When my sons get frustrated or upset, my instinct is to say “calm down, just breathe”.. But it’s not always that easy. Many kids, including mine, get distracted or discouraged when they try to focus solely on their breath.
I had an “aha” moment with one of my sons when I saw that adding movement, counting, or sound helped with mindful breathing. This can be as simple as walking while focusing on the breath or making a sound on the out breath. Both at home and when I’m teaching in the classroom, I’ve seen that children are more open to breathing exercises when they’re paired with some type of movement or other activity. Here are some examples:
-Square breathing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Fq9Zi61-w4
-Counting while breathing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxbdx-SeOOo
-Watching the breath: put your hand or a stuffed animal or a book on your belly and watch it go up and down as you breathe.
-Visuals: use a feather, bubbles or a pinwheel to show exhalation. Help your child slow it down by counting the inhalation and exhalation.
-Bee or snake breathing: breathe in, and then make a buzzing or hissing sound on the out breath.
-Mindful massage: One of my boys finds this calming at bedtime. I massage his back by repeatedly forming a rectangle along the spine. He breathes in with the upward movement and out with the downward.
-Here’s an article with more breathing exercises for kids: http://www.cosmickids.com/five-fun-breathing-practices-for-kids/
You can find various apps for mindful breathing too. I recommend Breathe2Relax as well as Calm. Parents, you’ll probably appreciate these relaxation tools for yourselves and can model them for your kids. Enjoy!