons, chalk, clay, collage, etc. give children artistic ways to express themselves. Art is therapeutic, relaxing and can be an escape. It is also a fabulous way to express thoughts and feelings when words just can’t.