Just like us adults, our children can go through periods when they feel stressed or overwhelmed by people, events, problems or situations. Is your child feeling anxious about something? Here are five stress-buster ideas to try with your child.
#1 Deep Breathing
As the name suggests, encourage your child to take deep breaths of air, breathing in until her lungs and belly feel completely filled up, pausing for a short while, then exhaling slowly until all the air is out, before taking in the next breath. Keep the mouth closed and only breathe in and out through the nose. To help your child visualize what deep breathing looks like, ask him to imagine his stomach is a balloon that he is filling up with air, then deflating.
Tip: Intentionally slowing down our breathing helps the body to calm down as the heart beat rate slows, blood pressure comes down, and tense muscles relax. For older kids, you can ask them to imagine they are breathing in the good stuff, like courage, peace and faith, while expelling the bad, like fear, frustration and anger.
#2 Listen To Music
Studies show that listening to soothing forms of music lower the heart rate, blood pressure, and stress-hormone levels, bringing down the extreme levels of your current mood. Classical music is an obvious choice, and you and your child can listen to it together before bed or in the car.
Tip: Different types of music appeal to different kids though. It could be, for your child, that nothing will calm him down better than his favourite CD of Hi-Five songs or even some Jon Bon Jovi. Ask your child how he feels as he listens to the music – does he feel calm? Happy? Angry?
#3 Bubble Play
Giving kids something visual to stomp out all those negative feelings can be a powerful technique for soothing their spirits. Bubbles are a fun (and cheap!) way to help children visualize their negative emotions, which they can then let go, watching them drift up and away, or smash to nothingness if they land on the ground.
Tip: Help your child to name all the “bad stuff” that she is feeling. Ask her to imagine it’s all going into those bubbles, and now it’s going, going, gone! Give a cheer together to celebrate!
#4 Lie Back and Just Relax
You can guide your older child through this activity. Ask him to lie back – on a sofa or bed, or even on the floor at home – and to close his eyes, and imagine that he is asleep. Starting from the legs and ending with the head, ask him to slowly relax each part of the body, allowing it to “sink” deeper into the surface beneath him. Take your time for this activity. Once the whole body is relaxed, keep this calm state for a while before slowly “waking up” those body parts again.
#5 Express Creatively
What words sometimes cannot express or heal, creative expression can. Give your child the tools to draw, paint, or create something to express how he is feeling. You’ll be surprised how the answer might be hidden where he least expects it.
Tip: If your child enjoys making music or writing poetry, let her compose whatever she fancies, bringing her feelings up to the surface, and out through her music. If he’s a Lego fan, bring out the blocks, and let him build!
By Dorothea Chow
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine