Being a kid in today’s world, pandemic aside, is hard!
Life has so many more complexities than I remember growing up. We have technology, screens, phones, social media and, honestly, far more activities to keep kids occupied. How do they balance it all? How do we, as parents, help them? How can we raise happy and healthy kids while integrating with the times? One solution that I keep coming back to is breathwork. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be boring! As Tara Brach, meditation teacher and psychologist, says, “everything works better once you’ve unplugged it for a while.” Just like that finicky internet router or that aggravating printer that just won't work, sometimes the fix is simply unplug it for a while to give it a hard reset.
How can we teach children to reset and calm a dysregulated or flooded nervous system, especially when emotionally overwhelmed or overstimulated? Where’s the human reset button? It turns out it’s in our diaphragm. If we breathe slowly and deeply, focusing on our exhale, we may be able to access it enough to press it and restart our nervous systems.
Breath. It’s absolutely necessary for our survival. It also says a lot about how we are doing. I bet as you are reading this, you are becoming more aware of your own breathing habits. I bet you can imagine a time when you were emotionally dysregulated and your breath was short and choppy.
These are times when we are flooded or stressed and our bodies are experiencing a fight-or-flight response.
While our mood can affect our breath, the opposite is also true. I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: your breath is also your superpower. If you can regulate your breath, you can also regulate your body and central nervous system. In turn, you can calm your emotions, focus your attention, turn down unwanted impulses and experience overall reduced anxiety. You can also practice with your children for the same and similar results. Who wouldn’t want that?
Slowing and deepening the breath, especially extending the exhalation, to about five or six breath cycles per minute is magical. Even 30 seconds or a minute of intentional breathing gives a necessary signal to the central nervous system. So, how can we make this fun for our littles?
Dinosaur Breath: breathing in, holding their little arms up like a T-Rex, then letting out an extended RAWWWWRR.
Pirate Breath: breathing in the salty sea air, cover one eye, and then breathe out with a hearty “ARRRR!!!!”
Cake breath: imagining a big birthday cake in front of them, breathing in while making a few wishes, then blowing out all of the candles. Maybe inviting one wish, or breath, for themselves, one for their friends, and one for the whole world.
Flower/Candle breath: holding out both hands, imagining a flower in in one hand and a candle in the other. Breathe in the beautiful aroma of the flower and then blow out the flame of the candle on the other hand.
Hand breath: trace each finger while sloooooooowly inhaling on the up-trace and sloooooooowly exhaling on the down-trace. This is an easily accessible fan-favorite.
Enjoy these fun, quick and easy meditation breathwork exercises. I’ll let you in on a secret: they work for the biggest of kids as well as our tiniest ones; it turns out that adults benefit from attuned breathing as well!