Aromatherapy for Kids: 8 Calming Scents to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
The events of the last year or so certainly came with their share of stress and anxiety. Parents everywhere were feeling the squeeze, and there’s little doubt that our kids were feeling it too. But while kids are pretty resilient and often look like they’re taking things in stride, looks can be deceiving. Deviations from their regular routines and the frustrations that come with floundering between home school one day and in-person instruction the next can cause our kids to feel even more stress and anxiety than they normally do. Pre-pandemic, the CDC reported that over 4 million kids were diagnosed with anxiety. Regrettably, there can be little doubt that these numbers are on the rise.
While parents can’t do much to control world events, there are things they can do to help their kids deal with stress and anxiety. Increasingly parents are seeking out a more natural approach to fix what ails their families. So much so that aromatherapy is really having a moment.
The field of holistic medicine, however, is pretty expansive, to say the least. A cursory web search could be overwhelming and leave you with more questions than answers. With so many herbs and essential oils available for aromatherapy, it’s hard to know where to start. Ahead, we de-mystifies the topic with a look at eight calming scents to help relieve stress and anxiety in kids.
Common symptoms of anxiety in kids
To help your kids, you must first familiarize yourself with typical symptoms of stress and anxiety so that you can recognize them early.
Common signs and symptoms of anxiety include:
- Muscle aches (particularly stomach aches and headaches that are otherwise inexplicable)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeplessness or frequent bad dreams
- Constantly worrying
The most calming scents for stress
Before we dive in, it may be worth noting that when we talk about aromatherapy, we’re really talking about essential oils. Most articles on the topic will move fluidly between the two terms, even using them interchangeably. That said, the calming scents we cover in this section are all readily available in essential oil form.
Research has shown that rosemary has a positive effect on mood and performance. Moreover, rosemary can decrease the stress hormone – cortisol.
It is well known that lavender has plenty of calming and sedative effects. And like rosemary, lavender has also been proven to reduce cortisol levels.
While peppermint isn’t exactly a calming scent, it is a powerful stress reliever and works wonders for easing anxiety as well.
Often used in soaps, lotions, and skincare products, ylang-ylang has a sweet scent, and it has long been revered for its ability to relieve stress and promote a positive mood.
Much like peppermint, lemon (or citrus) is also known more for its stimulating effects, but it’s also a pretty powerful stress buster. For example, in a study conducted by Brazilian scientists in 2014, researchers found that citrus oil significantly lowered participants’ anxiety levels.
The sweet smell of jasmine is also known to have a calming and destressing effect. The great thing about this scent is that it’s readily found in candles and soaps, plus you can always buy a fresh bunch at your local florist.
A close relative of the culinary sage you’re probably familiar with, clary sage is less intense and therefore a better choice for aromatherapy. In a 2015 study, researchers determined that clary sage was particularly useful for easing tension and lowering cortisol levels.
Of course, you know that roses are beautiful, and they smell divine. But what you may not know is that stopping to smell the roses could have a beneficial effect on your mood and stress levels. In fact, research has shown that rose oil has the ability to decrease your breathing rate and lower your blood pressure.
A note about using essential oils safely
While essential oils are natural, parents are encouraged to do their due diligence when using them with kids. Essential oils can be pretty potent. For topical applications, they may require a carrier oil, which we’ll discuss in the next section. There are dosage limitations for kids based on age.
John’s Hopkins All Children’s Hospital shares the following dosage guidelines:
- 3 months-24 months: 0.25%-0.5%
- 2-6 years: 1-2%
- 6-15 years: 1.5%-3%
- Over 15 years of age: 2.5%-5%
But of all the safety guidelines we can share, perhaps the most important one would be that children should never use essential oils without proper supervision.
How to get started
When it comes to essential oils and calming scents, there are three safe delivery methods for kids; inhalation, topical application, and sprays and diffusers.
Inhalation is one of the easiest ways to reap the benefits of calming scents and essential oils. Simply untwist the lid and have your child take in a good long whiff. Not only does the essential oil work to relieve stress and anxiety, but deep breathing can be a pretty powerful strategy as well.
Topical applications using any of the scents mentioned above are a great delivery method for essential oils. However, it’s important to note that these oils can be pretty powerful on their own. Many require carrier oils for topical applications. Carrier oils safely dilute these oils so that you can use them safely and without irritation. Common carrier oils include olive oil, coconut oil, and sweet almond oil.
The good news is that most companies that sell essential oils often take the guesswork out of using them. Many offer these oils and oil blends (with carrier oils) in convenient rollerballs. Not only does this take the hassle out of topical applications, but it also keeps the mess to a minimum. If you’re looking for a good place to start, Plant Therapy has an incredible selection of essential oil blends. They have a line that’s specifically labeled kids safe.
If you’re not too crazy about the idea of direct application, you can always try reed diffusers, nebulizers and cold air diffusers. With these little helpers, you can quickly and efficiently fill any room with the calming scent of your choice.
Additionally, room sprays are a quick and easy way to disperse scents, and you don’t have to buy additional items or accessories to use them, so overall they’re relatively inexpensive. Beyond room sprays, you can also try pillow sprays. Like room sprays, pillow sprays are infused with calming scents and essential oils. They’re perfect for helping your little one wind down and relax for bedtime. Pair that with some meditation music from Moshi, and you may have a winning combination for helping your little relax and destress.
There’s little doubt that we all have plenty going on in our daily lives, and our kids are feeling the stress and anxiety too. For a more natural alternative, parents can use the calming scents of essential oils to help their kids find some relief. You may have to experiment to find the one that’s right for your child, but there are plenty to choose from, and the possibilities are endless. For a little more help curbing your child’s anxiety, you can also try these calming techniques.