We all know that kids and teens are more stressed than ever.
These days, it's hard to find a kid or teen who doesn't struggle with some form of anxiety. With so many things happening in their lives (and in the world), it's easy for kids and teens to feel overwhelmed.
But there are ways to help them relax and cope with stress—and they don't all have to be expensive!
Here are some relaxation strategies for your neurodivergent kids and/or teens without breaking the bank:
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Yoga is a great form of exercise for all ages, including children and teens. It can help with stress, anxiety, concentration issues & sleep problems.
Below are some of the benefits of yoga and the different types of yoga poses for your young ones.
Benefits of Yoga for Neurodivergent Kids and Teens
The gentle stretching of yoga can help kids with autism, ADHD, and other conditions to calm down. It helps your child to calm down as it can lower blood pressure and lower heart rate.
Yoga is also great for kids who are anxious about school or other stressful situations.
Yoga can enhance your child's mood and overall sense of well-being.
To get the most out of yoga techniques, make sure that you and your child remember to practice on a regular basis. Guide your child through a beginner's program.
Practicing yoga may lead to improved balance, flexibility, range of motion, and strength which your child also needs to keep a healthy body and mind.
Just focus on having your child move his/her body from time to time and try not to be too worried about his/her poses.
Ensure your child’s safety first as well. Give him/her enough space and if you are doing this with him/her, avoid bumping his/her head or stubbing his/her toes with yours. Allow them to wear comfortable yoga clothes to make the activity more inviting and fun.
You may try to modify the poses for your child's level of skill and comfort. To make it more fun and less overwhelming for your kids, try to ask them to imagine the yoga poses and pretend to be a surfer, tree, skier, dog, and owl.
When your child is familiar with the poses and the sequence, you can begin to ask him/her to recite affirmation sentences, I'd like to call them the “I am…” statements e.g. I am strong; I am calm; I am enough, etc.
The Different Types of Yoga Poses for Your Neurodivergent Kids and Teens
Here are my "I am..." yoga poses:
“I am strong.”
Pretend to be a surfer (The Warrior 2 Yoga Pose)
Ask your child to stand tall then, step one foot back, and place the foot so that it is facing slightly outwards. Ask your child to raise his/her arms parallel to the ground, bend the front knee and look forward; let your child pretend to be a surfer catching tricky waves.
“I am kind.”
Pretend to be a tree (The Tree Yoga Pose)
Let your child stand on one leg, bend the knee, place the sole of the foot on the opposite inner thigh, and maintain balance. Sway like a tree. Think of the kind trees around us, giving us shade, oxygen to breathe, and homes for the animals.
“I am brave.”
Pretend to be a skier. (The Chair Yoga Pose)
Let the child stand tall with his/her feet hip-width apart, bend his/her knees, and keep a straight back.
Ask your child to hold his/her hands out in front, pretending to grasp ski poles as he/she flies down a ski run like a brave and fearless skier.
“I am friendly.”
Pretend to be a dog (The Downward-Facing Dog Yoga Pose)
Let your child bend down and place his/her palms flat on the ground.
Step the feet back to create an upside-down V shape with his/her buttocks high in the air.
Straighten his/her legs, relax head and neck, and ask him/her to look down between his/her legs.
Think of being a persistent and friendly dog.
“I am wise.”
Pretend to be an owl (The Hero Yoga Pose)
Ask your child to drop his/her knees to the ground and come down to rest upright on his/her heels.
Then pretend to be a wise owl resting on a tree. Ask him/her to twist his/her upper body one way and then the other.
Don’t rush things with your child. Make the experience fun, calming, and relaxing for both of you. Stay focused on your child’s success. If your child doesn’t get interested in using yoga movements as a calming down strategy, don’t push it. You may try some other time again. Just like every strategy, nothing is a one-size-fits-all solution, so feel free to innovate and change the yoga poses to suit your child’s interests and needs.
Tapping is a form of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), which is based on the idea that negative emotions cause physical symptoms in the body.
Using tapping techniques helps release these negative emotions so they don't become physical problems. It can be used by anyone but has been particularly useful for people with autism spectrum disorders.
“Tapping with the fingertips on specific points on the body, while focusing on negative emotions or physical sensations, helps to calm the nervous system, rewire the brain to respond in healthier ways, and restore the body’s balance of energy” (The Tapping Solution).
People with autism often need sensory stimulation, whether it's through touch, sound, movement, or sight.
Your child will try to manage his/her emotions and self-regulate through stimming. But stimming is not always done appropriately it may be unsafe for them or may cause severe disruptions at times to the people around your child.
Tapping is one positive, research-based alternative for your child to learn to regulate their overstimulation and emotions.
Try these tapping steps with your child:
Ask your child if he or she would like to try a new tapping exercise to help them feel as relaxed as possible before bedtime.
Have your child take a deep breath in through their nose, and then exhale through their mouth.
Let them know that not feeling sleepy is okay, and you will figure it out together.
Follow the tapping script below, encouraging them to express themselves. You can steer them with affirmation statements.
If your child hasn't improved after doing this, try going through it again. The language should start to change, and they'll start to feel better.
Tapping Script to Help Your Child Sleep
While there is little research on the use of tapping with groups of individuals with autism, scientists have shown that tapping can help people who have anxiety disorders and those who need general relief from emotional distress.
Tapping can be a simple way for people with autism to reduce stress. In addition, the tapping movements provide a repetitive feeling of stimulation such as stimming.
Mindfulness is an integral part of meditation, so it's a good place to start.
Ask your child if they would like to learn more about meditation.
If they're interested, ask them how long they'd like to meditate for each day and what type of meditation they'd like to do (i.e., mindfulness meditation versus guided imagery).
Another study reveals that mindfulness can help fight anxiety and insomnia and is free of the risks of sleep-promoting medications such as hypnotics.
It is important that children be developmentally ready and capable of self-awareness in order to understand the principles of mindfulness.
This development stage occurs between the ages of seven and twelve, but children at the youngest end of this range may have trouble imagining certain outcomes.
Grab a copy of our Sleep Stories. Sleep Stories are an easy way to help your child relax the mind and body for bedtime. These stories can reduce stress and anxiety, keep your child's thoughts from drifting so they can easily fall asleep, and introduce mindfulness which helps with stress and anxiety reduction as well as keeps your child from getting distracted so they can fall asleep quickly.
How to Start Teaching Your Neurodivergent Child or Teens with Mindfulness
You model it as a parent, that’s where you can start. To start the day on the right foot, try some quiet time together, unplugging technology (i.e. electronics, gadgets, TVs, etc.), and mindful breathing.
Here are some mindfulness activities for your neurodivergent child or your teens:
Practice intentional breathing
Ask your child to sit comfortably
Ask them to take notes and concentrate on their natural breathing
Let them place their hands on their chest and belly
Then ask them to breathe into their chest (you might need to demonstrate these to your child if they look confused)
Then ask them to breathe into their lower lungs
Then half breaths into their chest and their lower lungs
Then take full breaths
Then ask them how they feel
Focus on the five senses
Let your child sit or lie comfortably
Ask them to look around and notice five things that they can see.
Now, ask them to notice four things that they can feel. Lead them by asking them how cold is the floor or if the room is warm to their feel. Tune in to your sense of touch.
Then ask them to notice three things they can hear. Ask them to really concentrate and they are able to hear their breath or even the thumping of their heart.
Ask them to notice two things they can smell.
Then finally, ask them to notice one thing they can taste.
Sit right back up and ask yourself and your child how you both are feeling right after this exercise
You might ask how long you should do this.
Mindfulness experts recommend starting with a few minutes. Observe how your child feels during each session and work for up to approximately 20 minutes or up to the comfort level of your child.
Breathwork is another great way for your child to calm down and relax, especially if they struggle with anxiety, stress, or both! You can use guided imagery or just let them listen to their own breathing—whatever works for them! This can be especially helpful if they have a lot of anxiety or stress because it's soothing and helps them get into a mindfulness-like state.
Try this breathing routine with your child. Tell them to take a deep breath in through their nose, filling their lungs with air downwards towards the belly. As their belly expands up and out, notice their bottom hand rise. Then tell your child to breathe out slowly through their mouth, feeling the bottom hand lower back down.
Again, this list is by no means exhaustive, and not every strategy will appeal to every kid or teen. But it may provide you with someplace to start as you look for ways to help your neurodivergent kids and teens. With a little creativity and patience, you'll likely find that they can better manage their stress and sleep issues. This can help them stay healthier and happier into adulthood.
We offer our expertise in this arena. The Slumber Academy will help you establish healthy, developmentally appropriate sleep habits for your child. Let us help you put an end to those sleepless nights. Grab the link below to get exclusive access to our FROM RESISTING TO RESTING ONLINE COURSE.