Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Kids (and yourself too!)

Although it has a fancy-sounding name, this technique is a simple way of tensing and releasing muscles to help you relax. When you first hear of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), you may think it is a strange to help rid of anxiety, especially because it focuses on your body and not necessarily your thoughts. But we know that our thoughts, emotions, behavior, and physical feelings are all connected so it makes sense that focusing on relieving anxiety on one of these fronts helps relieve our overall sense of anxiety. 

I love this stress relieving technique because you can easily make a game out of it with your kiddos! In the process, it teaches them how to identify some physical effects of stress on their bodies, what it feels like to be relaxed, and an easy way to get to that relaxation point. And it’s a bonus that you can do this without anyone really noticing – so if your kiddo needs help relieving stress, tension, or nerves in the middle of class or even recess, this inconspicuous technique may just fit the bill. 

I like to start by sitting (or lying) down comfortably and putting both feet firmly on the ground. Taking a few deep breaths is helpful to letting our minds and bodies know they are about to take a “break”. Following are 3 vignettes you can read out loud with your little ones to teach them how to practice PMR, but note that you can also use the same muscle-tightening and releasing principles for yourself. I also like starting at my feet and slowly tensing and releasing muscles as I move to my head, so this week I’ll leave you with a few vignettes for the lower portion of body; stay tuned for next week’s vignette for the top half! 

1. Feet And Legs: pretend that you just walked onto a beach. You can feel the cool sand between your toes as you step closer to the water. You want to dig your feet in the sand so use your toes to reach down into the sand. Push your feet down, deeper and deeper. Dig with your toes and your entire foot, push down into the sand. Feel how your feet feel tight and hold it for 10 seconds. When the waves come to shore you don’t want them to knock you over so use your legs to stabilize yourself. Feel how your legs get tight when a wave comes to shore. Hold that feeling for 10 seconds and then relax. What do your legs feel like? Do they feel like noodles, do they tingle? 

2. Stomach: now imagine you are a tall, strong tree. Tighten your stomach hard like the trunk of the tree, and let it become soft again. Imagine a woodpecker is coming to poke you in your belly, tighten your stomach again like the tree so it can’t poke you. Hold the tension for 10 seconds and release it. The bird flew away but he’s coming back, quick, tighten your stomach again! Hold it for 5 seconds and release the tension. Take a deep breath, can you feel butterflies in your stomach? 

3. Back: Pretend that you are a puppet. There’s a string pulling you up, high and tall. Straighten your back and feel the top of it reaching for the sky. If you need to be taller, use your arms to reach up higher. Feel the strings lifting you up and the tension in your back as it stretches. Hold that stretch for ten seconds. Relax your back, how does it feel? Like a string? Does your body feel light and airy? 

You can come up with similar scenarios, if I were to do this with my little one I’d have to think of some vignettes involving cars, tires, and the sound “vroom” 😉 the trick is to help your sprout realize what his muscles feel like when they are tense and to give them the tools to help themselves feel better. 

Have a fantastic Labor Day Weekend, let me know if you take some time to practice PMR!

*The information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any diet or treatment decisions.

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