As adults it can be difficult to remember to implement relaxation techniques when we are stressed or feeling emotional. It is just as difficult if not more so for children. As an adult we learn to take slow deep breathes that fill our lungs and expand our diaphragm, all the while counting to ten. If you try to explain this to a child you will most likely get a blank stare and a child who still does not know how to calm down. Here are 2 techniques to teaching your child deep breathing exercises:
1.) Get two balls the size of a grapefruit. Give one ball to the child and keep the other. Explain the idea of filling your lungs with so much air that your belly expands. Tell the child you will show him/her. Then you and your child lay down on your backs. Place the ball on your belly and breathe in deeply, filling your lungs, expanding your stomach, which will cause your ball to roll off. Explain that this is how we can tell if we are breathing deeply enough. By involving a ball and some movement it creates a sense of play for the child while he/she is learning a valuable ability.
2.) Get a bottle of bubbles. First explain that when we get upset we want to take deep breathes, like you practiced with the ball, then we want to let it out slowly. Tell your child it is like when we want to make a really big bubble. Take the bubbles and blow with strong short breathes causing little or no bubbles. This is to show what not to do and explain that this is not what you want to do. Then take a deep breath and release it slowly and controlled forming a large bubble. When finished, explain that this is what you want to do. Explain that making the big bubble with slow deep breathing is much better than the short shallow breaths that don’t create any bubbles.
Explain that these are two things that he/she can do when he/she is upset.
These are two techniques that help your child practice deep breathing exercises in a way that they can understand. Sometimes the parent(s) and child have an agreement that if the child is having a difficult time he/she can ask to go have “bubble time.” This is an automatic understanding that the child needs time to blow bubbles in order to calm down before proceeding with the stressful situation at hand. This allows the child freedom to take control of his/her emotions as well as also the parent’s time to also defuse before continuing.
Remember, children can learn the same skills adults do; they just need to be adjusted to a level the child can understand.