How do I help my preschooler relax (and myself, too!) during the coronavirus pandemic?
As hard as this time is, and as exhausting as the boundless energy of a preschooler is, you will not find a better partner in imagination than your preschool child— so take full advantage of these ideas, let them be your collaborator giving them choices here and there to keep their interest. Allow yourself to participate in these activities, too— you need it! Make them part of your routine if you’d like. You can introduce the element of surprise by drawing pictures with icons to represent these ideas, put them in a bowl, choose one, and surprise! Find out together tonight’s relaxation strategy. As with all bedtime advice, keep your bedtime routine as much as possible, so your child anticipates sleep time and doesn’t get a second wind as you squeeze in one more thing on your to do list— it’s not worth it! You can try these things at home to help your little one (and you!) to relax.
• Robots and ragdolls: Do progressive muscle relaxation (PMT) the fun way. Ask your child to do “robot” style: stiff arms and legs, and alternate with “ragdoll” style: floppy arms and legs. Call out “Robot!” or “Ragdoll.” Repeat a few times till your child has “wrung” the energy out. You can vary this by making it a “Simon Says” activity.
• Magic wands/fairy bubbles: A variation of PMT use an imaginary magic wand or imaginary fairy bubbles start at your child’s feet wave the magic wand and put your child’s toes and feet “to sleep” then work your way up the body, saying now your knees are getting very sleepy, all the way up to the head. The repetition is mesmerizing.
• Deep breaths: Help your child take as many deep breaths as their age. A fun way: Inhale: smell the cookies, exhale: blow on them till they cool off. You can also have them put their hands out and trace between their fingers: Go up the finger— inhale, down, exhale!
• Animal stretches! Have your child choose— a calm kitty, a sleepy dog, a floppy seal, a happy sea otter, anything will do.
• The four doors! Have your child choose four things they like to think about: the zoo, their dog, pancakes, birthday parties and choose one or two a night that together you tell a story about. Don’t make it too exciting or interesting, but just enough and your child will relax and be ready for sleep!
Your child will jump in with other ideas, welcome their creativity, and make sure to stop just before you fall asleep too!
Guest post by Tamar Chansky, Ph.D.
Psychologist and Author, Freeing Your Child from Anxiety
This post was written in the Spring of 2020. Please follow your local guidelines and advice from family health care providers for appropriate, current coronavirus safety measures.