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Relaxation, Guided Imagery, and Visualization Techniques

Relieving Stress

Children with ADD/ADHD are often in a state of stress in school. It is therapeutic to teach them strategies (at home, school, or in private therapy) to help them calm down and relax. Hyperactive/impulsive children, in particular, gain the most from learning techniques that relax their minds and bodies, recognize their internal feelings, and release inner tension. These strategies empower children with a feeling of peace and self-control.

There are a variety of techniques that have proven effective in helping us to slow down, and to improve focus and awareness. One book, in particular, is a gold mine of wonderful ideas, step-by-step exercises, and activities for teachers and parents to help children achieve this sense of relaxation and well-being. Centerplay: Focusing Your Child's Energy, was written by Holly Young Huth, a relaxation consultant and teacher specializing in early childhood education.

Fun and Laughter

Laughter is one of the best ways to release stress and feel good. The chemicals released in the body through laughter reduce pain and tension. So, there is probably no substitute for finding ways to have fun and to laugh with our children.

Breathing Techniques

Many of us know the positive effects of controlled breathing through our training in Lamaze or other natural-childbirth classes. Controlled, conscious breathing has the benefit of relaxing muscles and reducing stress. Many believe it is useful in the management, perhaps cure, of some physical ailments and disease.

  • Help your child learn to take conscious, deep breaths to relax. Show him how to inhale deeply (preferably through the nose, but through the mouth is fine) and slowly exhale through the mouth.

  • Teach your child to isolate different body parts and relax them with each slow breath she exhales. For example, while lying on the floor, instruct her to tighten or squeeze her toes on the left foot, then relax with a deep breath. Now tighten her left knee and upper leg . . . then relax and breathe. Proceed in this fashion to the right side of the lower body, to the abdomen and upper body, each arm, hand/fingers, chest, neck, jaws, and face.

  • It is particularly helpful for children to recognize that when they are nervous, stressed, and angry, they should feel the tightening of certain body parts. If they can recognize when fists clench, jaws tighten, and stomachs harden, they have the power over their bodies to relax and gain control. They can begin to breathe deeply and "send" their breaths consciously to relax body parts. By sending the breaths to his hand, your child can silently prompt himself to relax his hand (until the fist is released and fingers are loose). Teach your child that when his body is relaxed, he is better able to think and plan.

  • Help guide your child to visualize that with each breath she takes in, her body becomes filled slowly with a soothing color, aroma, sound, light, warmth, or other pleasant, comfortable feeling.

  • Ask your child to think of a color that makes him feel very comfortable, peaceful, and relaxed. Then have him practice -- with closed eyes -- breathing in that color and "sending" it (blowing it) throughout the body. If your child, for example, chooses "turquoise," guide him to visualize the turquoise going down his throat, into the neck and chest, down to the stomach, and so on until he is filled with the beautiful, peaceful, wonderful turquoise . . . and is relaxed and in control.

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