11 Ways to Help Your Child Chill Out

Help your kids learn how to relax and let go with these simple tips.

Do Relaxing Activities

A recent survey revealed that more than half of 7- to 9-year-olds studied were stressed out. You can't eliminate all stress but you can help your child manage it in a healthy way: Play in the park, take a yoga class, meditate -- any activity you two can do together to relax.

Make Downtime a Rule

As much as it may pain you to see your teen lying around, let her -- she'll be happier in the long run. But you can encourage her to use that time well -- introduce her to a new type of music, a great book, or a relaxing craft.

Help Them Manage Responsibilities

An overwhelming to-do list can paralyze your child. Help younger children feel less stressed by tackling just five spelling words a night. Help older kids stay on top of their homework, after-school jobs and activities, and time with friends and family by creating a simple calendar (left) that they can use to mange their time -- and ease anxieties.

Make Family Meals a Priority

Studies show that sharing a meal together keeps kids and parents connected and communicative, which in turn makes children more resilient to the negative effects of stress. If dinner is usually a no-go at your house, breakfast, lunch, or weekly movie nights are great alternatives.

Brainstorm "Mini Escapes"

Ask your child, "If you had just 10 spare minutes a day, what would you do to really relax?" Post a list of the ideas you come up with (think e-mailing a friend, reading a favorite magazine, playing a game of tennis) and encourage your child to try one when he or she is having a rough day.

Encourage Kids to Play Games

Tetris, Bookworm, Bejeweled, Chuzzle, Peggle, and other games that require intense concentration will engross your teen and help distract him or her from other pressures. Even putting together a puzzle or playing a focused game like Jenga could do the trick.

Practice Guided Imagery

Have children picture a soothing spot -- the beach, the mountains, a garden -- and teach them to conjure that image when times get tough. Focusing on a soothing mental image will help them relax.

Make Sleep a Priority

Experts recommend nine hours of sleep a night for teens -- but high school seniors generally average less than seven. Work with your child to limit late-night studying, try to enforce an earlier bedtime, and encourage naps if you can tell that your child is worn out.

Make Test Taking Easier

Teach your child tricks that will help them stay focused during exam time. For instance, have kids imagine that they're enclosing themselves in an invisible bubble, where classmates can't bother them. If something does distract them, tell them to pretend they're putting the stray thought into a balloon and watching it blow away.

Reward Your Child's Efforts

Of course you're thrilled when your child brings home a stellar grade on a book report. But instead of focusing on the outcome, praise his or her hard work. Then follow up by asking such questions as, "What's the most interesting thing you learned in class this week?" By making children proud of their own accomplishments, you'll nurture their natural desire to excel.

Map Out a Less Stressful Schedule

Parents are crucial in reviewing a child's workload, and teaming up with a school counselor can help create a schedule that won't overwork a student yet keep her (or him) on track for college. Also, keep after-school commitments in check.

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