Belly Breathing for Kids
Everybody goes through stressful experiences. Whether it’s stress at work, school, or with a friend, it may not always be easy to cope with. While some adults may have learned how to adjust to such stressful times, children might not yet have the coping mechanisms to relax during stressful or emotionally overwhelming situations. These instances may even cause anxiety in children.
There are many relaxation techniques out there that can help kids cope. Today, we’ll be talking about belly breathing for kids. Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, this is a calming technique to unwind and feel grounded.
What is Belly Breathing?
All mammals naturally breathe from their bellies, or diaphragmatically, including people. The diaphragm, a muscle in the abdomen, regulates this type of deep breathing. Belly breathing is a type of grounding technique that involves this type of breathing.
Air enters your lungs when it is inhaled through your nose. Only the chest cavity expands when taking a shallow breath. When breathing deeply, more of the body is involved because the diaphragm contracts, and the chest and belly both expand.
The "fight or flight" reaction to tension or anxiety, two emotions we all experience, cannot happen simultaneously with belly breathing.
We breathe shallowly when our bodies go into "fight or flight" mode. We are prepared for combat. Belly breathing, on the other hand, causes a relaxation response and lowers heart rate. It causes us to move more slowly.
Benefits of Belly Breathing for Kids
There are several benefits that children can get from learning the belly breathing technique. Whether they are coping with an angry situation or simply feeling stressed and overwhelmed, belly breathing can help.
Calms the nervous system
Deep breathing for kids and relaxation techniques can activate the parasympathetic part of the nervous system. When this happens, a signal is sent to the brain to tell anxiety that it is, in fact, safe. This lowers the fight, flight, or freeze response.
Become more conscious of their breathing
When doing breathing exercises for kids, your child’s breathing and heart rate will slow down when they take deeper breaths. This will help them relax. Learning belly breathing at a young age is an excellent idea because as we get older, it gets more difficult to coordinate this movement.
Learn the skill of relaxation
Mindful breathing for kids will help them learn the skill of relaxation. Your child can always learn more about how their body feels when they remain quiet for a while. Just as it is easier for us to think when we are relaxed, so too is it for your child. Stress management is essential to learning the skill of relaxation, so try teaching your child some stress management coping skills along with their belly breathing.
How to Teach Your Kids Belly Breathing
Try this breathing exercise for kids with your child when they are having difficulty with stressful or overwhelming moments.
- Start off in a comfortable position, either by lying on your back or by sitting up straight.
- With one hand on the chest and one on the abdomen, help your child breathe normally. You might also place a stuffed animal on their belly. After that, ask your kid what they notice. What feelings do they have? Which hand moves more as they breathe? Is the stuffed toy moving up and down?
- Have your child take four deep breaths until they feel the air fill their chest and go all the way to their belly.
- Instruct your child to hold their breath for four seconds.
- After that, ask your child to slowly exhale all the air out. If they are having difficulty exhaling slowly, a great trick is to have them do it through a straw or through pursed lips.
- Allow your child to keep breathing this way until both of you feel relaxed.
- After a few minutes, ask your child if they feel a difference from when you started. Ask what sorts of sensations they feel in their body and how they feel emotionally.
Keep in mind that you and your child can utilize this breathing technique for kids whenever you are stressed. To help your child learn and remember this belly breathing exercise, incorporate it into their everyday routine. You can even use this alongside the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique to further reduce their anxiety.
Your child will benefit greatly from learning how to implement stress management techniques, especially from an early age.
Help Your Kids Practice Mindfulness with Belly Breathing
Belly breathing is not just a helpful activity for your child. It can also be beneficial for you. Learning how to slow down, be mindful, and relax can take away the added pressure of being stressed. Managing one’s stress response this way can lead to a more satisfying, fulfilling, and joyful life, for adults and kids alike.
However, if you feel that your child’s anxiety is not improving even with these relaxation techniques, then it may be time to see a licensed professional.