6 exercises teach kids to decompress

Decompress …. Have some fun teaching kids this all-important life skill.

1.  Finger-counting breaths

decompress open hand“A do-anywhere exercise. Create gentle fists with your hands, and with each breath, unfurl a finger from your palm. For example, on your first exhale open your left thumb from your fist. Pause and enjoy an inhale. On your next exhale, unfurl your left index finger. Pause and enjoy an inhale. Continue until you have two open palms on your lap.” Jillian Pransky

2.  Attitude-changing breaths

Change the exercise in #1 to include a word(s) as the child breaths and unfurls each finger— like peace, quiet, I’m safe, God is with me.

3.  Nature walk

Get out of the house for a 15-minute walk with children. Add more calm by asking the kids to point out natural wonders as they walk.

4. decompress legs on wallLegs up the wall

Children find a space along the wall where they can lie down. Begin by sitting upright along the wall with one hip touching the wall and legs extended out in front of them, parallel to the wall. Slowly lie back onto the ground/floor as their torso moves to allow legs to swing up the wall with feet pressed flat into the air, as if they were standing on the ground. Close their eyes, breathe naturally and listen to their breathing. Hold for 5 minutes.

5. Shake It Off

Find a fast, upbeat song to play. Tell children that when they hear the music, they should shake their bodies (for 30 seconds) as much as possible—legs, arms, torso, feet, hands, everything! Tell children that when the music stops, they will clap their hands as loudly as possible, three times. On the third clap, they will leave their hands together and bring them to their heart, close their eyes, take three big inhales and exhales.

6. Pray

decompress prayChoose a prayer and pray it slowly. Here’s a sample: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8

Tweetable: Have some fun teaching children six exercises to decompress when they feel overwhelmed or stressed. Click to Tweet 

Kids remind us: keep asking questions

reminder to ask not tellWe don’t ask each other questions. Instead, we speak—sometimes tweet—statements at each other.”*

What response do we get when we assert our own ideas before we attempt to understand the other person? What tone does this set in our family relationships and in social settings?  Can children show us a better way?

Reminder #1: Questions form a bond

reminder to bondHaven’t we all answered a 3-year-old’s question, only to be asked and answered again—and again—and again? Finally it dawns on us that the child is bonding with us. The give-and-take of her Q &A session produces dialogue and dialogue forms bonds.

Reminder #2: Questions lead to self-awareness

I find that the “Would you rather…” questions work best with most kids. I get blank stares with general questions. For example, “Would you rather take piano lessons or painting lessons?” works better than, “What kind of lessons do you want to take?” in finding out how we can develop their innate talents.

Reminder #3: Questions strengthen critical thinking skills

Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making, suggests these questions: “What ideas do you have?” and “What do you think is happening here?” Respect responses whether you view them as correct or not. You could say, “That is interesting. Tell me why you think that.” Use phrases like “I am interested to hear your thinking about this.” “How would you solve this problem?”

Ask God questions

reminder of friendly worldChildren relate well to God when they form an image of a personal God, one who loves them, cares about them and knows them by name. I like to say “Let’s ask God about that and see how God answers us.” I do this with confidence because years ago I added question-asking to my own relationship with God. I began to hear the world around me with new ears and to see my environment with new eyes.

Through nonverbal cues and just plain acting out, kids remind us to ask them questions and provide them with choices.  

“It’s hard, because we live in a world that is perfectly comfortable with making statements. And perfectly uncomfortable asking questions.”– Douglas Estes, assistant professor at South University Columbia, SC

*Douglas Estes

Tweetable: Kids can keep us from working so hard to get our point across because they respond so positively when, instead, we ask questions and offer choices. A good practice with peers too. Click to Tweet