I believe that relaxation practice must be engaging, fun, and rewarding if we are going to see ultimate buy-in and interest from our kids. Since body awareness is an essential first step component to relaxation practice, (i.e. ya gotta know when you are stressed and how much to know when ya need to use a tool and what tool to use), I like to introduce some fun ways to show kids how to check in with their bodies to know the various levels of stress and how stress impacts them, both physically and mentally.
One way to begin to pay attention to and monitor stress levels is to use a stress rating chart. A stress rating chart allows kids to pair a metaphoric theme (eg. food, critter or nature) with the level of stress they are feeling in their body. For instance, if you were feeling very low stress, at level one, you could relate it to feeling like a still lake or a clear sky. Feeling ultimate stress, or level 5, would relate to a volcano that was about to erupt. Show children that levels 3 and above usually require the use of a relaxation tool in order to get back to a level 2 or 1. Possible ways to explain the chart use include:
1. Go through each level and discuss how the body feels when that level of stress is experienced. Discuss particular bodily sensations that are possible, (eg. sweaty hands, shortness of breath, feeling hot or cold, dizzy, intense focus or lack of focus, etc. . . ). Talk about how it relates to the metaphor provided and ask your child if she agrees with the metaphoric example. If not, you might need to change the example to one more meaningful for her.
2. Cut apart the levels and allow your child to re-arrange them in order. Discuss why each one goes where it does and how the body feels at each level.
3. Write life scenarios, real or imagined, that relate to each level and invite your child to talk about why they feel a certain level of stress when they encounter that scenario. Match each scenario with a level on the chart. Put the scenarios in a box and select one a day for discussion.
4. Complete role plays in which you act out using and/or teaching a relaxation tool. Take turns being the instructor and the instructed. Discuss where you think your stress would register on the chart before and after applying the tool.
5. Play charades. Act out a stressful scenario or a relaxing scenario and then guess which level the person is demonstrating.
Try out the following charts and let me know what you think!