Teach kids belly-breathing for back-to-school stress relief.

Mind & Spirit

Taking long, deep breaths help kids handle stress from any cause. So if your child has some back-to-school jitters or separation anxiety, it’s a good time to teach them belly breathing.

When you’re stressed, you tend to take shallow breaths (only chest cavity expands). But when you’re relaxed, air is drawn all the down into the diaphragm and the belly expands as well. Forcing your body to breath like you’re relaxed helps to turn off the “fight or flight” stress, lower your heart rate and trigger a relaxed state.

You can teach a child as young as three to belly breathe by first helping them to pay attention to their breathing. When your child is standing and breathing normally, ask “what parts are moving” and “what does it feel like?” Then have the child lay down on their back with their hands on their belly. In this position, it will be easier for their child to feel the air getting all the way to the belly. Then have the child try belly breathing:

1. Close your mouth

2. Breath in for 4 seconds or until you feel your whole chest and belly fill with air

3. Hold your breath for 4 seconds

4. Slowly blow the air out (like blowing pinwheel, slow and sustained)

5. Repeat as many times as you need to feel calm

Once your child has the hang of it, have them try it in different positions – standing, sitting in a chair, sitting on the floor – until they are comfortable doing it in multiple situations. Bedtime is a great time for a practice session as belly breathing can help kids relax enough to fall asleep and also a time that anxieties about the next day are likely to surface.

Teach your child to try belly breathing whenever they feel nervous, scared or even really, really excited as a way to return to a more normal state. It can help quickly and it puts to power of control into your child’s hands—and feeling more in control can also help lessen anxiety.

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