I wanted to talk about a couple more stress relieving techniques you can use with your little ones, especially one that they can use themselves whenever and wherever they need it. These are great skills to teach your kiddos at the beginning of the school year, and even before a big recital or sporting event that you know may give them some anxiety.
Guided imagery, much like progressive muscle relaxation, utilizes your kiddo’s creative mind and helps them see themselves in a calming place with your help. A lot of these visualization tend to be about nature (think walking through trees or on a beach), but you can always find or create some that cater to your child’s interests. These may be easier for younger kids to practice since they’ll have your help to keep them on track, but once they can remember their own imagery they can move on and try visualizations. Here is a short guided imagery script you can use with your little one:
– Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Notice how your body feels tingly and relaxed every time you let out the air through your mouth. Now imagine yourself following a butterfly into a happy forest. The butterfly flies high near the tallest leaves of the trees and as you look up you can feel the warmth of the sun on your cheeks. The sunshine lights up the colors in the butterfly’s wings and you notice it fly down toward the prettiest purple flower you’ve ever seen. You feel at peace in this forest with the trees to shield you. As you continue to walk and follow the butterfly notice how the soft moss under your feet feels squishy with each step. The butterfly beats its wings as it flies and you feel the cool wind around you rustle your hair. Notice how the wind smells like pine trees and fresh flowers. You feel calm and refreshed, free of any worry. Take a few more deep breaths as you the butterfly comes to rest calmly on your hand. You can follow this butterfly back into the this forest of peace when you need to.
With visualizations, your little sprouts are able to go to a pre-created story or visual that they know brings them a sense of calm. This is done without you guiding them, so it helps to either write it down or find another way to remind your child what their calming visual is. Once they can remember it on their own they can quickly bring it to their mind when feeling anxious, worried, or scared. I’ve found that on days that I know kids will be anxious, a sticker on their hand, phone, or backpack that relates to their visual can be a great stress relief and sense of comfort in itself. And the best thing about this technique is that the kids can help create their own calming visualization, so put those imaginations to work! In the meantime, have your little ones give these visualizations a try:
– Pretend you are a bright orange starfish near a shallow coral reef. Feel the clear blue water move you from side to side as the ocean waves roll rhythmically above you. With your five arms, feel the cool sand beneath you as you glide along admiring the sea life around you. Note the fish and their vibrant, greens, blues, and yellows. Notice how the schools of bright purple fish like to move as one. You feel so calm here as you sway with the cool ocean. (This is my favorite visualization as I feel totally at peace when thinking of colorful fish calmly swimming around me. Even just typing this out made me feel more relaxed, and I promise that if you find a visualization your child connects with, they too will reap the benefits of this stress relieving technique)
– Take a few deep breaths and imagine you are soft white cloud flying through the sky. You are so fluffy that if you bump into another cloud you gently bounce off. As you quietly fly, feel the warm sunshine and the rush of the wind around you. (Remind your kids to continue to breathe deep while they visualize their cloud or story of choice. They can come up with where the cloud flies, maybe a far away land or above a waterfall! A sticker of a fluffy cloud on their back pack, lunchbox, etc can be a helpful reminder of what to do in moments of stress or fear 😉 )
As with most stress relieving techniques, practice is crucial in increasing their effectiveness so encourage your little ones to do these at least a few times a week. You can even have a family visualization night in which the kiddos get to create their own calming stories – the more excited they are about it, the more likely they’ll remember these stories and put them to use when feeling upset or stressed. Good luck and let us know what your kiddos think up!