According to many research studies, moving our bodies directly affects our brain chemistry. When we change our physical state, we change our emotional state. This means that moving can help kids reset emotionally, and resetting emotionally will allow them to feel better as they get back in touch with the thinking part of their brain.

Many of our emotions actually offer early clues through the body. For example, tense shoulders and butterflies in the stomach are physical messages of anxiety that we often notice even before becoming consciously aware that we are nervous about something. Moving can release some of this bodily tension, and the release of tension allows the body to send calming information into the brain stem, from the brain stem to the limbic region, and from this emotional center right up to the thinking part of the brain.

As parents, we have an opportunity to help kids learn to move as a way to feel better. We can get them moving when they need to calm down and reset emotionally, and we can model doing the same. For example, let’s say your child doesn’t want to get dressed in the morning. You can propose making a game of getting dressed. You could suggest turning in circles two times or hopping like a bunny twice before the pants go on. Personally, you will also likely have many chances to model moving to feel better. Maybe you have had a frustrating day at work. Just say so and then suggest, “Let’s go ride our bikes. Moving my body helps me reset.”

Moving our bodies helps us feel better because by doing so we regain some balance and control. Help your child regain control by moving his or her body, and remember that you can do the same.