Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most important coping skills that kids, and adults alike can have. Deep breathing can help kids calm down when they are feeling scared, angry, anxious, or upset. It is an easy calm down skill that really works!
Kids can use deep breathing at school when they get upset in class. They can use deep breathing at bedtime when they are feeling afraid. Children can also use deep breathing when they are angry with their siblings or parents.
One of the best things about deep breathing is that it is so easy to do. You don’t need lots of tools or special training to practice deep breathing!
Really, the only problem is how do you get a child to use deep breathing when they are in the middle of an angry outburst, a tantrum, a panic attack, or any other big emotionally driven behavior.
Here are 7 different ways to teach and practice deep breathing so that you really cement this coping skill in for your child. The more that you practice, the more likely they are to use the skill when they start to get upset, angry, or scared!
7 Strategies for teaching deep breathing to kids
Teach the concept in a calm moment
When kids are worked up in anger, fear, or other big emotions, their brains have effectively shut down. In order to teach children how to use deep breathing, the concept needs to be taught when they are calm and functioning normally.
Model deep breathing during big emotions
Modeling deep breathing can be a very effective way to demonstrate how and when to use deep breathing. If you are experiencing big emotions, talk through it out loud and incorporate breathing.
For example, you could say, “I am feeling really frustrated right now and like I want to give up. I’m going to take a minute to take some deep breaths and calm down so that I can keep going on this task.”
It is also good to model deep breathing when you are engaged with a child who is in the middle of behaviors driven by big emotions. If you are watching your child throw a tantrum, make sure that you are taking slow, calm breaths.
You may even want to use a deep breathing pattern like infinity or wave breathing and trace that pattern on your hand while you breathe in and out.
Use Visual Reminders
Visual reminders can be a great way to teach and remind kids about deep breathing. I love hanging posters of deep breathing techniques up in my kids’ bedrooms and playroom. (They are also great for classroom use!) Check out my set of Deep Breathing Printable Posters here.
I also like to use deep breathing cards. Personally, I incorporate these into a larger coping skills card deck that I have in my Calm Down Kit at home. You can check that card deck out by clicking here. Or, download 4 free deep breathing cards in the Parenting Resource Library.
These cards are worded with kids in mind and are visually pleasing so that you can feel comfortable carrying them around in your purse or leaving them sitting out on a coffee table.
Enter your email below for access to the Parenting Resource Library where you can download your free Deep Breathing Flashcards.
Breathing tools are another great way to teach kids about deep breathing. Here are some tools that you can use to teach slow, deep breaths:
- Blowing bubbles
- Using a Plastic Slinky
- Blowing on a Pinwheel
- Using a Hoberman Sphere (expanding ball)
- Calm Down Glitter Jars
Being able to utilize deep breathing when you are experiencing big emotions takes practice! Make sure to tell your kids this so that they don’t feel bad if this new skill doesn’t come naturally in the middle of emotional behaviors. Encourage your child to practice deep breathing at different times of the day.
Make it fun
Kids learn best through play. Because of this, finding ways to make deep breathing fun is important. It helps them feel engaged and interested. Find unique and interesting ways to teach deep breathing.
For example, I like to use “Dragon Breathing,” “Hot Cocoa Breathing,” or “Snake Breathing” with kids because they are more fun that just tracing a shape. (Hot Cocoa and Dragon Breathing are included in the free breathing cards available for download in the Parenting Resource Library. Click here to access.)
Make deep breathing part of a routine
One of the best ways I have found to help kids really grasp and use deep breathing is to make it part of their routine. Every night at bedtime, we spend one minute doing a deep breathing exercise.
It would also work to incorporate breathing into the time that you are putting on your shoes, brushing your teeth, or at meals. Find a time that feels simple, natural and doable for you and your family and normalize the concept of deep breathing through making it routine.
I hope these ideas give you some inspiration to teach, practice and use deep breathing with your children. Make sure to download the free breathing cards by entering your email below.