By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp
Relax Kids is a movement started by Marneta Viegas, a children’s entertainer in the United Kingdom. Over her 13 years working in this occupation, she noticed an increasing number of children being unable to sit still whilst attending her performances. Since she had been practising mindfulness herself from the age of 10, Viegas hit upon the idea of turning fairy stories into CDs for kids and then creating a seven step programme of children’s exercises, starting with high activity, then working through to those involving stretching and relaxation. Thus “Relax Kids” was born in 2001. Since then the programme has expanded and is now being used in over 30 countries.
“Relax Kids” is fairly new to Aotearoa/ New Zealand,” Danielle says. “There are only three of us trained as instructors here. It would be great to have more! The Southern District Health Board are interested in promoting Relax Kids. Basically the programme involves a series of ‘visualisations’ using stories based on nature settings and fairy stories. The aim of this is to take children to a calm and happy place and help them to manage their feelings, including increasing concentration and reducing anxiety”.
Danielle says that there are different levels of Relax Kids programmes for children of different ages, ranging from under 5 year olds (Little Star Classes) to those aimed at teenagers. The courses can also benefit adults. “Several schools have become interested in Relax Kids,” she says, “and some have started to use the CDs and books on a daily basis. With the older kids we do what we call “chill skills” and also keep diaries so that they can begin to monitor their own moods and mood changes. Relating moods to their physical symptoms is important too: for example, noticing that when you’re angry you can feel it in your stomach or in the clenching of your fists. Focusing on the physical area of stress in the body can be a good first step in releasing anger in a non-harmful way.”
Training for those who wish to do Relax Kids Coaching will start to happen in Aotearoa/ New Zealand several times a year, around the country, Danielle says. (For those not in New Zealand, google your nearerst Relax Kids centre).
“Relax Kids can be particularly helpful for kids with ADHD or anxiety disorders,” Danielle says. “Amongst other things there is a “21 Day plan” for habit change (which is believed to take about 21 days). The 21 day plan is a free, downloadable document for both parents and teachers. It is available at www.relaxkids.com/freepack and there are lots of other free downloads available on the website too. As well as this, one on one instruction can be offered to families who wish to participate together in their home.”
“Relax Kids is not affiliated with any religion. Some have called it ‘brainwashing through meditation’, which is not the case at all. It’s about slowing down: the world we live in is so often fast paced and frantic, certainly in a way that was never the case in previous generations. This can be overwhelming for us all and kids can find it particularly difficult to cope with, especially when it is in combination with other stressful factors. ‘Mindfulness’ means to be present with ourselves and aware of what is going on. Benefits include increased motivation and confidence, better sleeping patterns, as well as an improvement in empathy and concentration.”
Newspaper Article about Danielle Culling and Relax Kids:
Also see the Relax Kids Facebook Page 🙂