"Take a deep breath." We've all heard this phrase and most likely have used it with our children. It's an invitation to use the breath to help calm down, to push that pause button before making a decision or taking the next step. Yet, I often hear children say that "it doesn't work."
Children are often right, it doesn't work for them and here's a few reasons why:
"For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." - Aristotle
One of the greatest gifts we can provide children is the experience of connecting with their own breath and providing them with frequent opportunities to get up close and personal with this internal resource. In a world that often suggests looking outward for guidance, familiarizing children with their own breath is like placing a welcome mat in front of them, teaching them to go inward for information, direction and validation.
The regular practice of checking-in with curiosity to our breath builds awareness skills that help lay the foundation for self-regulation. With this foundation, children have the capacity to build more awareness around how their breath fluctuates with their emotions, and subsequently, that the way they breathe impacts the way they think, feel and cope.
The way we feel changes the way we breathe and the way we breathe changes the way we feel.
So how do you start this foundational work with your child? My suggestion is to start with YOU. Whether you're a parent or educator, consider this an invitation for you to get up close and personal with your own breath first. Taking time to pause during your busy day to check in with your own breath is the first step in teaching your children how to do the same. Here are a couple of resources to get started and check back with us soon for posts about breathing exercises for kids!
"6 Reasons Why Mindfulness Begins With the Breath" Mindful Magazine
"Mindful Breathing a Guided Meditation" Stop, Breathe, Think
Jen Rapanos, LMSW, RCYT is a child and adolescent psychotherapist working in private practice. She is the owner of Well-Bean, LLC committed to providing programs and services that foster the emotional and mental well-being of youth.