It takes Amelia a little while to calm down and get to sleep each evening. We have a pretty strict bed time routine to help which consists of the usual dinner, bath, stories and then bed… but in the last few months we have also had to add in the liberal sprinkling of invisible “mummy dust” (which I seem to have unlimited amounts of coming out of my finger tips – very useful in all sorts of circumstances – thanks Anne!) to ward off bad dreams accompanied by me lightly tickling her nose and then her toes and saying “from your nose all the way down to your toes”, followed by a long lullaby session. This is unvaryingly Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies” slowed right down and repeated about a bazillion times over until she is calm and about to drop off or actually catatonic. This particular song has always had a soporific effect on Amelia, and likewise for me. Some nights as I sing it over and over I feel like I am in that dream, falling and calling (see lyrics) right through the floorboards, or head first onto the bed in pure exhaustion. Let me tell you that her doona, even if it is covered in Buzz, Woody, Teddy Long Legs, Curious George, Warm Kitty and all her other nocturnal buddies, looks incredibly inviting on these long evenings.
Since Kinder began (and maybe also as the baby’s birth gets closer) sleep has become even more interrupted and the lullaby session has moved into the realms of the extended remix b-side dance version. Sometimes I give up when she is still wiggling around or fretting or interrupting with topics such as “Clairey*, why do you think that the My Little Pony dvd is trash?” which then means she calls out for us for up to two hours later. She has also been a little more unsettled during the day so this week I decided to get all new-age on her ass, and introduce RELAXATION to this already weighty evening routine.
And it’s really working!
I haven’t done Yoga for a couple of years now, but it’s amazing how quickly I can recall the almost exact words that my teacher used in our relaxation session at the end of each class. I have adapted it a little so that it suits a 3 year old’s understanding so there is less talk about tension release or muscles or breathing into the diaphragm. I simply get her to do a few rounds of deep breathing and then run over the parts of the face talking about how each feels soft and relaxed, and then work down the body until we get to the toes. The important bit really seems to be my voice and the word “relax” repeated after each body part, in a kind of soft drawn-out whisper.
I also spend a lot of time asking her to imagine floating on a cloud in the warm sunshine and how comfortable and safe she is. On the first night I made the mistake of comparing the cloud to a marshmallow and BLING! she was totally awake “Clairey, why does the Bookshop Cafe only give you one marshmallow [with a babychino] and the Big Cup gives you two?” so we had to start again. But since then I remember to use only safe, very neutral words (forget marshmallow, froth, butterfly and for some reason elbow). And I have to say “Imagine you are…” a lot otherwise she will perk up “But Clairey! There is no sun! It’s dark!” etc. I also have learnt that I must vary it every evening… add a little bit more “breath in deeply…” stuff or more cloud things, because if she gets used to the same words she gets flustered when I don’t repeat them verbatim – which is pretty hard unless you are reading it.
And now she is dropping off before we get to the toes, she seems to sleep most of the night through on the nights we do relaxation and even her daytime stresses seem to be disappearing. Those yoga people are really on to something.
Tonight I have done a quick google search for relaxation for children and have some links to add:
Relaxation for Children Audio CD… I can’t offer any criticism of this cd at all, not having listened to it but if I had a 7-10 year old I would probably give it a burl. The description is pretty good and I usually trust stuff stocked by the ABC Shop.
On E-bility found this article about relaxation for children which talks about breathing, muscle relaxation and visualisation techniques and is a good, quick read.
Here is a script for a Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Children. This has been included in a family clinic website’s ADHD section, but I am sure could be useful more widely. I know Amelia would be jumping on the bed swatting imaginary flies and chasing baby elephants if I attempted this one, but perhaps it would work for older kids.
Great, short article from the Early Childhood Australia Inc website; “A time to simply ‘be’: Building resilient and happy children through relaxation techniques” with tips on how to create a relaxation space.
*For some reason we are no longer Mummy and Daddy but Clairey and Philly… she is a truly modern child despite us trying to get it across to her that we are an old fashioned kind of mum and dad. None of this 1970s first name stuff please.