Thursday, November 12, 2009

Helping Children Deal With Stress

This is a guest post by Mellisa Dormoy, CHt, founder ShambalaKids Guided Imagery CDs

With today's busy schedules, between rushing off to school and work, after-school lessons, dinner time and homework, all children and parents experience a certain level of daily stress.

A simple activity to implement with your child for stress relief is the balloon breath relaxation. You can help alleviate stress in yourself as well by practicing this technique. First, begin by asking your children to breathe in very slowly and deeply through the nose, counting up to three. Ask them to imagine they are breathing in a beautiful white light that spreads out through their body and makes them feel very relaxed. Ask them to imagine that their tummy is like a balloon and to fill up the balloon with lots of that relaxing white light. This is called diaphragmic breathing and it very relaxing for the body and mind. Start out by counting up to three and then work up to 5 or 6 slow counts. Exhaling is also slow and easy. Ask your child to close his eyes when inhaling and exhaling. This closes out outside distractions and helps your child focus their attention within. You should also practice with your child which will alleviate stress for you and also strengthen your bond with your child simply by virtue of spending special time together and feeling good.

Bedtime is an ideal time to introduce this techniques and to practice as well. However, this deep balloon breath relaxation will also help your child anytime he or she feels any stress... before a test at school, after a fight with a friend, when the atmosphere gets a little overwhelming, really in any circumstance. It's also useful for parents as well. It can help us parent better, because we are then less stressed ourselves. So practice daily with your child. This also provides the opportunity for you to eventually introduce mindful meditation to your child if you should choose to do so. It all begins with the breath. This relaxation does not have to last a long time, and your child will reap tremendous benefits from even 2-4 minutes of this type of relaxation.

Another important foundational stone for healthy, stress-free living is regular discussion of any issues that came up during the day for your child. Ask your child what the best moment of the day was, and then once you spend time enjoying those images with your child, ask what the most difficult moment of the day was. This is your opportunity to really BE with your child. This is also your opportunity to alleviate his or her anxieties. Use guided imagery and tell your child that together you will blow the worries far away. Take out am invisible magic bubble blower and blow blow blow away those worries! Exercise your own imagination and have fun with it. Children have very vivid imaginations and adore these types of exercises. What you may think difficult, comes very natural to them. It also feels like a fun game, and you'll be surprised how much guided imagery really helps you as well.

Spending these precious moments with your child and teaching them simple techniques to deal with stress has huge payoffs, both for you and your child, now and in the future. It is a large part of mindful parenting which is the practice of living in the moment with your child. You're giving your child tools to deal with daily pressures and you're spending quality time and creating memories with your child. It's an old cliche but also very true...our children do grow up so fast. Therefore, it's vital that we acknowledge them always and take time to enjoy them and their growth. In addition to helping your child relieve everyday stresses, make it a practice to really pay attention to your child and his thoughts and feelings. It is the greatest gift you can give them, and unconditional love relieves stress like nothing else!

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