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A guide to relaxation techniques for anxiety and stress in kids and teens.
The doctor leaned back in this chair and watched us as we settled into the padded seats opposite him. I glanced quickly down at my son, smiled, and squeezed this arm. We'd run the gauntlet of doctors and tests with no definite answers.
"So..." I began, "Any idea what's causing his ongoing cramping pains and distressing nausea?" I wasn't hopeful.
"Yes. Your son suffers with abdominal migraine."
"Oh.." I felt a little stunned. "I've never heard of it."
"There are various triggers but it's often stress-related. We don't medicate. But regular exercise, maybe swimming, and diet can help. I'll give you a follow-up referral with a specialist who can discuss it with you and formulate a strategy plan."
I hadn't been aware that my son was even stressed. He was quiet but seemed to have no problems at school or with his friends. Mmm..... more talk-time with us and sharing his concerns were in order.
Stress is a real and growing issue for both kids and teens.
After all, their lives are not exactly easy. They’re trying to get good grades, make friends, handle the ever-present social media in their lives and adapt to the changes that are part of growing up.
Most kids have experienced stress at some time, especially in relation to school and test anxiety. And, of course, some stress is a natural response to life changes or events. But stress that is too intense or too prolonged becomes a problem.
Not sure if your kids or teens are stressed or why?
Signs of stress in kids and teens can usually be detected through changes in their behaviours, emotions and reactions. Unfortunately, families today seem to operate on routines and schedules that are full to overflowing with busyness. And that contributes to stress. Additional overstimulation through technology and social media can pile the stress on, too.
How can I help my stressed child?
In general terms, there are simple practices that will help everyone, not just your kids, tweens or teens to handle the stresses of everyday life.
A big one is sleep. Ensuring your kids had sufficient sleep was easy when they were little. And their behaviour certainly let you know if they were over-tired. But this can be an issue for your older kids, too. Although they may want to stay up later and later, they still require a good night's sleep.
Insufficient sleep for these tweens and teens can express itself in stress and anxiety. (Actually, it's not good for anyone.)
A healthy diet is another factor to consider. And this makes a big difference, too. But if your teens are out with friends, the tendency is to grab a fast-food option.. not good for their health or dealing with stress.
Stay connected with your kids. Use meal times to talk about their day and discuss situations that may have been stressful. Maintaining positive relationships with your kids, even if they roll their eyes, helps them deal with stress.
Many people are delighted with the results obtained with relaxing essential oils. Twig+Petal produce a relaxation kit.. (Relaxation Multi-Purpose Oil +Deep Relaxation Bath Salts +Relaxation Room Spray + De-Stress Blend) ...haven't tried it yet, but I do love their Allergy roller. It's so easy to use. (I also like Twig+Petal's focus on producing quality products in small batches with ongoing testing.)
So, essential oils might be worth considering.
But... there are other helpful, specific, age-appropriate activities suitable for any stage of development, from preschoolers to teens... ideas you can use to help kids and teens deal with stress.
Check out the following ideas to help your children develop relaxation techniques to relieve anxiety and stress.
Sharing Relaxation Practices with Younger Children
Sure, it would be tough (almost impossible) to train a toddler to relax for a half hour when they can barely sit still long enough to eat. But even small children can relax and focus if you use movement and sound to make it interesting. It also helps if you provide an inspiring role model by managing stress constructively yourself.
Try these techniques:
1. Make it fun.
Be sure to present relaxation practices as a helpful tool rather than punishment. There is no point in telling our kids to just go to their rooms and rest. Instead, we can encourage them to read or maybe read to them (even better). Books like Flurry of Worry for your young ones are fun to read and help them handle stress and worry. Play some quiet games together. Work on a zigsaw puzzle together or a board game. Don't expect them to spend hours on these more restful activities. Pay attention to your child’s limits so they’ll stay engaged.
2. Keep it brief.
As little as one minute of seated quiet activity can be an achievement for a preschooler. Plan multiple activities so you can switch things around if your child seems to be losing interest: playdough, sticker fun, colouring in, puzzles, lego. Try to plan some restful, quiet family time throughout the week to enable everyone time to relax and reconnect with each other.
3. Deep breathing.
Focusing on their breathing is an excellent starting point at any age.
Ask your child to imagine filling their stomach and chest with air and then releasing it like a balloon. There's also an app to help kids relax and breath deeply- Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame. Calm for kids is another app that focuses on helping kids relax, unwind and fall asleep.
