Teaching Your Child When to Take a Deep Breath (noticing signs in their bodies)
and How to Take Deep Breaths
We, most likely, all need some deep breaths right now.
Sit with your spine in a line, feet flat on the floor, inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth.
Repeat 3 times.
Why- there is scientific evidence that taking deep breaths truly slows down our stress response- it is like slowing but firmly stepping on the gas pedal. It also produces a feeling of calm, it is relaxing, we don’t need any equipment, it provides more oxygen to the brain which improves our thinking and we can take deep breaths anywhere!
Children need to be taught when they need to take deep breaths and how to take deep breaths. If a child is already escalated and upset, this is NOT the time to start teaching how to take deep breaths. It would be like someone telling us to slow down, stay calm and take deep breaths when we are out camping and running from a bear that just spotted us! If your child is upset, let them see you taking deep breaths- gift them your calm BEFORE you tell them to take deep breaths. After they see and respond to your calm, then you can gently encourage them to breathe like a bunny or smell the flower and blow out the candle.
Remember to gift your calm – when you exhibit calm behavior and slow, even, deep breathing, the child will start to mimic. An escalated adult cannot deescaluate a frustrated child.
Teach different ways to take deep breaths when the child is calm. Have fun! Make it into a game.
How to Teach Deep Breathing:
- Choose one metaphor or way of taking deep breaths that your child can relate to, when your child is calm and in a good mood.
- Show a visual of the method and hang it on the refrigerator, in the play area or in the child’s sleeping area.
- Practice, Practice, Practice at all times of the day. Students need lots and lots of practice so that the techniques can be used automatically in times of stress. It takes LOTS of practice to become an expert.
- Teach your child to recognize signs of stress, frustration, and anger such as face getting hot, clenched fists, heavy breathing, crying, sweating, scrunched eyebrows, pounding heart.
- Teach your child the difference between short, quick, shallow breaths and long, deep, calming breaths. We want students to be using deep breathing since short breaths can actually make anxious feelings increase.
- Model and role-play different situations practicing self-talk such as “I am upset that he took my toy. I can breathe like a bear 7 times.” “I am nervous about your mom working at the hospital today. I can take 7 bunny breaths.” “I’m frustrated that I don’t know what to make for dinner but I can take 7 deep breaths and that will help me think better.”
I have opened my packet of 11 different ways to teach deep breathing as a FREE DOWNLOAD. I hope the visuals and ideas for different methods of teaching deep breathing are helpful for both you and your child.