SECRETS OF Healthy Kids
Do yoga together. More schools are turning to this ancient practice for a midday relaxation break, but even if yoga isn’t part of your child’s curriculum, you can teach a few poses at home. Warrior I, for instance, with legs stretched wide and arms raised, calls us to attention and demands both physical and mental strength, while the upward lift of the arms and head symbolize victory, says Jim Gillen, coauthor of Yoga Calm for Children: Educating Heart, Mind, and Body (Three Pebble Press, 2008). That makes it a great confidence booster to do just before a big test.
Help children find their happy place. Visualization can help kids tap into their imagination and restore calm, says Jed Schlackman, LMHC, a holistic psychotherapist in Miami. Ask your child to close his eyes and picture himself in a place where everything is peaceful, he says. His body will react as if he’s actually in that peaceful place. To help your child conjure up a favorite, calming spot whether it’s the forest you hiked through last summer or his favorite room in the house ask questions that evoke all five senses, such as, what can you see? What do you hear? How does the sun feel on your skin? The more sensory details he fills in, the more his body will be convinced that it’s time to chill. Just breathe. Our breathing becomes quick and shallow when we’re anxious. But if we force ourselves to take slow, deep hits of oxygen, it’s like sending the body an all-clear signal, which elicits a relaxation response. To make it easier for children to breathe deeply, Lynea hands them a Hoberman sphere—a plastic ball composed of folding joints—and teaches them to open it while inhaling and close it while exhaling. The visual element helps them breathe slowly. (Buy a Hoberman sphere at Yogacalm.com; $17.) Another trick: teach your grade-schooler to pretend she’s slowly blowing out candles on a birthday cake.