Kids are whirlwinds of energy, but even little ones need downtime. Plus, children aren’t immune to anxiety disorders. Today’s driven lifestyles with schedules chock-full of structured activities can leave tiny minds frazzled.
How can you help your child to relax? It’s critical to teach them to self-soothe so that they develop healthy coping mechanisms as adults. As a parent, failing to teach your kids healthy ways to chill out can lead to behavioral issues and even addiction down the road. Instead, try these activities to help them calm down.
1. Reward Downtime
If you’re a Type A personality yourself, you may think you’re doing your child a favor by encouraging them to remain on the go always. You might even pat yourself on the back when they tumble into bed exhausted at day’s end. However, you could set them up for a lifetime of health woes. People with this assertive, driven personality type run a higher risk of heart disease than more sedate Type Bs.
Start rewarding downtime by engaging in some yourself. Establish a rule to turn off all devices and put homework away at least 30 minutes before bed. Use this time to draw, read stories or participate in other quiet activities. Celebrate this quiet time as something to look forward to each day.
2. Weigh Them Down
You might know that weighted “thunder vests” can comfort your puppy during noisy storms. However, did you realize the same principle applies to your children? A weighted blanket creates deep sensory pressure on joints and muscles. The pressure can stimulate the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that increases positive feelings. It’s like giving them a full-body hug when they’re too old to sleep with you.
3. Get Them Organized
Children can grow overwhelmed when they reach school age. Suddenly, they need to keep track of multiple assignments and deadlines. It’s a lot for little minds to handle, and if your child has perfectionist tendencies, they may stress over how to keep it all straight. Get them a planner and practice writing in it together. Each evening, help them to get their backpack prepared for the next school day.
4. Use Doll or Puppet Play
Sometimes, younger children may struggle to communicate what is bothering them. You can use dolls or puppets to have them act out what’s weighing on their minds. Let them reenact the events that caused their stress, and brainstorm ways that the “characters” can solve their problem.
5. Take a Walk
You know as an adult that sometimes it’s better to walk away from a stressful situation than to escalate a conflict. Model this method of emotional regulation with your children. If your child threatens to meltdown, go for a walk around the block or to the local park. The physical exercise and outdoor air will eventually soothe them.
6. Listen to Music
As the cliché goes, music soothes the savage beast — and it can do the same for your little one. Put on your child’s favorite music and invite them to dance around the living room with you. You can even find kid-friendly dance videos on YouTube, often for free.
7. Dial Back the Schedule
If your child has soccer on Monday, piano on Tuesday and art club on Wednesday, is it any wonder that they’re exhausted? While it’s understandable that you want to keep your child supervised, kids need unstructured play to develop both mentally and emotionally. Plus, you risk making them feel like they have no say or control over their lives when you structure every moment of their day. Allow time in your child’s schedule to simply be.
8. Read a Book
Reading benefits your child’s brain development, but it’s also a potent self-soothing behavior. When your little one loses themselves in a story, they forget about their worries for a while. Encourage your child to read by taking them to the library and letting them select books that interest them. You can also suggest reads that reinforce healthy coping behaviors.
9. Draw a Picture
Drawing and coloring can calm you down, and it can do the same for your children. If you’ve both had a stressful day, why not break out a stack of coloring books and a box of crayons? Sit down at your kitchen table, set a timer and color for 20-30 minutes. If your child prefers to draw, let them. Otherwise, the repetitive motion of coloring could inspire your little one to open up and discuss what’s on their mind.
10. Stretch Little Bodies
Did you know that not only is yoga safe for children, but it’s also beneficial for developing bodies? When you present it in an age-appropriate way, it helps to counter the stress experienced in our hurry-up world. Using phrases like “stretch like a cat” engages their imagination and gets their bodies moving.
11. Practice Guided Meditation
Children can benefit from meditation as much as adults. When 12 Thai boys became trapped in a cave with their football coach for 17 days, they survived the isolating darkness by using the practice. If you’re not sure where to start, consider taking an online class or signing up for one at your community recreation center. Some schools now use yoga and meditation instead of detention to modify the behavior of unruly students.
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, passionate freelance writer, and the blogger behind Mindfulness Mama. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.