A pilot program introducing relaxation classes into primary schools is set to launch in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, the first initiative of its kind in Australia.
Brisbane relaxation specialists Calm for Kids are introducing the pioneering series of classes, which will guide primary school students through a program to learn how to relax and manage stress.
Calm for Kids Founder Tricia Riordan said teaching children how to calm down is an essential feature of healthy development.
“Independent studies have found that a childs ability to cope with everyday stress in their early years has consequences for physical and mental health throughout life,” Ms Riordan said.
“The classes help to set the groundwork for meeting challenges and growing strong not just physically but also emotionally.”
Each class incorporates guided relaxation and visualisations with gentle stretching, breathing exercises, and the use of positive self-talk and optimistic thinking to help children stop, relax and refocus.
The program consists of students in a primary school participating in a 35 minute relaxation class once a week for eight weeks for less than $2 per class.
Classes will be available for take up in every primary school in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast from term three, commencing 12July 2010.
Calm for Kids have been facilitating childrens relaxation classes outside the school environment for two years, and was first established after Riordan indentified a major gap in the market in Brisbane.
“My first child had trouble calming down and was a difficult sleeper, so I started looking around for a solution. When I couldnt find what I needed, Calm for Kids was established,” she said.
“The classes are for every child, not just children who are prone to feeling anxious. Weve received extremely positive feedback from parents and are thrilled to see the benefits the classes are bringing to primary schools.”
“Children are busy and parents are busy,” said Riordan, 35 and a Brisbane mother of two.
“Many children go to after-school care, before-school care, they go to school and they go to activities. A lot of children have two parents working full time and they dont get time to just relax because their parents are busy as well.”
Such a lifestyle, she said, does not teach kids “how to just be still”.
“Children who learn calming techniques show improvement in attention and concentration, behaviour and self concept. When a child is calm and alert, they are also more able to engage in higher level thinking tasks, solve problems, be creative, learn and remember,” she said.
Not just for children, teachers will be involved in a training session learning techniques they can use in their classrooms, and parents receive weekly information sheets with tips and advice on how to introduce aspects of the program at home.
Feedback from parents and children has been positive and includes Brisbane mother Kerry Perrins, who is convinced her eight-year-old daughter has reaped the benefits.
“Georgia has had some anxiety issues, so we brought her along just to teach her to relax,” said Mrs Perrins, a mother of two.
“She has improved out of sight,” she said.
“The sources of stress within children come from a multitude of areas. Pressures often come from outside sources (such as family, friends, or school), but they can also come from within,” said Tricia.
The top sources of stress* for children are:
- Parents having problems
- Fight with a friend or a sibling
- Taking a test
- Wondering if someone thinks youre attractive (teens especially)
- Not having enough privacy
- Birth of a brother or sister
- Moving to a new school
- Re/marriage of a parent
- Not having enough money
(*Source: Mind/Body Medical Institute).
“Add to that separation from parents (toddlers especially), the need to meet parents expectations, world news, illness, death of a loved one, peer competition, bullying and divorce, and you can see how all children can experience some stress in their lives,” said Tricia.
Calm for Kids have prepared the following simple tips for reducing your childs stress:
1. Encourage deep breathing down to the abdomen – in through the nose and out slowly through the mouth.
2. Massage your childs back, shoulders, head, hands or feet. Try this before bed or while watching TV. Massage stories are a great way to introduce massage in a fun and non-threatening way.
3. When your child is feeling stressed, take 10 minutes to go for a walk to the park or around the block. Jump, run, play ball or even dance around the house.
4. Using positive affirmations such as I am calm, I am happy and I am still. Just by repeating and thinking these words, your child will find him or herself getting into a more restful space.
5. At the end of the day, play classical or relaxation music or CDs that contain simple relaxation techniques designed especially for children. Relaxation and visualisation provide wonderful opportunities for children to release tension caused by stress.