When it comes to relaxation exercises, the key is to practice them while you’re not anxious. Conscious relaxation is a muscle that needs to be strengthened. Most of us don’t give it a second thought until we’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. Work with your child on relaxation anytime a small window of time opens up. Even 1-2 minutes is enough. That’s the beauty of it.
- Deep breathing: Even a toddler can do this. It’s easy for them to pick up immediately if you breathe with them. This works for my daughter when she has mini meltdowns (someone took her crayon or I say no to something she wants).
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This exercise helps define tension and relaxation. Systematically go through the body, clenching and releasing muscle groups. Smaller children will need demonstration, it may be as simple as “Make your hands into fists and squeeeeze. Now make your hands sleep.” Older kids can probably lie down, close their eyes and follow along with verbal cues taking them through the different parts of the body.
- Stretching: Good old fashioned stretching. Yoga is great, but quite frankly, it intimidates me. I ain’t no yogi. Stretching is simple. I feel qualified to lead my children in a stretching session. And it really does feel nice.
- Listen to soft music or sounds: Maybe you like classical, maybe you like the sound of the ocean. Whatever it is, listening to music as an activity is a great way to relax. Turn on your computer’s visualizer and watch the dynamic abstract shapes and colors. I do this with Jewel’s Lullaby Album and my two toddlers sit still with this for about 15 minutes. In toddler world, that’s a loooong time!