We often have children come into our office in a state of anxiety or stress. While we may not think of their lives as being stressful, their little bodies and brains tell us that they think otherwise. We use many techniques to help them calm down before we can jump into more challenging therapy activities, including deep breathing.
Most of us know that deep breathing can be helpful, but a child may not see the benefit, or be able to follow through with the technique when our instructions consist only of “take a deep breath”, especially when they are already in a heightened state of arousal (aka meltdown). However, many children can understand imagery and the movements related to that imagery. So we often teach “Weather Breathing” as a calming technique. It can be used to decrease stress and arousal before or during a particular event. Or it can be used throughout the day to help maintain a more even state of arousal.
Weather Breathing is best performed lying on the back, or seated, in case the individual gets light-headed. All breaths should be directed upward so as to avoid breathing on others. Here are the instructions:
“Imagine that there’s a hurricane swirling inside of your body. The winds are very strong, and they might be making you feel unhappy. We are going to take control of those winds and calm that hurricane!
Breathe in through your open mouth, filling your belly. Now blow out of your mouth with your lips in a circle like you’re blowing bubbles. See if you can blow for 5 seconds. That was your first Hurricane Breath. Let’s do 2 more Hurricane Breaths and see if you can blow out for 6, 7, or even 8 seconds. You are working hard to gain control of that hurricane inside of you!
Stormy Day Breaths
Your hurricane is getting weaker, and is turning into just a stormy day. That’s better, but it still doesn’t feel good. We’re going to try to blow that storm away and bring in a sunny day mood.
This time you’re going to breathe in deeply through your nose, filling your belly like before. Now, blow out through your mouth like you’re blowing bubbles again. Can you blow for 7, 8 seconds? Let’s do it 3 more times. Can you feel your storm blowing away?
Sunny Breeze Breaths
You’ve done a lot of work to calm that storm inside of you. Let’s just enjoy how good a sunny breeze feels. Breathe in gently through your nose, and then breathe out gently through your nose. Imagine your breath is a breeze that’s gently moving the leaves on the trees, or making the grass sway back and forth. Can you imagine the shadows moving as the leaves and grass move in the sun? We’re going to just keep breathing our Sunny Breeze breaths while we do our work/rest/eat/etc.
You worked hard to control that storm inside of you and to help yourself feel better. And I bet you will get better and better at controlling storms inside of you. If another storm forms, we can use Weather Breathing to help get control of it too. I’m proud of you.”
If the child does not completely calm down after this round of Weather Breathing, it’s OK to rest for a few minutes, try a different approach, and/or repeat the Weather Breathing. And feel free to adjust the number of each type of breath to the child and situation.
I hope this is helpful to you and your child. Please let us know if you try it and how it works for you!
Our next FREE Mom Workshop is this Thursday, 9/5, at 6:30pm. The topic will be Fight/Flight/Freeze/Surrender. We provide a FREE Sensory Yoga class from 6:00-6:30pm to help Moms calm and focus prior to the workshops. We hope to see you there – bring a friend too!