Relaxation Techniques for Kids: Tools For Anxiety and Stress

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The other day, a teacher friend of mine asked me, “What are some relaxation techniques for kids?” I didn’t have to ask why— the panic and loose desperation were written all over her face.

Our world is moving fast. Our youth today has many luxuries at their fingertips that we didn’t have.

However, many adults (like my teacher friend) are noticing a change in their kids. Children are more vigilant as they’re consuming more information. This might seem like an awesome superpower to have, but here’s the catch: it’s causing more stress.

According to the 2020 Children’s Mental Health Report, “Anxiety (40%) and depression (37%) are the most common mental health challenges leading parents to seek telehealth services for their child. Seeking help for problem behavior (30%), ADHD (30%) or learning challenges (23%) was also common.”

Between video games, sixty-second videos, and swarms of content ready with just a click, it’s no wonder that our kids are having a tough time concentrating. Their minds are taking in new information at a mile a minute.

Talk about stress!

The good news is, we can use intentional relaxation techniques to settle our children’s buzzing minds so that they can concentrate, relieve stress and, of course, settle down. 

RELATED: How Parents’ Stress Can Hurt a Child

How To Relax with Stress

Unfortunately, stress is a natural body response that often feels out of our control. 

What if I told you that we could fully manage our stress? Relaxation is the opposite of stress. But it’s a skill that can be taught and learned. Relaxation is a tool that we can whip out as fast as a credit card to purchase even just a few minutes of stress-free time.

I know this may seem like a frivolous tactic to some parents. Sure, we had nap time in kindergarten, but “relaxation time”? 

This added routine in your children’s day is arguably more effective than those short naps. Many relaxation techniques for kids teach them to control their emotions and mind. When they can do this, they’ll stress less while simultaneously managing to take on more tasks (like homework). 

So how can we teach our kids how to relax with stress— especially when we don’t have the answer ourselves? 

Practice. 

Practicing daily relaxation techniques is the only way to truly take control of your stress levels. This routine is a win-win for parents and teachers: you get to take time to alleviate your own stress while teaching your kids how to harness this superpower!

Stress in Childhood

Naturally, some people have more stress in their lives than others. This is true whether you’re a child or an adult. Everyone has their limits to respond to stress, so there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution.

However, there are far too many things at stake to ignore these relaxation tactics altogether, especially for kids. Stress originates in childhood. If gone unchecked, it can lead them to toxic stress as adults. 

According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, “Toxic stress has the potential to change your child’s brain chemistry, brain anatomy, and even gene expression. Toxic stress weakens the architecture of the developing brain, which can lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.”

Relaxation is an essential 21st-century skill that helps kids better their minds and future in an overstimulated world. By practicing daily and early on in their life, our kids will grow up with a better understanding and ability to manage their stress as adults. 

RELATED: Physical Stress Effects On The Body

What are Some Relaxation Techniques?

Herbert Bensen coined the term “relaxation response” to refer to the body’s natural restorative response. He suggests that you can use your mind to change your physiology for the better and improve health. Some of these improvements and overall benefits of relaxation techniques include:

  • Increase blood flow to the brain
  • Reduced pain and long-term illnesses
  • More energy and relaxed muscles
  • Decrease anxiety and depression
  • Boost in confidence

Here’s what you need to keep in mind when testing out these practices: every child is different. 

Just like you might have one child who loves fish and wants it every night for dinner, you might have another child that despises it. It’s a matter of your child’s relaxation preference and what works for their mind and body. 

All relaxation techniques aim to produce the body’s natural relaxation response. Kind of an instant defense weapon against your body’s natural stress response. The goal here is to try out each of these so you can realize which technique works best for each child. 

The relaxation techniques for kids below go a step further than practices like yoga. The routines I’m going to show you today are “on-demand” exercises that we can use anywhere at any time.

RELATED: What is a Breathing Coach?

