The Stillness Game:
a script to help you relax your child down to sleep
In a previous post, I discussed the art of creating a ‘stillness game’ with our young one to help him learn to relax down to sleep. While there are a plethora of CDs, books, and MP3s (I know, I’ve made one too) out there to help you, sometimes, it’s best for your child to hear your voice in helping them to relax down to sleep.
I’ve found that the keys to relaxation with children are voice and music. There are a variety of methods out there from Transcendental Meditation to using mantras to relax. I’ve found the simple methods of focusing on your breathing or following a step-by-step muscle relaxation work the best for the majority of the adults and children I’ve worked with.
Most children find their parent’s voices soothing when we’re trying to help quiet down a pain or discomfort. Sometimes, they fight you on sheer principle. You’ll need to test this process for a few days to see if you’re going to be able to use your own voice, recruit a family member, or find something or someone else out there to help. Please, test it out for at least a week before moving on to another solution. I’d really recommend trying it for a month so they have some consistency and a chance to succeed with it. But, if you’re still feeling frustrated, move on to something else to see if it will help.
We want both you and your child to have a relaxing evening.
Our focus here is to teach you how to use your voice to help your child relax down to sleep. (You’ll learn to, this can and will help with temper tantrums and general screaming fits.) With your voice, you need to work on cadence and levels. You need to slow your regular speech pattern down so that almost every word comes across on a single slow and steady breath.
To record yourself, you can use such products as GarageBand on the Mac and Magix for the PC. I switch back and forth between both. Make sure you use a headset to help cancel out any background noise. And, if you or your spouse is a musician, all the better! As for music, you want to select something with less than 60 beats a minute. Any of the meditation CDs you find at Target or in iTunes will work just fine for your personal recording. I’ve steered away from things such as nature sounds or thunderstorms, as these make our son agitated in his sleep. Instead, I selected a soft ocean theme with some light harp and flute music in the background. Your music selection will depend on your child. I know one who loves bagpipes!
The script below should last at least five minutes. I start with about 20 seconds of music before I start the script below, giving them a little bit to adjust to the fact it’s bedtime. The music lays just below the voice for the first part, the first five minutes. You want the voice to be loud enough for them to focus on it. When I’m done recording the main session (the first five minutes), I add in enough music to last about 25-30 minutes and then layer in the voice recording just below the music 2-3 more times (you don’t want to be able to consciously hear the voice, on mine, I can hear it at certain parts, but my musician husband can’t, go figure) and then let the rest just run as music.
Ok, time to lay back and relax. Find your spot. Get all nice and comfy. Take a deep breath. And a big yawn. (You will actually yawn.) Letting your body relax. Eyes closed now. Feeling your head relax. Getting all nice and comfy.
Feeling your face relax. Warm, soft, secure. Letting your neck and shoulders get nice and warm. Soft and relaxed. Letting your chest relax. Warm and comfy. All safe and secure.
Eyes still closed, baby. Nice and relaxed. Imagining all the good things you got to do today. All the fun stuff.
Letting your arms get nice and heavy. Quiet and relaxed. Tummy relaxing.
Another deep breath in. And a big yawn. That’s right, nice and relaxed. Winding down now.
Letting your legs get nice and heavy. Feeling warm, safe and secure. All nice and cozy.
Hmm, that’s good. Finding your spot. Letting your body unwind. Let go. That’s it. Safe and secure. Nice and relaxed. Knowing that mommy and daddy love you very much. And that you’re safe, secure, and relaxed here. Nice and warm. Happy. Secure.
Just letting go now. All warm and loved. Knowing that you’re very good and we love you very much. That’s right. Safe and secure.
If you would like to hear a short sample, click here.
Your important items in the script are (and ones you should make sure show up in your own version):
1)getting your child to find their spot
Working with them on “finding their spot” allows them to choose where they’re going to relax and gives them a verbal cue to do so. You are giving them a choice, giving them the power rather than initiating a power struggle. And, if you think about it, don’t you fall asleep in the same position night after night? I know I do. I curl up on my stomach, tuck the pillow under my head and sling my arm over another pillow. I’m out. I watch our son, he curls up on his side, throws an arm over a stuffed animal and once he gets still (i.e., stops kicking his feet) he’s out. As for repetition, this is key in relaxation or guided meditation. Using the same words over and over again helps the brain naturally slow down and focus. Use whatever words you normally use when trying to calm them down, and no, not the ones you use when frustrated, the soft soothing ones.
Practice the script a few times without them around. Find your natural rhythm with it. Use it as a guide to write down your own, adding in your own phrases and terminology. I kept the body parts generic so that even very young children can respond to the process. I’ve seen success with kids as young as two.
A couple of great resources I’ve found and actually used in our efforts, because sometimes, he’s just tired of hearing mommy’s voice, are:
•Bubble Riding: A Relaxation Story, Designed to Help Children Increase Creativity While Lowering Stress and Anxiety Levels. (Book) (Indigo Ocean Dreams) – beautifully illustrated, slightly too repetitive and can cause a school aged child to ask you if it’s “going to keep doing that”, but it does help them relax down. He still asks for it sometimes before bed.
•Turtle Island: A Bedtime Story (CD) by Monroe Products – you’re supposed to use it with a special device, but it works just as well for them on your standard iPod. He doesn’t ask for this one as much. He prefers the next one.
•Softly to Sleep (MP3) by myself – the one I recorded that seems to work the best for our son using the exact methods as I have written about here. I can play it on a road trip, and he’s out. We always take our iPods and a player on vacation, and it seems to help being in a new environment.
Whatever method you choose to use, the books, your own recording, or someone else’s recorded voice, know that you can get them to stop the battles and really give you back your evening sanity. It just takes a little ingenuity and some soft, quiet guidance, and you’ll have your little one sleeping softly through the night.
Stacia D. Kelly, PhD, MHt is a writer and Holistic Health Coach living
with her husband, son and three cats just outside of Washington DC.
She takes a whole mind-body-spirit approach to health and well-being
and teaches her clients to do the same. Blog:
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