In this blog we are going to be looking at what relaxation is, why it is important to relax, and at some useful exercises you can do with your child to help them learn and understand relaxation.
Relaxation is defined as a ‘state of being free from tension and anxiety’. As adults we can often forget to truly relax, even in our down time we might not fully switch off or forget our stresses and strains of daily life, but it is important that we do so, and that we also teach our children these important skills at a young age.
Relaxing is a skill and it is something we need to train our minds and bodies to do, the same as when learning any new skill, like learning the piano or riding a bike for example. This can be difficult to explain to a child who may not understand the need for relaxation or what relaxation really is. What we need to do is help children recognise that their bodies can get very excited, and that it is important they give it some downtime.
A nice way to explain to a child what relaxation could be:
“Relaxation is a state your body can learn where it is soft and loose and your mind is free from stress. When we are relaxed we can easily replace negative and strict thoughts to soft, gentle and positive ones.”
Learning to relax is something that you can do together as a family. Introduce the idea of relaxation to your child by telling them “We are going to be spending some quality time together every week for about an hour to learn the skills of happiness and relaxation, how would you like that?” Once this has been done a few times you child will get into a routine and know what to expect of that time together helping them to get more from this. Here are some easy to follow exercises that you can do with your child.
When children have been energetically running around and playing, it can take a few minutes for them to calm down and be in the right state of mind to be able to relax properly. These warm up exercises are designed to help them to calm down ready for the relaxation exercises at their own pace.
Ask your child: Can you name the different people in our family…siblings, parents, cousins, friends… then say what you like about your favourite person.
TIP: During this activity try and notice the words your child uses. Are they using the correct labels for their feelings? If not you can help them to identify and use the correct vocabulary for their feelings, extending their emotional literacy.
Have a short discussion with your child about:
Before undertaking any activity, a good tip is to set the rules and expectations, so your child knows exactly what is expected of them, and what they can expect in return. Some good starting rules might be:
Have a discussion with your child about what you both think the rules should be for the sessions and put them up somewhere on display where they can be seen.
Do something energetic with your child, for example star-jumps, running on the spot. Then when their heart rate is elevated, take them through the importance of good posture and getting them to feel their heartbeat.
You can say to your child “It is very important to sit with your back and shoulders straight with your back touching the back of your chair and both feet on the floor. It is really important that your body is aligned and straight, good posture helps you to balance and keep your brain working well.”
When animals in the wild are stressed, they will spend some time to literally ‘shake off’ the stress of their predator, so their parasympathetic nervous system can get back into a balanced and calm state. Children also need to learn do to this because if children get into the habit of holding their stress all the time, this can cause stress related physical symptoms when they are older and they can have a harder time learning.
1. Ask your child to breath in deeply – in through their nose for a count of four, hold for two, out through their nose for four.
2. When they do this ask them to notice how big and round their belly gets, filled with air like a balloon. Get them to take a breath through their mouth and notice the difference.
3. Get them to place their hand on their chest and on their tummy to feel the different in movement when breathing in in these ways.
After completing these breathing and relaxation techniques, your child should now be relaxed enough to be able to progress onto some further relaxation exercises. You can read more about relaxation and get tips and even more exercises to do at home in my Best Selling book, “Your Happy Child, 10 Proven Steps To Raising A Happy Child” – click here to buy your copy on Amazon.
Once you have established a routine with your child, it is important to keep this up to ensure relaxation becomes a stable part of their day and that they incorporate quiet time into their routine. Try relaxation before bedtime as a way of connecting with your child and relaxing them before their sleep.
Use the time together to see if your child has achieved the objectives and ask them if they enjoyed the relaxing together. They may say “I really enjoyed the relaxation and how my heart felt’ – so you know they experienced and internalised the learning. You can tell them what you enjoyed to!
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