Life can be stressful for kids these days. Between school pressures, activities, social dynamics, and busy schedules, children often face high levels of stress. Learning healthy ways to relax and unwind is crucial for your child’s mental and physical wellbeing. The good news is there are many relaxation techniques that are easy and fun for kids to learn. Teaching your child how to relax can equip them with invaluable skills for reducing anxiety, managing emotions, focusing, and getting to sleep.
Here are some of the best research-backed relaxation techniques for helping kids de-stress and stay balanced:
One of the quickest, most effective relaxation methods for children is taking slow, deep breaths. Deep breathing counters the body’s “fight or flight” stress response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Place your child’s hand on their belly and have them breathe in slowly through their nose, feeling their belly expand. Exhaling slowly through pursed lips helps push out more air to increase relaxation. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can help kids calm down and reduce anxiety.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This technique involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups one at a time. Have your child lie down and tense each muscle group such as the feet, legs, hands, arms, and face for 5 seconds. Then relax those muscles completely for 30 seconds, noticing the difference between tension and relaxation. Tensing and releasing muscles helps reduce overall tension, anxiety, and anger in the mind and body.
Imagery and visualization can quickly induce relaxation. Have your child close their eyes and picture a calming place like a favorite spot in nature, their bedroom, or a made up magical land. Focusing on the details – sights, sounds, smells, textures – brings feelings of peace and safety. Visualization helps shift focus away from stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness teaches present moment awareness. Have your child pay close attention to each breath without judgment. Notice the air moving in and out, the rising and falling chest and belly, and pause between inhales and exhales. This builds focus, self-control, and acceptance. Just a few minutes of mindful breathing everyday helps reduce stress.
Gentle yoga helps children relax both physically and mentally. Try poses like child’s pose, happy baby, forward folds, and savasana (resting pose). Link movements with deep breathing. Yoga improves body awareness, coordination, balance, focus, and emotional regulation. Tailor poses based on your child’s abilities.
Recorded scripts prompt kids to visualize relaxing scenarios using all five senses. Children imagine sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of a calming environment like a beach, forest, backyard, or castle. Floating on clouds or in a hot air balloon are other common guided imagery themes. This mental escape relieves stress and anxiety.
Playing tranquil, calming music provides an instant relaxation boost. Try soft nature sounds, lullabies, classical and spa-style music. Upbeat dance music can also lift a child’s mood. Creating relaxation playlists allows your child to quickly access calming music when feeling stressed or upset.
Anxious, negative thoughts fuel stress. Help your child practice positive self-talk to instill feelings of calm and confidence. Phrases like “I am brave”, “I can handle this”, “I am relaxed” focus on strengths. Have your child repeat supportive statements in tense moments to self-soothe.
The key is finding relaxation techniques your individual child connects with and will use. Try different methods and see which resonate. Integrate relaxation into your child’s daily routine, especially before stressful situations like tests or competitions. Consistent practice makes relaxation skills become second nature so children can better manage stress.