1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Kids

You’ve heard of fight or flight. This is the natural stress response: increased heart rate, blood pressure, sweating… even “seeing red.” Well, relaxation techniques are the opposite take on dealing with stress.

Instead of encouraging your body to tense up when you’re stressed, tell your kids to try progressive muscle relaxation. When we hold tension (or brace) in our middle, the diaphragm is limited in its ability to function the way it is supposed to.

By taking the time to relax our muscles progressively, we’ll stop these fight or flight stress responses. This allows us to  calmly and more effectively control our stress. You’ll be able to slow down, breathe, and overall maintain the functions of your body (heart rate, blood pressure, etc.).

I have a complete guide on PMR For Kids, but try here’s one for you to practice right now:

Relaxation Techniques for Kids

2. Breathing Exercises

Your breath is your child’s superhuman strength, their Lasso of Truth, or their Iron Man suit. For those of you who don’t speak superhero movies, our breath is our ultimate superpower.

Using breathing exercises as a relaxation technique for kids is my go-to strategy for parents and teachers.

Why?

Because it’s the most accessible, the easiest to understand, and it’s free!

Belly breathing and nose breathing are optimal exercises to help your kids reduce stress, concentrate, and regulate their emotions. I have plenty of Reels tutorials on my Instagram, and I even have a webinar, “How To Reduce Your Child’s Anxiety,” to help you get started. Here’s an example!

 

3. Sensory Activities

Sensory activities give kids a focal point in the present moment. Multi-sensory learning includes using four of our senses to embrace our preferred learning styles. We primarily teach children through audio (speaking), but for those who learn best by touch or visuals, learning can be a stressful experience. 

That’s why it’s best to present all four learning styles in the classroom and even at home. These activities can help spark a child’s learning comprehension so that taking on another sensory activity doesn’t seem quite as daunting. 

Here are three examples of sensory activities that can help kids relax so they can better concentrate in school:

Touch: This Figure 8 sand activity is excellent to have on hand for those children who learn better by doing rather than seeing or hearing. Allowing kids to have a tangible tool can help them relax before a big presentation. 

Hear: Use a chime or bell to follow a sound for 30 seconds to help ignite auditory learning. Even softly playing music in the background can help students relax before, during, or after a test. 

Visual: Coloring books are simple and effective classroom tools that can help visual learners feel calm. 

Here’s more information about multi-sensory learning. 

4. Outdoor Exercises

Exercise is necessary for overall health, but it’s incredibly effective as a relaxation technique for kids. Especially in today’s world, it’s vital to get them away from social media or video games and get them outdoors. This might be just a few minutes a day or a couple of times a week.

Encourage your kids to enroll in a sport or, if they’re younger, coordinate regular play dates at a park or a local fun spot for kids.

It should go without saying that outdoor activity does wonders for our mental and physical health. Select Health verifies, “Melatonin… lowers stress reactivity and being outside will help your body naturally regulate melatonin, which can help reduce your stress level. Additionally, because you’re often doing something active when you’re outside (walking, playing, etc.), that extra exercise also helps to lower stress.”

RELATED: The Effects of Childhood Stress and How You Can Help

5. Music Therapy

There’s a reason students have mandatory music and art classes in school. Music therapy addresses “the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of a group or individual.”

Music therapy can soothe the mind and body and can even alter our mood. Whether used as a simple distraction from everyday life or a tool to reduce stress, anxiety, or depression, this type of relaxation technique for kids is often overlooked. 

If you notice a particular child thrives during music hour, find new ways to add this element to their lifestyle. Ask them if they want to learn a musical instrument, encourage them to join a choir, or simply take some time to play a few minutes of music in class or a home. 

RELATED: Simple and Effective Coping Skills for Kids

Which one of these relaxation techniques for kids will you introduce first? Remember, you can download my FREE eBook, Self-Care for Kids with Anxiety for more tutorials you can use!

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