Learning how to relax and unwind
“The girls spend so much of their day immersed in sound, it’s exhausting. So some evenings they make a point of switching everything off, including hearing aids and implants but also phones and the TV, and relaxing in their own quiet world with a favourite book or a magazine.”
Linda-Jane is mum to Victoria (16) and Alice (13)
Tiredness and concentration fatigue are common problems for deaf children. Spending all day trying to follow spoken conversations in noisy environments can leave them on ‘high alert’ and make it difficult to relax. This can exacerbate their tiredness and make evenings and bedtimes more stressful.
Learning effective methods of relaxation from a young age not only helps to reduce stress in the short-term, but can also help to prevent negative behaviours forming in the future. Below are some ways you can help your deaf child learn to relax.
"Martha has a Gro-Clock by her bed; this casts a reassuring blue light, with a moon face on the clock, throughout the night. At 6am the moon turns into a yellow sun and after that Martha knows she can come in to our bed for a cuddle and a snooze."
Janis is mum to Martha (6)
Having a clear routine helps deaf children to understand what is going to happen in the day. For younger children, sensory reminders like brighter lighting in the morning and softer lighting in the evening can help them to remember what’s coming next. Sticking pictures of certain activities like getting dressed, eating lunch or going to bed onto a clock face can help them to keep track. For older children, a weekly visual calendar is helpful to make them aware of upcoming appointments and activities and, if age appropriate, when to check cochlear implants, hearing aids and batteries. Make sure you involve your child in putting together this routine, discussing how they might need to prepare for different events or any extra equipment they might need to bring.
If your daily routine is going to be disrupted, for example by a visit to relatives or a hospital appointment, remember that a deaf child might miss the reminders which hearing children pick up on, such as overheard phone calls. Use photos of family, friends, teachers, school, and hospitals as visual cues to explain who, what, when and where they are visiting in advance, and give regular reminders of the change in routine.
“Two or three times a week we go for a walk and she chats nonstop! As she’s got older, she’s also found walking on her own helps her to relax and she now walks back from school when I work late.”
Bobby is mum to Hooriya (15)
Physical activity isn’t just good for the body. Exercising regularly can boost children’s self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing their risk of stress and depression. Even if it’s just a quick walk round the block or a bike ride at the weekend, getting out and about as a family is a great way to let off steam and set yourselves up for the week ahead.
Your child might also want to join a sport activity, such as swimming or football. We have lots of tips for activity leaders on how to make sure deaf children feel included.
Read about how Hooriya (15) and mum Bobby found regular exercise helps them to relax.
“I’m trying to surround myself with good people, exercise, get away from my phone, get out in nature and do things I enjoy. For example last week I went on a spontaneous surfing trip with my friend. Not being able to hear anything, I focused on the sensation of the water and felt so calm and alive.”
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment. This means being aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment without judgement. Mindfulness can help both parents and children to understand and regulate their emotions, cope with change and make decisions.
There are lots of different mindfulness techniques for different age groups. Most techniques begin with breathing deeply. Sit down with your child and ask them to focus on their breath, feeling their stomach expand as they breathe in, and empty as they breathe out. It may be helpful to use visual cues, such as counting on your fingers or blowing on a pinwheel, to tell your child when to breathe in and out. Once you have regulated your breathing, ask your child to notice their other sensations. Talk about what they can smell, feel, see and taste. Try to get into the habit of spending a couple of minutes a day being mindful, such as after school or before bed. Over time, your child will get used to the exercises and be able to use them in their daily life as a way of calming themselves down.
Not all mindfulness techniques will work for everyone. For example, many people close their eyes during their practice, but deaf children are likely to find it easier to relax with their eyes open. Some children might prefer to take their hearing aids or implants out during their practice, whereas others might prefer to keep them in. Sensory cues such as lighting scented candles, blowing bubbles or playing with sand may help children to focus. Try a few different techniques to see what works for you.