How to Teach Children Relaxation Exercises to Manage Stress

Collaborative post by another author. It's normal for children to feel stressed or anxious at times due to school, friends, or life changes. However, ongoing stress can negatively impact their mental and physical health. As a parent or foster carer, you can help equip children with tools to handle stress in healthy ways. Teaching relaxation exercises is one effective approach. Here are some tips on how to teach children different relaxation techniques to manage stress.

A stock image of a girl breathing in and feeling calm outside
Relaxation Exercises To Help Children Manage Stress

The Importance of Relaxation for Stressed Children

Children in foster care often face additional stressors, such as adjusting to a new home environment, separation from family, or trauma from past experiences. Their developing brains and bodies are more vulnerable to prolonged stress. As a person fostering in Milton Keynes, know that relaxation exercises can activate the parasympathetic nervous system to counteract the "fight or flight" stress response. With regular practice of these calming techniques, children can learn to self-soothe, regulate their emotions, and build resilience. Learning relaxation skills at a young age sets them up for better mental and physical well-being now and in the future.

Breathing Exercises

Simple breathing exercises are an easy way to get started with relaxation techniques. Sit down with your child in a quiet space. Tell them to place one hand on their belly and the other on their chest. Model slow, deep breathing, drawing air down into the belly. Have them copy you, focusing on making their belly expand with inhales and contract with exhales. Do this together for a few minutes. As they get comfortable, count the breaths out loud (inhale 1,2,3,4 - exhale 1,2,3,4). Counting helps them maintain a slow rhythm. Repeat daily.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This exercise teaches children to recognise and release muscle tension. Have them lie down and get comfortable. Starting with their feet, instruct them to squeeze and tense each muscle group for 5 seconds - feet, legs, stomach, arms, hands, shoulders, neck, face. After each squeeze, have them relax the muscle group for 10 seconds, noticing how it feels when the tension melts away. Repeat on both sides of the body. Use a soft voice and do this together. End by having them scan their body for any remaining tension, consciously letting it go.


Visualisation uses imagination to take kids on a mental journey to a calm place. First, do some deep breathing together. Then have them close their eyes as you guide them to visualise a beautiful, peaceful place, engaging all their senses - explain what they see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. Give examples like a quiet beach, grassy meadow, or in a hammock during a summer rain. Speak in a soothing voice and include prompts to relax their body from head to toe. End the visualisation by having them take a few more deep breaths before opening their eyes.

Set a Calm Environment

Creating a regular time and space for relaxation exercises is optimal so children know it's part of their routine. Keep it tech-free and minimise distractions. Use soft music or nature sounds if helpful to set the mood. Show by your calm presence that this is important. Being patient and making it an enjoyable shared experience motivates children to keep practicing relaxation skills.

Teaching children positive ways to manage stress equips them for challenges now and in the future. Consistency with relaxation exercises will help strengthen their mental health muscles. Make sure to monitor their stress levels and get professional support if needed. With your support using these tools, they will learn vital skills to deal with life's ups and downs.

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