Take a Playful Breath To Prepare your Child for the 'New Normal'
It can be so hard to keep to the rhythms of the day, and maybe plans for lifting of the lockdown lead to more questions and stress.
In a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson a group of major teacher unions highlighted ‘We need to recognise... that potentially all children will have suffered a level of trauma as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and we would urge that the initial focus when schools reopen, in any capacity, should be on the health, well-being, and emotional resilience of our students.’
Here are some straight forward breathing tips and games to prepare our bodies, young and old for the coming months.
Using the Breath
It is an old favourite, but altering the breathing pattern towards longer, deeper, slower breaths works! 8 benefits of a deeper breathing exercises for everyone:
Helps you to remain calm
Slows the heart rate
Lowers blood pressure
Helps to control your emotions
Promotes appropriate social behaviours
As a stress reliever the goal is to take your child from a state of high stress - crying maybe - back to a calmer state. See our blog on 'states of alertness'.
Deep breathing helps get more oxygen into the bloodstream, opening up smaller blood vessels, leading to a lower heart rate and blood pressure.
Using the breath to calm is a skill for life, but it needs practice. Unless a child knows what to do, telling them 'to calm down and take deep breaths' when they are upset can end up with them hyperventilating, or perhaps breathing in, but not really breathing out.
Tips For Breath Awareness
Practice breathing games when your child is relaxed and happy. They can then draw on the skills they have learnt when they are stressed.
Use the 'eye level smile' i.e. kneel or sit opposite your child so you can look into their eyes and give them positive encouragement. If your child is upset this can shift their attention away from whatever is causing them to panic.
Hold their hands to reassure, a few rubs in the palms can be really soothing.
'Learning by doing'. Children learn new skills by copying others, especially those who are important to them. To make the breathing pattern clear, over-exaggerate the breath in (through the nose) and then breathe out for several seconds, your child can then see how slow the breath should be.
Encourage the 'out breath' or exhalation. But not for too long, just a few seconds. Let your child find the breathing rate that is best for them.
The power is in the pattern. Encourage your child to use deeper 'tummy' breaths, rather than shallow chest breaths i.e. When they breathe in, their tummy should expand, and when they breathe out, their tummy should contract back towards their spine. This is best learnt lying down with a toy on the tummy see below.
Every child will be different, some will take longer to get the idea. Let your child find the breathing rate that is best for them.
Teaching the Tummy Breaths - Relaxation with a Toy
Collect a couple of soft toys, one for you and one for your child. In our sessions we often use rubber ducks so children can see their tummy movements are making their duck bob up and down! Find a comfortable place, free from obstructions, where you can both lie down.
Lie down together with your toys on your tummies. Show your child the breathing pattern i.e. As you breath in your tummy should expand, so the toy is lifted up, as you breath out your tummy comes back towards your spine, so the toy goes back down.
Some children might find it useful to place their hands on your tummy so they can feel it go up and down. This can be a lovely ‘bonding’ experience for both of you.
Listen to the relaxation track below together and do a few sequences of the deeper tummy breaths (3 - 5 breaths in a row) as you imagine being outside in the fresh air. Guide your child to keep returning to a normal breathing pattern so they do not become dizzy. For more information see our post on using the breath to relieve anxiety.
Children Inspired by Yoga Breathing Games
To bring your child's awareness to their breath, use a butterfly prop and make them fly !
Remember young children will probably wish to explore any butterfly prop with their mouth, so do supervise your child at all times. If your child is younger (2-3) it is a good idea to make butterflies from light pieces of spare fabric as these are more robust. Older children can experiment with butterflies cut from origami or tissue paper.
Encourage your child to blow their butterfly up into the air or into a small container ...the butterflies nest. To start with it may be easier for your child to blow the butterfly prop off the back of your hand.
Children Inspired Butterfly song sets the scene and guides your child into our yoga- inspired butterfly pose -'knees falling out to the side'
Bee breath for you
Practice a few breaths so you can show your child what to do.
Find a comfortable place to sit and relax your shoulders. To do this imagine you are increasing the space between your ears and your shoulders. Let your shoulders move downwards and slightly backwards, but be careful not to force this movement. Breathe normally and close your eyes.
Keeping your lips lightly sealed, breathe in through your nose, then breathe out making the sound of the letter ‘M’ (a humming sound) for as long as is comfortable. Never force your breath out beyond your capacity.
Place your hands over your ears to make the sound feel more ‘intense’.
Spend a few moments sitting quietly and seeing if you notice a change in your mood as you do your bee breaths – hopefully you should be feeling calmer!
Bee breath for your child
Encourage your child to ‘buzz’ along with you! Guide them to sit opposite you so they can see what to do. Together take a deep breath in, ideally through your noses, then to make a buzzing sound like a bee as you breathe out for a few seconds - ‘bzzzz!’ Remember to let your child find the breath pattern that is best for them, they should not breathe out beyond their comfort level.
Once your child is confident with the buzzing pattern, they can have a go at placing their hands over their ears whilst they buzz. Often children love this feeling.
Remind your child not to do more than 3 bee breaths in a row, otherwise they may feel dizzy!
Children Inspired Bee song sets the scene ...
Have fun and keep safe
The Children Inspired Team