This is a tool you can use anywhere, anytime to encourage your little miss or mister to slow down their breathing when feeling anxious, stressed or just struggling to calm down.
Encourage your child to breathe in slowly through their nose for 3–4 seconds. Ask them to hold their breath for 1–2 seconds, and then breathe out slowly through the mouth over 3–4 seconds.
After approximately 2–3 seconds, repeat the process for at least 5–10 breaths.
Bubble blowing is a great way to teach a child calm breathing (plus distract them). It is a good idea to tell your little one to practice bubble breathing to help them learn how to calmly breathe.
Encourage your child to take a slow and deep breath and to hold it for a second. Then ask them to breathe out slowly onto the bubble wand, resulting in bubbles.
If you don't happen to have a spare bubble wand on hand, you can pop a straw in a glass of water and encourage them to blow.
Belly breathing involves your child pretending that they are blowing up a balloon in their belly. You want them to be able to imagine/visualise the balloon in their belly so you could encourage them to choose their favourite colour for the balloon, consider the size etc.
Ask your child to inhale/breathe in slowly for 4 seconds through their nose. Can you see their belly inflating?
Ask them to hold their breath (and inflated belly) for 2 seconds and then slowly exhale/breathe out through their mouth (emptying the balloon of air).
Wait 2 seconds, and then repeat.
Make sure your child is aware of keeping their shoulders and chest area relaxed.
Visualisation is great for achieving relaxation and focus so here are some great mental images you can guide your child through:
Pretend you are at the beach. You can hear the waves, feel the warm sun. With one hand, reach into the sand and take a handful of sand grains. Squeeze the sand in your hand, making sure you don't drop any of it. Squeeze. Then open and relax your hand and let the sand fall from you hand. Now, using your other hand, reach into the sand and take a handful of sand grains. Squeeze the sand in your hand, making sure you don't drop any of it. Squeeze. Then open and relax your hand and let the sand fall from you hand.
Repeat the process for the left and right hand.
Shoulder and neck
“Pretend you are a turtle. You are sitting on a warm rock by a nice, peaceful pond. You are enjoying relaxing in the sun. Oh no! You hear a bird screeching towards you so pull your head into your shell. Try to pull your shoulders up to your ears and push down into your shoulders. Hold in tight… The danger has passed now so you can come out into the warm sunshine and again, you can relax.
Repeat the process.
“Pretend you are lying outside on the grass relaxing under the warm sun. Your can hear birds tweeting, bees buzzing and then you hear a big thump, thump, thump. You look up and there is a cute baby elephant. The baby elephant doesn't see you lying there in the grass and he is about to step on your stomach. Don't move. Just get ready for him and squeeze your tummy muscles to make your stomach very hard. Tighten up your stomach muscles as tightly as you can and hold it. Oh, it looks like the baby elephant is walking away. You can relax now. Let your stomach go soft. Oops, the baby elephant is coming back!”
Repeat the process.
‘Deep pressure’ is very calming and beneficial as a relaxation technique. The reason it works so well is because it increases the activity in the parasympathetic system.
Also known as the ‘rest’ system, engaging this system has a very calming effect because it lowers the heart rate and releases endorphins (our ‘feel good’ hormone buddies), among other things.
Here are some deep pressure methods your youngster can try whenever they’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed:
- Hugging themself tightly by sitting with their knees folded up to their chest and wrapping their arms around their knees
- Placing their hands on their knees and pushing their feet flat to the floor
- Interlocking their fingers, placing them on top of their head and pushing down firmly
- Placing their hands palm to palm and pressing them together (also known as a ‘prayer push’)
- Squeezing each finger individually using the opposite hand
- Interlocking their fingers, placing them under their chin and pushing the chin up gently while the chin presses down
PS: If you’re applying ‘deep pressure’ to your little miss or mister, always use a consistent, gentle yet firm pressure. It’s also a good idea form to check in with junior about your level of pressure to make sure they’re comfortable.