A colorful, carnival-inspired pin-wheel. A simple, soft cotton ball. A bubble wand. A flower.
What do these things have in common? They are all simple things anyone can use to encourage deep breathing with children!
As a ChildLight Yoga instructor specializing in young children, I can attest to the many wonderful benefits of creating a playful yoga practice with toddlers and pre-schoolers. But it is the power of deep breathing which has served me best as a parent. Using deep breathing techniques such as these creates peace and relaxation when emotions get the best of my kids.
When a child gets upset, nervous, angry or sad, he or she will take short breaths, especially when crying. Short, shallow breathing perpetuates stress because less oxygen is taken in, and the oxygen needs to move faster through the body to reach the brain and other organs.
By encouraging deep breathing (allowing the chest and belly to expand, verses just the top portion of the chest), more oxygen is taken in, and moving throughout the body more slowly. This slowing down is what can help relieve stress levels, bringing the child a greater sense of calm.
I often suggest the pin-wheel and other tools to parents and others who work with young children. You can use a fake flower spritzed with a lavender water (3-4 drops of lavender essential oil mixed with water in a 3 oz. spray bottle), or a mini-pinwheel, often sold at discount stores in the summer. Draw a cute face on either and give it a name, such as Henry the Happy Pin-wheel or Patsy the Peace Flower. Bring out the special friend when there is cheering up to do. (Kids often respond better to a character than they do to a real person trying to help.)
It's not easy to know how to relieve stress for a child, especially a young child who may not be able to even tell you what it wrong. By encouraging deep breathing, whether using a silly character flower, a bubble wand or simply your own instruction, you can help dissipate the emotional upset and help him or her get on with the fun of being a kid. –Amy Bevan