Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Stress-Reduction for Children

Last updated on June 7th, 2014 at 06:39 pm

Stress Reduction for ChildrenEarlier this year I wrote a post on stress and kids and promised to review a valuable stress-reducing technique for children and adults, progressive muscle relaxation, in my next post. It took longer than planned, but I wanted to make sure to highlight this useful approach.

Many children suffer from stress and anxiety, even at quite young ages, driven by grades and homework, family, and issues with friends and teasing. Even if there are no particular signs of stress, some kids just have difficulty relaxing, which can affect their ability to fall asleep easily. This was definitely the case with our son, Elliott, who figured out how to climb out of his crib at age two and struggled to nap or go to sleep at night ever since. He could most easily sleep when something was restraining him, like a car seat – so that it seemed like his brain needed to be told, “Stop! Calm down, no moving, now you need to sleep.” Over time, sleep became so challenging that I spoke to a child psychologist who recommended a CD for children to walk them through progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

“Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that involves tensing specific muscle groups and then relaxing them to create awareness of tension and relaxation. It is termed progressive because it proceeds through all major muscle groups, relaxing them one at a time, and eventually leads to total muscle relaxation” (amsa.org). PMR is useful for stress, anxiety and sleep issues because one way the body responds to stress is with muscle tension – which you may know if you ever get a stiff neck or aching shoulders when doing stressful work. I first learned about progressive muscle relaxation through a public health graduate course on understanding and managing stress, and have used PMR to help me relax at night while going to sleep. Through the PMR process I realized that I had been holding the muscles in my neck and jaw tight, like when concentrating on some difficult work task. My ability to fall asleep or to go back to sleep in the middle of the night has greatly improved since oral hgh using the PMR approach.

ICanRelax-photoSo it made a lot of sense to me to try PMR for my son. I am willing to believe that we aren’t all born with a natural or at least optimal ability to relax, and this is a key life skill! The CD that was recommended to me is called I Can Relax!, and is produced by The Child Anxiety Network for children aged 4 to 12. The CD features the voice of Dr. Donna Pincus, a clinical psychologist and expert in child anxiety disorders, who walks children through playful versions of the PMR process for each part of the body. In the box below you can see the sections of the CD.

I Can Relax! CD Contents

Instructions

Taking Deep Breaths

A Relaxing Place

The Worry Train

Making Lemonade

The Turtle and the Stream

Relax Your Face

Hungry at the Beach

Taking a Nap

The Strong, Tall Tree

I Can Relax!

I Can Relax! is available via Amazon for $17.95 and on iTunes for $9.99. It is also available in Canada via other online booksellers. It’s interesting to note that the reviews on Amazon are almost all very positive. One parent who gave a lower three star rating found that her younger child got great benefit but that her 10-year old wasn’t willing to try and got no benefit after being “forced.” I can say that was also an issue with my son, who was older when we tried it. He did get some benefit, but he resisted the idea. I, on the other hand, found huge benefit from squeezing my hands to “make lemonade!” So it may be better to try this out while your children are still young enough to be less resistant to parental suggestions. I also want to highlight that there are many free options for progressive muscle relaxation, with sample scripts online for parents to read aloud to their children, or videos online or at your local library. I hope you find this approach useful because there is nothing more challenging or disheartening than when your child is anxious or can’t relax.

About the Author

Audra is an experienced pharmaceutical marketing professional, aspiring writer, and mother of Elliott, a high-spirited fourteen-year old boy. Frequently tired but never bored, she has a strong interest in public health fostered by numerous years implementing global diabetes education programs as well as by her fourteen-year crazy (wild? amazing?) adventure in parenting. She recently earned a Masters in Public Health to augment her expertise in health policy and health promotion. Audra is a member of the PedSafe Team

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