Mental Health Month badge

Relaxation strategies for kids and teens

Relaxation strategies can help ease your child’s stress and can teach your child to relax when feeling tense or upset.

Many of these strategies can be done at any place and any time. Your child will get the benefits of reduced stress from these strategies, as well as develop self-soothing and emotional regulation skills with regular practice.

Prompt your child to practice a relaxation strategy each day in a quiet, comfortable place. At first, you will need to be there to teach your child these strategies. Depending on your child’s age and level of responsibility, you may be able to slowly give them more independence with these exercises. Some children may only need simple, daily reminders to practice these strategies once they have practiced them with you. Other children will need you to be with them to help them practice each day.


Belly breathing

When our stress levels rise, our breathing speeds up and becomes shallower. By learning how to breathe differently, children can feel more relaxed. Belly breathing is a useful breathing technique that teaches one to breathe using the belly (diaphragm) more than the chest.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that slowly relaxes each different muscle group in the body.

The peaceful scene

Also called visualization, this is thinking in pictures, images and sensations. Visualization is a strategy that uses the imagination to calm the mind and get rid of worries or stressful thoughts. Children can imagine walking through a forest or along the beach, describing all the images and sensations they experience.


Belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing)

  1. Find a quiet place to sit or lie down.
  2. Encourage your child to relax their shoulders.
  3. Have your child breathe in through their nose, slowly and evenly. Tell your child to pretend that there's a balloon in their belly. Watch together to see if their belly moves out a little when you breathe. If it helps, encourage your child to lie down and put a piece of paper or a small stuffed animal on their belly to see if it moves up when they breathe in.
  4. Tell your child to breathe out through their mouth, as if blowing out a candle.
  5. Tell your child to rest for a few seconds and then start over again. Practice until this is easy and relaxing to do.

Note to parents:
You can tell if your child is doing relaxed breathing if:

  • Their chest and shoulders are still
  • Their belly moves out with each inhale and in with each exhale
  • The rest of their body looks relaxed

10 mindfulness exercises you can do with your child

Notice five things

Taking a few moments to notice the world around you can help bring you back to the present.

  • Sit down with your child wherever you are.
  • Together, take a few deep breaths, then slowly look around and notice five things around you.
  • Take turns sharing what you saw.
  • You can also practice noticing five things you hear or feel.

Take 10 breaths

In this exercise, you will practice mindful breathing with your child by taking 10 slow, deep breaths together.

  • Sit or lie down on a comfortable surface next to your child.
  • Close your eyes and put your hands on your bellies. Ask your child to take 10 deep breaths along with you. You will both breathe in so deeply that your bellies fill up with air.
  • If 10 breaths are too many to start, try with just a few and work your way up together.

Draw your emotions

This is a good activity for younger children who often find it difficult to name their feelings. Try this activity with your child at different times, not just when they are sad or upset.

  • Sit down together, close your eyes for a few moments and think about how you are feeling.
  • Draw your feelings and share your drawings with one another.

One bite

One bite is a child-sized version of mindful eating. This form of meditation helps children pay attention to their experiences, emotions and physical sensations.

  • Choose one small piece of food and explore how it looks, smells and feels in your hands.
  • Take one small bite and hold the food in your mouths a few moments before chewing. Then notice how the food feels and tastes.


Silence is great to use when children are already calm and quiet. This will help them feel even more peaceful.

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable place, trying to be as still and quiet as possible. One minute is a good place to start.
  • When the time ends, share in soft voices what you heard or saw.
  • Transition to the next activity quietly and peacefully.

Body scan

Body scanning can help children get in touch with how their bodies are feeling, and help them recognize when their bodies are tense and relaxed.

  • Lie down on your backs on a comfortable surface and close your eyes.
  • Next, squeeze every muscle in your bodies as tight as you can. Squeeze hands into fists, curl toes, squish feet, make your arms and legs as stiff as possible and your tummies as hard as rocks.
  • After a few seconds, release all of your muscles and relax for a few minutes.
  • Talk about how your bodies were feeling throughout the exercise.
  • Another alternative is to call out and tighten each body part one at a time.

Buddy breathing

Buddy breathing helps children calm down, focus, relax and pay attention to their bodies.

  • Grab your favorite stuffed animal or another small object
  • Lie down on the floor and place the stuffed animal on your bellies.
  • Breathe together in silence for one minute and notice how your Breathing Buddy moves up and down.
  • Ask your child to imagine their thoughts turning into bubbles and floating away.

Mindful walk

Mindful walks help children connect with the world around them and ground them in a sense of rhythm and time.

  • Take a few deep breaths before you begin your walk.
  • Start walking slowly, paying attention to the different movements that go into each step: toes, heels, feet, legs, hands, arms.
  • Every so often, stop and notice one item or sound. Spend a few moments thinking about what you just saw or heard, then continue on your walk, focusing again on each of the movements that go into each step.

Blow bubbles

Help children send their worries and fears away by blowing bubbles.

  • Once you have found a bubble-friendly place to set up, dip the bubble wand into the bubble solution.
  • Take a slow, deep breath in.
  • Now slowly, steadily breathe out, blowing a bubble. As you breathe out, imagine you are also blowing out your worries and fears.

Heartbeat exercise

The heartbeat exercise can help children recognize when they feel anxious.

  • Stand up next to your child.
  • Jump up and down, run in circles, do jumping jacks or a silly dance for one minute.
  • At the end of that minute, sit or lie down, put your hands over your hearts, close your eyes and pay attention to your heartbeat, breathing and anything else you notice about how your bodies feel.