My son started kindergarten this year, and I was THRILLED (to say the least) to learn that his teacher is introducing the kids to a different mindful breathing practice each week. (The breathing strategies are from the Conscious Discipline model developed by Dr. Becky Bailey).
For a while now, my son and I have ended our nightly bedtime routine with a minute of mindful breathing (he sits on my lap and we breathe together. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day).
But now that he is in school, he is teaching his mindful mama a thing or two about breathing.
I asked him if he’d be willing to teach the parents who read my blog about the new practices he’s learned. He agreed — on one condition. There can be NO GIGGLING while you watch the video. (“Because Mom, you know how when adults watch videos of cute kids they sometimes giggle? Well, I don’t want them giggling at me.”)
So with that instruction in mind, watch the one-minute video below with my son’s instructions for three different types of mindful breathing you can do with your children. After the video, scroll down for some “mindfulness teacher” comments on why these practices are perfect for little people (and big people, too!)
Pretzel Breathing (a.k.a. “Prentzel Breathing”)
This type of twisted-up breathing is powerfully soothing. It’s basically giving yourself a big hug!
We know this type of touch is calming and reassuring — think of how we swaddle our babies or hold someone in a tight hug when they are upset. When we feel physically or emotionally out of sorts, this type of holding literally prevents us from spinning out of control. The gentle pressure, the turning inward, and the sense of becoming a bit smaller can help children soothe themselves when they are angry or scared.
I used a variation on this technique with my high school students — it was especially popular on test days when they were really stressed out!
Sometimes, we can only truly understand relaxation when it is contrasted with tension. In this exercise, you tense EVERYTHING — face, arms, stomach, legs — and then whoosh! let it all out. It creates a powerful feeling of openness and expansion in the body, and helps the tension “drain” out.
Just telling a child to “breathe” is a bit abstract — they breathe all the time!
With balloon breathing, you give your child a very specific action to focus on with breathing — imagining the balloon expanding as the hands come up, and deflating as the hands come down. Instead of the strangely confusing instruction to “breathe,” you can tell your child to be a balloon!
For more information…
You can find helpful resources (mainly for teachers, but helpful for parents as well) on the Conscious Discipline website.
You can find printable icons and instructions for these breathing strategies here.
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