of stress, anxiety or frustration, you’ve probably been told
to "relax, take a deep breath and calm down." Have
you tried it? Really tried it? Many meditation practices use
breathing techniques to promote a state of calm.
don’t need years of meditative practice to benefit from this
technique, nor do your children," says Peggy Decker,
M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System pediatrician. "In fact,
kids are generally good at embracing this simple relaxation
breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and
stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes
a state of calmness, according to the American Institute of
Stress. Controlled breathing, also known as belly breathing or
abdominal breathing, describes a deep, slow intake of air that
expands the diaphragm downward and draws air deep into the
lungs, pushing the belly out as the lungs fill with air. It’s
followed by a long controlled breath out as the strong
diaphragm muscle relaxes and air flows out. This type of
breathing technique can take you from an excited state of mind
with the "fight or flight" instinct on high alert to
a state where heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down and
children — and teenagers — can learn and practice deep
breathing to strengthen their mind/body connection and manage
emotions that may seem overwhelming at times. Kids,
especially, can use this technique when they’re worried, sad
or in pain. Adding imagery and phrasing can often help enhance
the effectiveness of deep breathing: "Breathe in the
good, breathe out the bad," or "blow the pain
away." Some kids may respond better to images that invoke
familiar sights, sounds or smells of a favorite place rather
used bubbles and pinwheels both as a distraction and as a fun
way to promote deep breathing when my pediatric patients need
their blood drawn or when receiving a shot," adds Dr.
comfortable position. If possible, lie down on a flat surface.
hand on your belly or an object, such as a stuffed animal or
even a book. Your hand/object should rise as you take a big
breath and your hand should fall as you let the air out slowly
over a period of several seconds.
in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let your
shoulders and neck relax with the movement in your abdomen.
Repeat 15 to 20 times.
adding a short phrase in your mind with the breathing: "I
am" on the inhalation, "relaxed" on the
exhalation. You could also slowly count to four on each
breathing can also be part of a bedtime routine that promotes
calmness and relaxation. This type of daily practice makes it
easier to use the deep breathing technique when other
situations arise. It can help relieve the pain of frequent
headaches or stomachaches. Deep breathing can help ease
transitions to new places or events. It can even be part of a
time out for your child (or you!) as your child learns to
manage strong emotions." Consider teaching your teenager
to take a few deep breaths before answering a difficult
question at school or before an athletic performance,"
says Dr. Decker. "I see elite basketball players do this
all the time at the free throw line."
are multiple ways to learn the technique — written
instructions, audio/video recordings or even smartphone apps.
Choose and practice the one that works the best for you and
your child, and enjoy a calmer body, mind and spirit.