4 Methods for Decompressing - Monthly Blog by Stretch-n-Grow

4 Methods for Decompressing

Regardless of how old we are, the need to decompress is important after a long day or a stressful event. Many adults have tips and tricks that help them regulate their nervous system, relax their bodies, and make sure their emotions are in check. When babies are born, they are almost pure emotion and need. As they get older, they learn how to manage themselves internally and externally. Decompression is one of these regulation tools; it is a way someone regulates emotional, and sometimes even physical, pressure. For children, especially when they first start going to school for 8 hours a day, being able to decompress from school and reset for the rest of their day is very important; but it doesn’t come naturally.

Here are 4 ways to help kids decompress after school or after a stressful event:

  1. Coloring or other simple artistic pursuits. This decompression tool has become so popular even adults are getting in on it. Getting to sit in one spot and focus on easy creativity, and the repetitive motion of moving the crayon back and forth, helps them focus on something that isn’t too stimulating and allows their brain to begin to process and move forward from the day. If painting or chalk art relaxes a child, those are other great options. As long as the artistic craft isn’t stressful or overly demanding of their energy, art is a great way to decompress. It shouldn’t be a craft related to school, since that keeps them hyper-focused on the day, and won’t necessarily help them wind down.
  2. Playing with clay or sand. Tactile activity can relieve tension built up in the body, and the feel of clay, sand, or putty between fingers (or maybe even toes) engages the muscles in the same way a relaxing massage does. Just because children do not have the language to express they are carrying tension in the body the same way adults do doesn’t mean they do not. Especially for the kid who may be hyperactive, the focus and motion provide a healthy outlet to engage the body in the act of decompression.
  3. Move the body. Sometimes the only way to release tension and take the mind off the day is to expend a lot of energy through play or exercise. Ride bikes! Throw a ball! Play tag! Whether it is taking a walk, going wild on a jungle gym, or just going bananas outside for 30 minutes, some kids really benefit emotionally and mentally from using physical activity as a form of stress release. For children who don’t like sitting a lot all day, in school in particular, getting to release pent-up energy can be cathartic.
  4. Talking – or Silence. Depending on the personality and needs of a child, talking through their day, or enjoying the benefits of 30-60 minutes of silence, can be the best thing. While these two activities are opposites and depend on the unique kid, there is no denying that giving them time to process is going to help move forward with the rest of their day, and family time. If a kid enjoys talking, make it a ritual. Have a beverage, a snack, and a special corner dedicated just to talking. If they need silence, create a quiet corner with stuffies, books, and a privacy screen. Create the right environment.

But what about screen time? The great debate about giving kids screen time continues to rage, with some parents using it and others moving away from it. While ultimately that is a choice for every parent, guardian, or caregiver, here are a few simple guidelines:

  1. Make sure the child is actually decompressing. Many programs for kids are geared to wind them up and keep them watching. This programming is stimulating, not decompressing. 
  2. Make sure there is a limit. Having a program or two kids watch daily can be enjoyable, but then they need to learn how to turn off the blue light and transition to another activity. 
  3. If it can be time with the family, do that! If the whole family watches together, discusses what they watched, and then transitions together, it can teach children that screen time is best shared with others and not alone in their room.

How do you decompress? Do your kids decompress in a way that is similar or different to you? Let us know!

Picture of by Bethany Verrett
by Bethany Verrett

Bethany is a freelance writer and editor. Click on her name to find out more!

Want more? Click here to read our blog about techniques to calm down on hard days.


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