Many parents don't realize that children as young as four can engage in meditation, deep breathing and visualization exercises to calm themselves down. These types of exercises have been proven to calm the central nervous system. The following are two great techniques that are simple enough for children to practice, and an example of what they may learn in therapy:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Deep, slow breathing reduces your heart rate and calms you down. Tensing and relaxing muscles releases endorphins (natural chemicals produced by your body) into your bloodstream which also makes you feel happy and relaxed.
Take 10 very deep, slow breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Imagine a baby wave flowing over your body and filling you with calm, fresh, cool feelings. When you breathe out the wave goes back into the ocean, slowly washing away all your worries and angry and sad feelings.
Tense all your muscles, pull your tummy in to the count of 10.
Shake your legs and arms one at a time. Very slowly rotate your hands and feet in both direction. Pull your shoulders up to your ears and the drop them down to relax. Repeat this twice. Repeat step numbers 1 and 2. Concentrate on the wave.
Imagine you are in or at one of your most favourite places in the world (for example: beach, rainforest, park, party, kitchen, restaurant, summer cottage, camp or bedroom). Imagine what you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel on the skin in that special place.
Remember: do all the movements very slowly.
2. Bubble Meditation
This bubble meditation can help you slow down and notice your thoughts, your feelings, and even what’s going on in your body, without getting stuck on any one thing.
First, get comfortable. Sit up with your back straight but relaxed. Try to let go of any tightness in your muscles (give them a little wiggle to loosen them up if you have to), and start with some deep belly breathing. Belly breathing is when you breathe in and your belly grows bigger instead of your chest.
Now, imagine that bubbles slowly start to float up in front of you, one at a time. They start from the floor and float up through the ceiling (or into the sky if you’re outside) until you can’t see them anymore. Inside each bubble, picture one of your thoughts, or feelings, or even something you’re noticing. You can picture something that’s on your mind, such as the fight you had with your best friend, or how you’re feeling right now. You can even picture something you’re feeling in your body, such as having an itchy nose. Some bubbles might be empty, or some might have the same thought or feeling over and over again. That’s okay - let your bubbles fill up with whatever comes to mind, and then watch them float away.
Now, notice a new bubble right in front of you. Look at what’s inside and then watch it slowly float up and away like the others. Try not to think of what’s inside the bubble as being “good” or “bad”. Just look at what’s inside the bubble, without thinking more about it. Watch as it floats away. Keep watching your bubbles float away for a few more minutes while using your deep belly breathing, until they’re all gone. Keep breathing comfortably, and when you’re ready, open your eyes again.
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I recommend that parents practice these techniques alongside their children at first in order for your child to learn by watching you. It may also be helpful to start by reading off these scripts until you learn the exercise well. It will be difficult for your child to engage in these exercises if they are already very elevated (crying, screaming, etc.). The best time to practice these exercises is when your child is calm, or just starting to become emotionally elevated.