Probably one of the worst things that can be said to someone that is feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Not only is it not helpful, it can cause even more stress and anxiety. When we are anxious, our bodies go into fight or flight mode. We feel like we are in danger when we really aren’t. Less oxygen is flowing to our brains, causing us to have a hard time thinking clearly.
For children, stress and anxiety can be very crippling. They have big emotions and often lack the verbiage or correct coping skills to deal with it.
Cue the meltdowns and tantrums.
There are many mindfulness techniques that can help our children calm their brains and bodies. Many different strategies can be used to direct and guide them to use these skills and “co-regulate” with them in hopes of them being able to self regulate their bodies down the road.
One of the best strategies for coping with anxiety and bringing oxygen back to our brains is deep breathing. Breathing exercises can empower our children to feel in control of their bodies while helping them practice mindfulness.
There are so many incredible breathing techniques for children (and adults!), but here are a few of our favorites:
1. Slinky Breath
Using a slinky toy, have the child accordion the slinky in and out as they breathe. Encourage the child to focus on the coils as they breathe in and out, counting to 3 with each breath.
2. Five Finger Breath
Have the child stretch out their hand so they have space between each finger.
Using the pointer finger from the other hand, have the child trace up the thumb as they slowly breathe in through their mouth.
When they get to the top of their thumb, have them slowly breathe out as they trace down the other side.
Repeat process until all 5 fingers have been traced.
3. Snake Breath
Have the child breathe deeply in through their nose. Count to 4. Have the child breathe out “hissing” for 7 seconds.
4. Deep Belly Breath
Have child place both hands on their stomach.
Guide them to breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, and let out for 3 seconds.
As they breathe, encourage the child to push out with their stomach against their hands.
Repeat over and over.
5. Bunny Breath
Have the child pretend to be a bunny holding a carrot. Sniff air in with their nose 3 times to smell the carrot.
Breathe out air slowly through nose and relax.
Here is a helpful video to show your children the benefits of calming our bodies to help their brains: