Yesterday, while I was getting my hair cut, my hairdresser told me that her family was going to a resort for vacation. Her boys (3 and 5) were very excited, because they had never flown on a plane. This reminded me of a when I was waiting for a flight and I saw a mom also waiting with her excited (high maintenance) toddler. The mom was so cool! She calmed her daughter down by telling her (in a soft, calm, and slow voice) to pretend to: smell a flower, then blow out a candle (she repeated this a few times), etc., and, in no time, her daughter was relaxed.
I mentioned this to my hairdresser, and she said that she had gone to a workshop on breathing techniques and yes, indeed, they had helped calm many a tantrum situation for her boys! She went on to tell me how her older boy absolutely loves doing imagery exercises.
Deep breathing is known to promote a state of calmness (American Institute of Stress). Wow, I thought, this is something I want to share in a post. Breathing and imagery make so much sense for young children because, of course, children get anxious, angry, and sad. The younger they learn ways to sooth themselves, the better!
Teaching your children breathing exercises will be a worthwhile endeavor whether they are five, fifteen, or fifty. Breathing techniques help with anxiety and emotions and can be done privately. I use breathing techniques myself.
Below are descriptions of some helpful techniques. You may find it’s best to first practice these while calm.
- Have the child sit or lay on her back and then put her hand on her tummy.
- With her mouth closed, have her breathe in for four seconds or until she feels her “tummy” fill up.
- Have her hold in the air for four seconds.
- Then have her slowly blow all the air out until it’s all gone.
- Repeat until her body feels relaxed.
I actually find this a good technique to help me fall asleep and would recommend this for preschoolers on up.
Use Your Senses
- Have your child name (silently to herself or out loud) 5 things she sees. Have her take a breath with her mouth closed for each item.
- Then have her do the same things with 4 things she touches.
- Then with 3 things she hears…
- Then with 2 things she smells...
- Then with 1 thing she tastes...
If the child can’t actually see (or whatever the sense is) all the items listed above, tell her she can think of something that might actually be in that environment.
Again, this is great to practice or “play” when children are feeling positive, so they have it in their repertoire.
- Have your child breathe in for the count of 1, 2, 3, 4
- And hold 1, 2, 3, 4
- Blow out 1, 2, 3, 4
- And hold 1, 2, 3, 4
Depending on the child, you may tell them they’re going around the four sides of a square or just do the exercise.
Some children are into seeing visuals and some find them confusing.
These techniques have been in use for years (though, for the purpose of this article, I made up names). I have used all of them and they work for me. When I use these techniques, no one even knows it! Many children will find this privacy part important. Also, they are free! What more could you ask for! I encourage you to use them with children and make them personal. For example, instead of blowing out the candle, why not pretend to blow a bubble! That way you could practice with the real thing. The earlier children learn to sooth themselves, the better. What great gifts these techniques are for young children.
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