father and son hiking
1 / 9

Take a Hike

Tough day? Take a walk as a family. Being outside in nature can help everyone relax. Explain to your kids that relaxing not only feels good, it can also help make us healthier. When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to make unhealthy choices, like picking junk food or deciding to veg instead of being physically active. Unwinding helps us clear our minds and gives us the energy and focus to make good choices.

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hands playing with colored paper
2 / 9

Play a Game

Set aside one evening a week for family game night. It’s tempting to deal with stress by zoning out in front of the TV with a bag of chips, but teach your kids that there are much better ways to relax. Take turns choosing games to play and make fun, silly rules to get kids -- and parents! -- to get up and move. For example, “If you land on green, get up and act like a chicken.”

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mother and child doing yoga
3 / 9

Try Yoga

Stretching can relax tense muscles, and animal-inspired poses like downward dog and cobra can make kids giggle. Don’t feel like you have to take a class to try it as a family. Find a yoga DVD just for kids or families, and make sure everyone is wearing comfy clothes.

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colored pencil shavings
4 / 9

Be Creative

For a relaxing activity, let your inner artists out. Cover the kitchen floor with layers of newspapers and paint pictures right on the papers, or make mini sculptures with clay. Grab paper and pencils and draw sketches of each other in notebooks. Break out the sidewalk chalk and create masterpieces right outside your front door. Creative fun is a great way to relax and ease stress.

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breathing exercise
5 / 9

Breathe Deep

It can melt away stress and relax tight muscles. Have everyone sit comfortably, eyes closed, as you coach them:

  • Take a slow deep breath in through your nose. See how your belly raises up?
  • Hold your breath. 1-2-3.
  • Slowly breathe out through your mouth. See how your belly goes down? Let out a sigh as you exhale, "ahhhhhhhh."

Tell your kids they can deep-breathe whenever they need to recharge or calm down: at school, before a game or concert, or at the end of the day.

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reading a book at bedtime
6 / 9

Tell a Story

Who needs TV? Find a book and take turns reading pages out loud. Do voices for all the characters, almost like you're putting on a play.

Health bonus: Reading can be part of a regular bedtime routine that helps kids wind down and gets them ready for good sleep.

Read a chapter a night. It may even get your kids to look forward to bedtime so they can see what happens next.

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son listening to headphones
7 / 9

Make a Mixtape

If you're a little bit country, grandpa is a little bit rock 'n' roll, and your kids are all pop, put everyone’s favorite jams on one playlist. You can even download a free DJ app so the kids can mash-up fave family songs.  

Use what you create to motivate your family to walk, dance, and move. Or you can make a calming playlist with chill music if you want to help everyone de-stress.

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mother and daughter hula hooping
8 / 9

Experiment With Exercises

One of the best ways to de-stress is to get moving. Tell that to the kids as you head outside, or put on some fun music and dance around. (Remember that motivating mixtape?)

Or make a goofy circuit training workout where each family member makes up an exercise. If you can't get outside, don't let four walls stop you. Try jumping jacks in the living room, toe-touches in the kitchen, and crab-walking down the hall.

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family eating outdoors
9 / 9

Crack Each Other Up

Want to lower the stress hormones in your body? Laugh! Have everyone share a funny story or their favorite joke. Make sure everyone is listening when it's one person's time to talk. It'll make your kids feel good when people pay attention. Everyone gets their moment in the spotlight.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 11/04/2021 Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on November 04, 2021

1) Fuse
2) Catherine MacBride / Flickr / Getty
3) National Geographic
4) tugboat1952 / Flickr / Getty
5) Gone Wild / Photodisc
6) Roy Mehta / The Image Bank
7) KidStock / Blend Images
8) Patrick Heagney / E+
9) Tom Merton / OJO+


American Psychological Association: "Exercise fuels the brain's stress buffers."

Heidi Hanna, PhD, fellow at the American Institute of Stress; author of The SHARP Solution: A Brain-Based Approach for Optimal Performance.

The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: "Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response."

Massachusetts General Hospital, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine.

Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, MHS, RD, LD, registered dietitian and study coordinator TRIGR Study, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Yoga Journal: "Asana Built for Two."

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on November 04, 2021

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.