Nowadays, the kids actually may not be alright. Many are living with heightened stress levels plaguing even the most seemingly innocent activities, like going to school and going to the movies, for fear of repeats of the horrific tragedies communities nationwide have experienced. Even when kids may clam up, a KidsHealth KidsPoll found that despite their distancing actions, upset kids want their parents to notice that they’re having trouble, to get involved, and to offer them support and coping help.

It is impossible to predict what challenges, disappointments, or setbacks a child may have to face in life. That’s why some of the most powerful lessons we can share with children are healthy tools for dealing with negative emotions if and when they occur.

According to KidsHealth, telling your son or daughter what you imagine he or she may be feeling may help to determine their stress level and begin a constructive and supportive talk. Conversation starters along these lines may include saying: “That must have been upsetting,” and “That must have seemed unfair to you,” and “No wonder you felt mad when that happened.” Such phrases can open up a dialogue and allow parents to show they would like to understand their child’s feelings.

According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, healthy ways to dial down stress include:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong
  • Repetitive prayer
  • Guided imagery

An informative resource where you can learn more about most of the techniques mentioned above is the government-sponsored National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. You can find information there about relaxation techniques (including deep breathing and guided imagery), meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qi gong. These practices are typically not introduced in school classrooms, so parents are the ones that have to introduce them. Some practices, like meditation, can begin simply by silently repeating a mantra (a calming word or sound that boosts concentration).

California-based University of the Pacific includes on its website, along with instructions for deep breathing exercises, audio clips provided to them with permission from the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Counseling Center. They can be listened to from their website, or downloaded, copied or recorded freely. The first recording is nine minutes; the second, 15 minutes. If your child is having difficulties, consider listening to one together before bed. Be sure to first listen to each in its entirety to determine whether it is age-appropriate.

What resources have You found for teaching kids relaxation techniques?