What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?
Progressive muscle relaxation for kids is an effective mind-body relaxation technique that helps children recognize and release stress and tension.
Kids with anxiety are often tense throughout the day without even realizing it, so helping them tune into the sensations of tension and relaxation will be a useful tool for their stress-busting toolbox.
When our bodies are stressed, our muscles tense up. This can lead to stomachaches, headaches, and other physical conditions that cause pain or discomfort.
After practicing PMR, children will learn the difference between feeling tense (stiff like a robot) and relaxed (like a floppy jellyfish).
Relaxation techniques are skills that help kids manage stress, build self-awareness and promote calm. Tense muscles tell the body that it is stressed, which fuels the stress-tension cycle. When we relax the tension we carry in our muscles; we can soothe anxiety as well.
How to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
PMR is taught focusing on one muscle group at a time following a two-step process:
- Systematically tensing a muscle group for 5-8 seconds
- Relaxing the muscle group on exhalation to release anxiety and physical tension
- This process is often paired with breathing exercises to elicit a relaxed mind and body.
Here are two practices to try with your children or students:
Parents, teachers, and caregivers can add a relaxation practice for kids who need a little help settling their minds and bodies before bed or throughout the day. In time, kids will be able to help themselves feel better by relaxing tense areas in their bodies and reduce chronic stress.
Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Kids
With regular practice, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) helps children connect with their bodies so that they can:
- Understand how anxiety and relaxation feel in their body
- Become aware of the sensations of tight & relaxed muscles
- Build body awareness
- Learn how to self-soothe to calm the mind and body
- Develop present moment awareness
Tips For Teaching Relaxation to Kids
CALM STATE– Practice PMR when your kids are feeling calm, especially in the beginning. This will make it easier to learn the method. It is hard to learn something new while in a state of high arousal.
CONSISTENT- Practice consistently to build the skill of relaxation (i.e., add it to the bedtime routine). Keep the length age-appropriate (5-minutes for younger children and 10-15 minutes for older).
CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT-
- Play relaxing instrumental background music or nature sounds
- Dim the lights or provide an eye pillow
- Ask permission if touching is part of the relaxation.
- Communicate the length of the activity.
i.e., “we are going to relax our mind & body using a progressive muscles relaxation for 8 minutes.” or “we are going to take a quick 1-minute rest.”
- Guide children to rest on their back comfortably in resting pose with legs shoulder-width apart and arms resting comfortably by their sides, palms up.
- If the child is not comfortable on their back, suggest an alternative position on their side or facing down in Child’s Pose.
- Some children have a hard time sitting still, so offering a weighted blanket or special stuffed animal might help.
- Signal the end of the relaxation by ringing a bell or one big breath together.
SHARE & REFLECT- Discuss how the different muscle groups felt before, during, and after the exercise. Help your child distinguish between the feelings of tensed muscles and relaxed muscles and share your experiences. Help them recognize when they feel tense during the day.
What did it feel like when your body was tight?
How did it feel to let go of tension in your body?
Can you think of a time when you felt tense?
Can you think of a time when you felt relaxed?
For more tips on helping kids relax their minds and calm their bodies, check out my FREE Self-Care Guide for Kids with Anxiety. This 32-page guide is packed with actionable tools and tips to help your child develop wellness from the inside out!
Together we can help your child become more calm, connected, and resilient.