4. Play music.
Does your child have some favourite songs? Take turns singing different parts or ask them to listen for certain notes. There has been plenty of research done and reducing stress is just one of the benefits of listening to music or singing. (Birde media player, designed especially for kids, produce a guided relaxation pack.)
“I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.”
5. Share some physical activity
Exercise helps to burn off the stress hormone 'cortison'. So..take a walk. It's a wonderful opportunity to appreciate your surroundings while you’re moving around. Go to the park and identify as many different kinds of flowers, trees or birds as you can. Take a frisbee with you. A large skipping rope is another simple but fun physical activity. Just a simple walk along the beach works wonders. Doing simple exercises together can be fun as well as helpful for reducing stress.
If you’re still looking for something more, see what’s available in your neighbourhood. Check event listings at your local library and other resources to find courses; maybe less physical but equally fun, like photography or gardening classes.
6. Time to journal or colour
Colouring is a rhythmic activity that, regardless of the age or abilities of those involved, will calm the brain and provide relaxing fun. Printable pages or books are available or store-bought options can be easily found.
Sharing Relaxation Practices with Teens
With teens, you can build on the techniques designed for younger children and introduce some new lessons. But the causes of stress can be very different for teens. You will be well aware of the growing stress that teens today experience. Changing relationships with friends can fuel stress. There may be a growing pressure to experiment with drugs or alcohol. They may even be bullied at school and online. They may feel the pressure to achieve high scholastic results especially if they look toward university requirements. They may feel expected to make far-reaching decisions, such as career choices, even though they don't have the life experience to do so.
There are still things you can do and strategies to implement that will help.
7. Set a limit on your teen's activities.
Sure.. it's great if they have skills and interests that they enjoy and may wish to develop. The activities may be wonderful opportunities. But too many activities that take up too much of a teen's time and will result in stress.
Sit down together and list those activities and the time per week/day each activity requires. Determine how much time for rest is needed. Work out a reasonable daily schedule. It may mean that some changes will need to be made. Maybe some activities can be discontinued for a time. But setting time aside for fun and relaxation is crucial.
8. Model Philippians 4:6-7
' Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'
Talk with your teen/s and encourage them to ask for God's will and direction for their lives and the individual challenges they are facing that lead to stress. Pray with them. Talk about times when you have struggled yourself with stress in your life and how God has helped and enabled you to handle it. If your teen can see how you cope with stresses, they will be encouraged in their own lives. Remind your teen that God has promised us peace that seems beyond our understanding. A copy of Reflecting on the Names of Jesus: Jesus-centred colouring book and devotion might be something that might benefit your teen, too.
9. Work on basic problem solving skills.
Stress often results when lots of small problems are unresolved. These, then, can cause mounting stress. Help your teen take a serious look at the problems and identify the underlying issue- why does your teen have difficulty confronting and handling the problem? Then work on the steps needed to resolve each problem. Your teen will develop strong problem solving skills to handle future issues by working through these current problems in a logical and thoughtful manner.
10. Take time to journal
Numerous studies have shown that 15-20 minutes of writing, done daily or a few times each week, reduces stress. Encourage your teen to write about their thoughts and concerns. Take time to reflect on those things that have brightened their day, the unexpected highlights and blessings, and the small but important 'moments that matter'.
A journal is also the perfect place to record and track goals. This can boost your teen's sense of achievement and lessen the stress.
11. Give thanks
It sounds easy. But it's something that needs practice, for all of us. Giving thanks, taking note of the big and small things that have brightened your day or lightened your load is something that we all need to remember. And your teen is no exception.
But it's an activity that really does reduce stress and add joy to your life. It's so easy for us all to focus on problems ahead and stress. We need a regular reminder to stop, discover the gift of the present, thank God... and trust Him for the future.
Nothing seems to help?
Now, you may find that, no matter what you do and how you try to help your teen to instil helpful strategies for handling stress, nothing improves. When that happens, you may need to seek professional counselling services for your teen.
Kids, tweens and teens can benefit from relaxation practices whether you use a modern app or an old-fashioned teddy or cushion to cuddle. Introduce your sons and daughters to positive habits that can help them grow up to be happy and peaceful. Help them see that everyone struggles with stress at certain times in their lives.
But there are many strategies that can help them deal with stress.
What relaxation techniques work for you?
Disclosure: At Grandma's Place is committed to high standards of integrity and quality. I do not promote any brand I do not believe meets these standards, and I only promote brands I would purchase myself. If I don't love it, and don't think you'll love it, it won't appear on my blog.
Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.