Relaxation and Coping Strategies for Parents and Caregivers

Making time to quiet your mind and body can be a challenge when balancing the many demands of family life, but integrating relaxation and coping strategies into your day can be a great way to help reduce stress for both you and your child(ren). While there is no single way to manage stress, these strategies can be proactive and can provide us with energy to get through our daily routines, or might help provide relief in challenging moments. While there are many different strategies you can use, here are a few techniques that you and your family can try at home together. 

Deep breathing 

Deep belly breathing can be one of the easiest strategies that you or your child(ren) can do anywhere, anytime. Focusing on your breath can help calm stress. When you inhale, your heart rate speeds up. When you exhale, it slows down. When you are feeling stressed, anxious, angry or worried, lengthening your exhale can help. Deep breathing can slow down our heart rate, make us more alert and focused, and help us feel better overall. The more you practice breathing, the more likely you will be able to use it when needed in the moment. School Mental Health Ontario (OMH-ON) has created guided breathing exercises you can try at home. Here are some examples: Circular Breathing or Breathing and Noticing.


Visualization is a creative and imaginative strategy to help us relax. It is a cognitive process that provides an opportunity to shift our focus away from our stressors, fears, or worries and helps us visualize an image which brings a sense of safety and calm. There are many ways to practice this strategy, from visualizing the future we want, to picturing ourselves in a special and comfortable place (either real or imagined). When first practicing visualization, it may be useful to follow a guided practice to help stimulate this creative technique. SMH-ON has created a guided visualization exercise you can try at home: Forest Visualization.

Muscle relaxation

When we are stressed, our bodies respond. Our muscles tend to tense up and add to our discomfort. Muscle relaxation is a strategy that helps us connect with and calm our bodies, which then helps calm our minds. For this strategy, intentionally contract your muscles as tight as you can, then release. By practicing this technique, you and your child(ren) will learn what relaxation feels like and will be able to see the signs of tension early. Try practicing this at home using this Tense and Relax guide. 

Reframing thoughts 

Our thoughts play an important role in the way we understand our stressors, worries, and fears. Simply put, the way we think about a certain situation can impact how we feel about it. Negative thoughts are an expected part of life, however, we have control over reframing these thoughts with hope and compassion. One way to practice reframing thoughts is to question how you would respond to a friend. Ask your child(ren), “what advice would you give a friend in this situation?” and coach them to reflect this back to their own experiences. For more information on realistic thinking, click here.


In the face of difficult situations, doing something you find fun or enjoyable can help you feel calm. Doing something that lifts your mood may counteract the negative thoughts or feelings that may feel overwhelming. This is a helpful strategy to use when you or your child(ren) feel stuck or overwhelmed, meaning you may be better prepared to manage stressful situations after you have been able to lift your mood. SMH-ON has created some virtual tours that explore the concept of distraction as a tool for stress management.

There is no one strategy that works for everyone. Remember that our child(ren) learn through watching us, so this is a great opportunity to model coping strategies for them. With time, hopefully both you and your child(ren) can find some tools that work best for you.

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