Stress and anxiety in children is on the increase. Children are developing physically and emotionally and although some stress is part of their learning experience there is a point at which prolonged stress can become harmful to children emotionally and can lead to serious health problems. Research has also shown that long-term stress negatively impacts memory, emotional intelligence, social development and moral behaviour.
So how can parents take a step back, de-stress and help themselves and their children “chill-out”? It can be as simple as learning how to breathe. Sounds silly doesn’t it? But many people do not know how to breathe properly.
The breath is our life force and is one of the most important functions of the body, even very young children can be taught how to breath properly. The act of breathing correctly can create feelings of calm, relaxation, clear “headedness” and helps us manage pain. Breathing incorrectly can result in feelings of tenseness, nervousness and confusion.
To breathe properly, you need to use your diaphragm which is the large sheet-like muscle that lies at the bottom of the chest cavity. To find your diaphragm, sit comfortably or lie on your back on the floor. Place your left hand on your upper chest and your right hand on your abdomen in the ‘gap’ of your rib cage. Take a breath in and slowly breathe out. When you breathe in and out, your left hand should remain still, but your right hand can move up and down. If your left hand is moving, your breathing is too shallow and you are not using your diaphragm as you should.
To add some fun for younger children, ask them to lie on their back and find a stuffed toy which you can affectionately call their “breathing buddy”. Place their breathing buddy on their tummy and as they breath in and out slowly, they will see their breathing buddy rise up and flow down, a bit like a boat in the ocean. Children love this and I have heard many times how children love to practice their breathing with their breathing buddy before going to bed at night. This is one of many simple stress management tools I teach to parents and their children. With fun, easy to use anxiety management tools, children and adults can live a more engaged and fulfilling life.
Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.