Monday, August 21, 2023

Teaching Kids Simple Breathing Techniques for Focus, Calm and Coping

In today's fast-paced world, children experience more stress than ever before. But mindful breathing is a skill that can make a big difference in their well-being and development. Simple breath awareness techniques help kids center themselves, self-soothe when upset, boost concentration and focus cognitive skills. As parents, teaching breathing exercises is one of the most important things we can do to support children's social-emotional health and resilience.

Why Teach Mindful Breathing to Kids?

  • Regulates stress response hormones like cortisol when anxious or overwhelmed. This promotes calm.
  • Strengthens self-regulation and executive function abilities by increasing prefrontal cortex activity. This supports learning and attention.
  • Triggers the body's relaxation response when practiced regularly. Over time kids feel less stress and anxiety naturally.
  • Focuses wandering thoughts by giving the mind something specific to concentrate on – the rise and fall of breaths. This boosts concentration span.
  • Allows kids to self-soothe effectively without needing external calming like TV, food or gadgets. They learn to handle feeling through awareness.
  • Can be practiced discreetly anywhere, making it a powerful coping mechanism kids will use independently as needed.

Simple Breathing Techniques for Kids
Once children understand the concept of mindful breathing, try these basic exercises they can learn at any age:

  • Belly Breathing: Placing hands on stomach, inhaling deeply to fill belly and exhaling slowly. 5 breaths.
  • Ocean Breathing: Inhaling to count 4 like waves surging, exhaling to count 6 like water releasing. Repeat waves.
  • Lazy 8s Breathing: Following shapes with finger leads mind as breaths flow. Trace figure 8 shapes with inhales and exhales.
  • Color Breathing: Inhaling favorite color up from toes to head, exhaling second color back down. Visualizes calm.
  • Pretzel Breathing: Sitting or standing in pretzel shape stretches muscles as breaths move in opposite arm from other.
  • Bubble Breathing: Blowing imaginary soap bubbles on exhales brings fun while focusing.

Start with just 1-2 minutes and incorporate breathing whenever transitioning activities, before meals or bedtime. Pair with stuffed animals or calming music initially. Positive reinforcement helps practice stick.

Benefits Kids Experience with Mindful Breathing

Focus - Kids can manage distractions and concentrate during activities, lessons and homework with improved prefrontal cortex regulation.

Stress relief - By reducing fight or flight responses, they feel less overwhelmed internally which improves behavior and coping.

Calmness - With regular practice, kids exhibit more patience and emotional regulation from triggering the relaxation response habitually.

Empathy - Noticing physical sensations links to noticing others emotions which fosters compassion.

Confidence - Effectively handling feelings independently gives kids self-assurance to face challenges.

Creativity - Abilities in the right frontal areas are enhanced improving imagination and problem solving.

Immunity - Lower chronic stress supports physical health long term through healthy hormone levels.

Sleep - Meditative breathing helps wind down busy bodies and minds for restful sleep.

The gift of teaching mindful breathing skills to kids is giving them strategies for peace of mind that support overall wellness, learning, relationships and joy. Integrating only a few minutes into each day reaps rewards developmentally and emotionally as they grow.

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