Relaxation Techniques for Kids with Anxiety, According to a Clinical Psychologist
Feelings can be overwhelming sometimes, especially for children who haven’t learned how to react and respond to them. Managing emotions, even more so during stressful situations, can be difficult regardless of age. This is especially true when routines are disrupted. Routines play a key role in promoting feelings of safety and security in children and when boundaries are broken, they can feel more vulnerable and unsettled.
One of the challenges as a parent is learning how to teach our children how to handle negative emotions in a positive way, rather than trying to always prevent our kids from ever getting upset. It’s important for kids to learn appropriate ways of responding when feeling overwhelmed so that they are able to manage emotional stress as an adult more effectively.
Calming techniques and guided meditations can help children connect with what they’re feeling and work through these strong emotions.
The moment we become stressed or upset our bodies become tense, our heart rate rises and breathing can become more shallow and difficult. When our bodies are calm, we are in a restful state where we breathe normally, our muscles are relaxed and our heart rate is lower.
To support you and your child during challenging moments of anxiety or stress, here are some relaxation and calming tips and tricks from clinical psychologist Dr. Azizi Seixas and the Moshi team to help you and your kids better identify, accept and manage intense emotions.
Taking long deep breaths –breathing from the diaphragm or stomach– sends signals to your body that it’s time to slow down. When we feel anxious, stressed, or upset our breathing naturally becomes more rapid and shallow. By simply slowing down our breathing, the feeling of being ‘out of control’ gradually dissipates.
Moshi, the sleep and mindfulness app, has a new feature designed specifically for children learning the practice of deep breathing. With a soothing guiding voice and peaceful illustrations, kids are able to follow SleepyPaws whilst he breathes deeply while bringing their bodies to a more restful state.
Positive words and thoughts can go a long way when it comes to changing your outlook on stressful or upsetting situations. To help your little one deal with strong emotions centered around a certain event or challenge, help them to replace their negative thoughts with positive ones. Encouraging them to say positive phrases, like ‘I can do this’ or ‘this will not last forever’ or ‘Mom and Dad will take care of and protect me’ when you talk with them about their concerns or anxieties will help to create a more positive growth mindset about the problem, which in-turn can to help shine a brighter light on an issue that may seem daunting and overwhelming.
According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Azizi Seixas, “It is important to help kids see imperfections, challenges, bad experiences and setbacks as positive learning experiences that get better over time with the help of loved ones. This will help kids learn how to cope with emotions and challenges, develop grit, discover how to tap into their own psychological resources as well as resources around them, and learn the age-old axiom, – there will be good days and bad days, but the good days will outnumber the bad.”
If you’d like to learn more about how to start positive thinking with your kids, check out our blog Grateful Living with Little Ones.
Another strategy of Dr. Azizi’s that has proven helpful is that of thought stopping. Thought stopping occurs when you help your child identify negative and anxious thoughts before they snowball. Help your child to recognize when they have negative thoughts and help them disprove or manage them. For example, if your child is anxious about a math exam because they think that they will never be good at math, you can help them disprove this idea by showing them that they are good with numeric concepts in other enjoyable settings and scenarios – like playing cashier in a make-believe shop.
Finding Distracting Activities
Help kids respond to anxiety by developing a routine filled with fun activities that they enjoy such as coloring, physical activity, sports, and playing games, which will enable them to focus on things other than their worrying thoughts. Parents can help their kids establish an activity routine and safe location that they can engage with by themselves as they become familiar with it over time.
People find physical comfort very calming because of a chemical being released in our brains called oxytocin, also known as the ‘cuddle hormone.’ The release of this cuddle hormone causes a reduction in blood pressure and of norepinephrine, our stress hormone. This can run the gamut from snuggling or having a strong extended hug with a caregiver to a simple weighted blanket.
Meditation is known as one of the most well-known ways of relaxing the body. It can be difficult for kids to settle their bodies and minds, especially when distraught, which is why guided meditations can be beneficial. Visualizing a calm and safe space, dipping into all senses, allows our bodies to slow down and enter a more restful and controlled state.
Within the Moshi sleep app, you will find curated playlists and filters with mediations, relaxations, and other content specifically designed to help reduce stress and anxiety.
For example, Moshi Moments are short but impactful guided meditations specifically for children, designed for moments when they need help managing their emotions. Soothing narration guides them through simple techniques, such as focusing on specially selected soothing melodic sounds and taking long deep breaths, so that they can imagine the stressful world around them fading away