Relaxation techniques for kids

Sep 9, 2009 at 4:53 p.m. ET

Kids get stressed, just like grown-ups. And like grown ups, they may have a hard time managing some of that stress physically. We have an arsenal of relaxation techniques in our back pockets to help us in stressful times - and it can be easy to overlook that kids could benefit from those techniques, too.

Girl meditating in tree

They are "just kids" we may think, what can they get stressed about? Plenty, actually. From school-related issues to social interactions to shots at the doctor's office, figuring out the world around you can be a pretty stressful thing. It's stressful for us, and we have a whole lot more experience! Rather than dismissing your child's stress, why not help them manage it?

Validate the feelings first

First things first, recognizing that your child is having some stress helps your child know that you are sensitive to what they are feeling and want to help them. Addressing the underlying issue for the stress is certainly very important, but sometimes it takes a little more.

If, for example, your child is stressed about a spelling test, helping him or her prepare for it is an important part of reducing stress. But even the most prepared child may still be anxious and need help managing the anxiety physically. Similarly, the anxiety that some kids feel around vaccinations can be very challenging to manage. Even though they know that they need the vaccine, they still have to get through the actual moment of it.

More than deep breaths

If you are into yoga, you have an excellent tool to help yourself relax anytime. If you can help your child learn some of the breathing techniques used in yoga, you are giving your child more that just the ability to take deep, cleansing breaths. You are giving them a real tool. Better yet, finding a mother and child yoga class can give your child still more relaxation and centering tools that he or she can use for a whole life.

If you aren't into yoga, you can still help direct your child into deep, relaxing breathing. When my daughter gets anxious, we practice slow, measured breathing together. In-two-three-four-five, out-two-three-four-five, repeat.

For more on kids and yoga, check out Itsy bitsy yoga: The new exercise for kids.


Another way to help kids manage stress physically is to use visualization. When my kids have to get through something medical or are having trouble falling asleep the night before a big day, we often use this technique to refocus their nerves. We pick happy memories from vacations (or every day life) and describe them, down to the colors and temperatures and every detail we can think of. It can be anything from a walk on the beach to a happy family meal to just about anything. They close their eyes and describe what they are seeing. You can actually feel their bodies relax.

Every family has their own way of managing stress physically, and hopefully those positive techniques are passed on to the kids in the family. Just because they are kids doesn't mean they can't feel stress! Passing on some effective tips for managing the physical manifestations of stress is something kids can take with them into that scary test and into their whole lifetimes.

Tell us: How do you help your kids relax? Share your tips below!

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