When my three year old daughter gave up napping I tried to find alternative ways for her to relax during the day. We would look at books, do some quiet activities like drawing or just snuggle up under a blanket together.
However, one of her favourite ways to relax is by listening to a guided imagery.
This technique which is used in alternative medicine is similar to telling a story but more calming and meditative. One of the great abilities children possess is their power of imagination. Usually they have less resistance than adults to open up and drift into fantasy worlds. Research has shown that imagery is not only good for winding down after a busy day but can also be benefitial to children in coping with anxiety, pains and emotional stress.
The wonderful thing is that you can create your own guided imagery depending on your child’s interests or current situation. If they face new or difficult situations you can help them prepare by visiting this new place or person. They might meet a wise animal friend or another inner guide who is kind and loving and helps them to gain more confidence and self-love.
It is advisable to keep the first guided imagery with your child short and simple. You may want to ask her to lie comfortably on her back, perhaps with her head on your lap or tucked into a big soft cushion. Then she can gently close her eyes if she wants.
In the beginning my daughter couldn’t leave her eyes closed but now she knows what to expect and relaxes deeply when I bring her on a journey to a magical island or for a visit to the moon.
For your first guided imagery you could ask her to imagine holding a balloon in her hand. Ask which colour her balloon is. Then let the balloon fly with her high up into the sky, finally landing on a soft fluffy cloud which brings her back to the ground.
If she likes it you can slowly extend the imagery every time, adding a few more details like the things she can see from high above the clouds – the small houses, trees, cows and maybe a river. When you think she is ready for a longer story you can try the following guided imagery.
The Spring Fairy
Are you comfortable? Good…now you can take a deep breath into your belly. Blow your belly up like a big balloon…and gently breathe out again…
Slowly in…and out…You are feeling safe and calm.
Imagine how you step outside your door into a garden. The air is still cold and there is snow on the ground.
You look at the wintery landscape. Trees heavily laden with snow…a frozen pond…fields of white…
Suddenly you hear a sound next to you. When you look up you see a tiny fairy with transparent wings and a green silky dress coming towards you. “Hello,” she whispers. “I’m the Spring Fairy. Would you like to see a bit of magic?” You nod and the little fairy shakes her golden hair.
Then she opens her mouth and begins to sing in the sweetest and softest voice. Slowly slowly the grey heavy clouds begin to shift, letting golden rays of sunshine through. One of the rays tickles your nose and makes you laugh. You can feel the warmth of the sun in your face. Can you feel it now?
The Spring Fairy keeps singing. It’s the most beautiful song you have ever heard. And then you hear another sound. Drip drop. Drip drop. The snow is melting and drips off the trees and off the roof of the house.
Everywhere the snow is melting. The cold winter wind stops blowing and the air feels warmer and warmer. Birds start singing. Green buds are growing on the bare trees around you. The white landscape turns to greens, yellows and reds. The ice on the pond melts away in the sun and a family of ducks happily plunge into the water.
The Spring Fairy has two gifts for you.
The first gift is a cup of magic healing tea. You start drinking it and feel how any sadness or pains inside your body disappear…they just melt away like the snow. Instead you feel the warmth of the tea in your belly, in your arms and legs, all the way down to your feet. The magic tea makes you happy and warm.
The second gift is a bag with seeds. The Spring Fairy shows you a piece of the garden which is just for you…your own magic garden. Here you can plant anything you want. You could plant flowers in any colour you wish…or plant a seed that grows into a big apple tree or a cherry tree. Or do you want to plant strawberries?
Now sit down in the grass, feel the sunshine in your face and watch your magic garden grow. Can you see your beautiful garden? You can go over and eat from your trees or strawberries if you want. Does it feel good to be in your own magic garden?
You can always come back here, drink some magic healing tea and play with the Spring Fairy in your beautiful garden… When you are ready you can come back to your room now…feeling refreshed and new… remembering all the things you saw…heard…smelled and felt.
After the guided imagery your child might still want to relax or talk about what she saw. Older children might want to draw a picture which can sometimes be better than using words.
Apart from being beneficial to your child’s health in so many ways, sharing this special time together can develop a strong emotional bond between you and your child.
Halina Rosleff Sorenson lives with her partner and two young children in a small timber hut in the South of Ireland where they spent their days playing, sewing, baking, drawing, knitting, gardening, raising their children bilingually (German/English), laughing and inventing stories. You can read about their adventures at The Cherry Farm.