Monday, October 10, 2011

Simple Relaxation Skills for Children

Dear Friends,
     In school we want our students to be able to handle stress by practicing simple relaxation strategies. We may work with students individually to help them understand how to feel peaceful or we may work with the whole class. Below is a list of simple strategies that we can teach if children need them.
     We know that with practice, students can learn to calm down, ease anxiety and feel at peace easily when they need to. These are skills we want our students to have as they take standardized assessments, prepare for a big game, make a speech, or even interview for a job or college. Below are some very simple and basic strategies to help with relaxation.
     Relaxation Skills include:
Awareness of Body Tension and Feelings - First, we have students take a moment to see how they feel; physically and emotionally. Students are asked to notice how they feel while sitting at their desk. We ask them to notice muscles that feel tired, achy or energized. We also ask them to notice how they are feeling – happy, sad, concerned, tired, etc. We want them to know that they have the ability to change how they feel, but first they have to figure out what is happening and what it is that they need. We also encourage them to talk with a trusted adult if they need help with any of their feelings.

Postural Awareness - Students are asked to become aware of how they sit at their desks. We help them take notice when they may be slouching and when they are sitting up tall. We point out how much more oxygen and breathing is possible when students sit up straight with good posture. Sitting with good posture can also allow them to feel more alert and energized throughout the day.

Simple Breathing Techniques - Next, children are encouraged to take a deep breath. So often throughout the day – we don’t even think about our breathing and we forget how relaxing a long inhalation or exhalation can be. We practice taking a large inhale and then allowing the breath to “travel” all the way down to our feet as we exhale. This long exhalation is the key to relaxing. When students
are practicing just two or three breaths, we also ask them to notice sounds in the room, which also enhances their listening skills, concentration and awareness.

Progressive Relaxation - We also talk about Progressive Relaxation, which is used by professional and Olympic athletes, rock stars, corporate CEO's and more. Students are taught to tense muscles and then relax them while exhaling. We start with our feet and tense and relax knees, stomachs, backs, arms and shoulders. This simple act of tensing the muscles and relaxing them creates a more relaxed state as the body releases tension. Students notice a difference as they hold the tension in their muscles and then relax. This is also another good technique for managing emotions, preparing for a test or competition, or releasing fear or worry.

Imagination - When students are done relaxing – we ask them to use their imagination to thing about a peaceful place or an image of their “Best Self.” We encourage them to see their best self – in detail. The images that they share with us are always positive and encouraging. They have said, “I saw myself as smart and confident.” Or “I saw myself as being a doctor – which is what I would like to do when I grow up.” We also talk about how professionals use visualization to see themselves making the perfect foul shot, making a touchdown, or making the audition for a Broadway play.

Positive Self-Talk and Reframing - We also speak with students about positive self-talk. We want them to notice the words they use when speaking about themselves. If the words are negative we want them to know how to change those words to something positive. For example, if a student is saying, “I’ll never be good at math.” We want to help them to reframe the words into something positive like, “I am able to learn math in my own way and my own time. I am very capable of learning lots of new things.”

Stay tuned for more skills and information to help our students as the year progresses.
Best Wishes for a Relaxing Day!
Kimberly Borin,
Learning Specialist