Many people will go their entire life with zero relationship to the one thing that gives them life: THE BREATH!
However, just because we weren’t taught this as kids, or young adults, doesn’t mean we can’t break the cycle and give our children the priceless gift of a mindful breathing practice.
How would things be different if you were taught this as a child?
All of our well-intentioned suggestions to “breathe” when our children (or ourselves) are melting down are worthless if we haven’t taught them (our ourselves) how to breathe.
If we practice breathing when we are already calm, our body learns how to regulate itself. We’re more likely to remember to breathe the next time we’re ready to lose our temper.
So here are 5 Ways to Teach Kids (and Ourselves) to Breathe
1. One, Two, Three, Four
This technique is based on allowing each number to make you think of a word.
One — on the first breath, look up to the sun (or ceiling). This movement opens our body and chest, and our first deep breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system and the body’s relaxation response. Looking up also helps us orient ourselves to our environment.
Two — on the second breath, bring your breath to your shoe! Focusing on bringing the breath to another part of the body literally gets us out of our heads and silences the monkey mind that is probably adding to the stress of the moment.
Three — on the third breath, breathe through your whole body (me). Can you bring your breath all the way from your feet to your head?
Four — do one more for good measure, and to let this calm feeling sink in a little bit deeper!
With older kids, you can use the acronym SCAN. As in the exercise above, it teaches kids to bring their attention to their breath in different parts of the body. It helps them orient to the present, and gives them a more concrete task than just “breathe!”
What does your breath feel like in your:
Using this technique brings you home to your body, allows you to come back to your senses and calm down the thoughts creating stress, anxiety and fear based thoughts.
3. Breathing Buddies
In this video, Daniel Goleman describes the practice of “breathing buddies” — kids learn to watch their breath while lying on the ground with a little stuffed animal on their belly. They can then focus on their buddy rising and falling with the breath.
4. Breathing Rings
Many mindfulness teachers use a breathing ring. You can slowly expand and contract the ball as you breathe in and out. Kids like to play with them and find them very soothing.
5. Breathing Mantra
Breathing in, I am calm. Breathing out, I smile.
Encourage your child to actually smile (just a slight upturn on the lips will do) as they breathe out. (Research shows that just moving your facial muscles into a smile makes you happier and calms your nervous system)
All of these simple breathing techniques are designed to help relieve stress, increase concentration, nourish gratitude and confidence, deal with difficult emotions, and improve communication.
If you are reading this and thinking “these will be so good for my children,” please understand that they are just as beneficial to YOU! And the most effective way to introduce these to your children is NOT to say you “should” do this, but instead, actively participate with them. Plus, the best way to learn something is to teach it back. So it’s a total win/win for you, your family and the world!
Hope this helps 🙂