During stressful situations, visualisation is a technique to help children cope with their emotions.
Visualisation involves focusing attention on mental images. It is not only limited to seeing mental pictures but can involve all senses like asking a child to imagine smelling flowers or touching sand.
Visualising provides children with a ‘break’ from the stressful situation and can reduce the stressful effects on them. When more attention is spent visualising, less attention goes to the anxiety. This technique acts as a distraction to the anxiety, and distances the child from negative/unhelpful thoughts.
Children are naturally imaginative, and with words to guide their imagination, they can create paths to peaceful places and unload their mental or emotional worries away.
They can imagine whatever they need to feel relaxed and safe, and the words used to guide them can be tailored to address specific issues or needs.
While generally used to reduce stress, visualisation is a mindfulness tool that can:
- improve emotional regulation skills,
- boost self-esteem,
- enhance creativity,
- and improve focus.
Imagining a situation leads to the brain releasing biochemicals that vary depending on the feelings towards the situation.
For instance, having negative/unhelpful thoughts leads to release of stress hormones that cause the child to be stressed, while positive thoughts lead to increases in serotonin levels which causes the child to feel more relaxed.
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- Murray, L. (2012). Calm kids: Help children relax with mindful activities. Edinburgh: Floris Books.