Relaxation Exercises

The original research using this program was done using the relaxation audio before listening to the story audios. However, over the years researchers and clinicians have found using two stories before the relaxation audio enhances the child’s interest in the program and appears the best way to introduce the program. They look forward to the stories. We found that using the Star Story and then the Secret Place Story sets the tone for the program. After a couple of weeks using these two stories, we introduce the Relaxation Exercises audio so that the child learns how it feels to have their body completely relaxed. Then the relaxation exercise audio is interspersed with the stories over a 12 week period. The Relaxation Exercises audio should be used 3-4 more times during the 12 weeks. Also, the Slow Relax audio teaches proper breathing and reinforces the feeling of relaxation. Children and teens that experience physical symptoms such as stomach upset, headaches, elevated heart rate, and nervousness benefit from using the Relaxation Exercises audio to calm the body and reduce physical complaints.

Find a comfortable surface where your child can lie down. For the first time or two, stop the audio and check to see if your child is relaxing each part of their body. Do this by lifting an arm or leg and feeling the weight of the relaxed body part. Let your child know how he/she is doing by saying “Yes that’s good”, or “Let go even more” etc. until you feel the dead weight of that body part. Encouragement lets the child know that their effort is correct. Some children have trouble tensing one set of muscles while relaxing the rest of the body since they have to think “relax” in one part of the body and “tense” in another. For example, when we are writing, we have to have some tension in our fingers to hold the pencil, but we can relax the rest of our body. If a child has a great deal of difficulty with this, don’t get stuck; go on to the rest of the audio. At the end of the audio, check the child’s arm, forehead, and shoulders for tension. If tense, ask the child to let go even more.

Children need to know how it feels to be tense as compared to how it feels to be relaxed. Today’s children have so many activities in their daily lives that they have never learned the valuable skill of relaxation. Children, who are anxious, fearful or have emotional concerns that are not being dealt with effectively, will often be tense and irritable. Unmet needs can appear as distractibility, hyperactivity, and other kinds of behavior problems. Children with these problems may benefit from medication but all children still need to learn self-control. Behaviors like these can often be alleviated or improved dramatically with the use of relaxation and an improved relationship between the parent and child.

Slow Relax

The purpose Slow Relax is to teach children to relax completely by taking one deep breath and letting it all go. You can help your child learn to relax by teaching them new way of breathing that helps then let go of all the tension. Explain that when they take a breath in, their ribs expand sideways and their stomach moves out as though it were a balloon being filled with air. As the breath is let out their stomach contracts as though the air was going out of the balloon. Encourage your child to completely let go of the stomach muscles. Practice correct breathing with your child in this way. Sit by your child’s side as he or she lies down or sits in a chair. Using an audible tone, say the word “ahhhhhhh” in one long tone as the breath is exhaled. Then silently inhale. Do this for about five minutes a day for several days. This exercise is very helpful in teaching the child to relax completely. In order to work on aggression or anxiety the child must learn to calm down by taking a few deep breaths. This technique can be used in situations where the child is upset before it escalates to aggression, shouting, or out of control behavior. The technique can also be used when we become anxious during a test. Anxiety blocks concentration and memory and a deep breath can help you turn loose of anxiety and focus again.

Sometimes the child may not recognize the signs of tension. Sometimes it is helpful for the child to look in a mirror when they are upset so they can see the relationship between anger and tension. It is important for them to be aware that are becoming upset and recognize that it is time to take a deep breath, relax and “let go”. Since children may have a difficult time catching the moment they are becoming upset, we have found the use of a “CODE” word to be helpful. You chose a “CODE” word that both of you have agreed on and this word signals that it is time to take a few deep breaths and calm down. Children may chose a word like emerald, bunny, apple or any word that is used to remind them to take a few deep breaths and calm down. Some children chose a funny word because humor may help disrupt anger. It is IMPORTANT to try to use that “CODE” word BEFORE the situation escalates. When the “CODE” word is chosen the child must agree that he will not get angry when you use the “CODE” word to remind him. The “CODE” word should also be a signal for the parent to remain calm so the situation does not escalate. If the child turns the “CODE” word back on you when you are upset you should also agree to stop and calm down.