In today’s fast paced, overachieving society stress levels are through the roof. Our children pick up on our stress and feel pressure from cues and messages around them to ‘have it all’ and ‘be the best’. Children are not equipped to handle the strong emotions they naturally feel trying to navigate life. We are seeing higher occurrences of aggression, anxiety, and ADHD in children. How can we help our children learn to manage their emotions and stress better? The answer – deep breathing!
Stress wreaks havoc on our mind and body. Overtime, constant stress causes immune system breakdown, stomach issues, and can lead to degenerative diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. High levels of stress can lead to memory and concentration impairment, anxiety, and depression.
Research has shown that deep breathing, or focused breathing, is one of the most effective relaxation techniques to manage stress and anxiety; making us feel relaxed and giving us a sense of control over the situation. Not to mention, you can do it anywhere and it is free! Slow, focused, deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which triggers the calming response. During deep breathing the brain produces alpha waves which increase relaxation and focus, while reducing pain, stress, and feelings of anger or frustration. Our heart rate and breathing slow, more oxygen is delivered to the body, and we experience a protective response from damage causing stress hormones. Such a huge response from such an easy practice. The more you do it the stronger the response will be and your body will learn to do it on its own during stressful situations.
Before you introduce deep breathing, you need to teach your children to be aware of their stress. Kids very rarely know they are experiencing stress, only that they are feeling a lot of emotions they can’t name. Some typical signs that your child might be stressed out are headaches, muscle tension, feels like something heavy is sitting on his or her chest or having difficulty breathing, heart pounding, acting out/emotional outbursts, withdrawal, or feeling out of control. Explain to your child that when they experience any of these symptoms it is time to take a break and try to relax. Once they learn to recognize signs that they are stressed out they will be able to start to take the correct actions to calm themselves down on their own
Here is a great technique specifically for the kids, but you can try it too 😉
How to practice deep breathing
Here is a practice script that will help you approach the practice:
‘Today we are going to practice a new skill called deep breathing. It is something you can do when you find yourself upset or overwhelmed, like when you get angry with your brother or when you are at school. You are going to take slow, deep breaths, making sure your tummy gets really big like a balloon. Breathe in slowly through your nose like you are smelling a flower. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth, like you are blowing out a candle. Let’s practice. Breathe in slowly, hold for a second, and then blow out. Nice work. Did you see your stuffed animal move up and down? Let’s try that again.’
- If you child is having a hard time figuring out how to exhale correctly, give them a straw to blow through or a bubble wand to practice on.
- Make sure you practice deep breathing when your child is calm and happy. As your child gets comfortable with this technique, he or she can start using it in situations that cause anxiety or stress.
- Schedule time to practice deep breathing. Try to do it at least 2 times per day, around the same time, so you can create a routine.
- Practice with your child. Make this a special time where you can both benefit from the relaxing effect.
- Find a video online that guides you through the process if they are a visual learner.
- Try to incorporate deep breathing throughout your day. Try practicing with your child while you are driving to a play date or waiting at a doctor appointment.
I want to hear from you. Do you use deep breathing to reduce stress? What works, what doesn’t?
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