Help Your Kids Calm Down: Strategy #2 Progressive Muscle Relaxation

June 19, 2016

 

This is the second post in the series about strategies to help kids to calm down. If you haven’t already seen it, be sure to read the post on Belly Breathing. This second technique is more helpful if kids can already do slow, deep breaths.

 

The second helpful technique for teaching kids (and teens and adults) to calm down is Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

 

Although I tell kids the real name of this technique when they learn it, we usually end up calling it “Tense and Relax.”

 

The idea behind progressive muscle relaxation is that anxiety, stress, and anger often lead to tight and tense muscles. Because the body and mind are so connected, activating relaxation in your body can help your emotions to feel more calm as well. It’s not always so easy, though, to just relax your muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that helps you to relax your body by first intentionally tensing the muscles and then releasing so that they naturally relax.

 

Here’s how to do it…

 

First, help your child to understand what their body feels like when they are worried or upset so that they can recognize tension and stress in their body. Talk together about what you each notice in your body when you are angry or worried (e.g., tight muscles, heart beating fast, stomach feels weird…).

 

A helpful analogy for younger kids to understand the difference between tension and relaxation is to talk about the difference between uncooked and cooked spaghetti noodles. To help your child experience this in their body for better understanding, tell your child stand straight and tall like uncooked spaghetti noodles. Then tell them to act wiggley and floppy liked cooked spaghetti. You can explain that relaxed muscles are more loose and flexible, like the cooked spaghetti noodles.

 

Now you can use the relaxation scripts below to practice relaxing tense muscles with your child. Imagery helps make it more accessible for kids and a bit more fun. Instruct them to try to hold the tension for the count of four. Do the exercises along with your child to help model it.

 

Remember that it’s difficult to do something new in the moment when you are already upset. Kids, teens, and parents will all have more success remembering to do relaxation strategies if they have been practicing them ahead of time so that it doesn’t require much thought. I encourage kids to try new relaxation strategies every night at bedtime for at least a week so that they get used to doing them.

 

You can also use a shortened version of muscle relaxation to help calm down and ground yourself. Kids often choose to do just the feet and fists if they are somewhere that they don’t want other people to notice, like at school. It’s easy to clench and release your fists under your desk without anyone really noticing what you’re doing.

 

Script for Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Kids:

 

Tense your feet by curling your toes…like you’re digging your toes into the sand at the beach.

1…2…3…4…Relax and take a deep breath in and out.

 

Tense your legs by pulling your toes up…like a puppet with its strings being pulled.

1…2…3…4…Relax and take a deep breath in and out.

 

Tense your stomach…and imagine that a puppy was going to step on your stomach.

1…2…3…4…Relax and take a deep breath in and out.

 

Tense your hands by making fists…like you’re trying to squeeze all the juice out of a lemon.

1…2…3…4…Relax and take a deep breath in and out.

 

Tense your arms…like you’re showing off your muscles.

1…2…3…4…Relax and take a deep breath in and out.

 

Tense your shoulders by pulling them up…and imagine that you’re a turtle going into its shell.

1…2…3…4…Relax and take a deep breath in and out.

 

Tense your face by scrunching it up as much as you can.

1…2…3…4…Relax and take a deep breath in and out.

 

Repeat as needed


Script for Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Teens:

 

Tense your feet by curling your toes. Hold 1-2-3-4. Relax and take a deep breath.

 

Tense your legs by pulling your toes up and pointing toward your head. Hold 1-2-3-4. Relax and take a deep breath.

 

Tense your stomach. Hold 1-2-3-4. Relax and take a deep breath.

 

Tense your hands by squeezing into fists, and tense your arms by making muscles. Hold 1-2-3-4. Relax and take a deep breath.

 

Tense your shoulders by pulling them up towards your ears. Hold 1-2-3-4. Relax and take a deep breath.

 

Repeat as needed.

Want to make sure you get future tips on helping your child calm down? Be sure to click here and sign up for the email newsletter.

 

If your child needs extra help in managing worry, stress, or other overwhelming emotions, call or email me to schedule an appointment.

Book Recommendations for Relaxation, Worry, and Anger:

 

For parents:

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety (by Tamar Chansky)

 

For teachers and parents:

Ready…Set…R.E.L.A.X. (by Jeffrey Allen and Roger Klein)

 

For kids:

What to Do When You Worry Too Much (by Dawn Huebner)

Angry Octopus (by Lori Lite)

 

(Please note: These are Amazon affiliate links and I will receive a small percentage of your purchase. I only recommend books that I have read and truly find helpful.)

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