Deep Breathing- Coping with Anxiety, Anger and Stress.

Many of the kids that we see often have difficulties managing anxiety, anger or stress. Deep breathing is a simple and effective tool for calming the body.

Why is deep breathing helpful?

When we are in a stressed state, our bodies go into a fight, fright or flight response. This might present as being easily emotional, upset, aggressive, restless or running away. Our breathing is shallow and rapid and our heart rate increases.  When we engage in deep breathing, it tricks our body into thinking that we are calm and we are able to think more clearly and rationally.

Sometimes, however it can be challenging to get kids to engage in deep breathing.  Kids are more likely to engage if it is delivered in a fun way!

5 ways to make learning deep breathing fun for kids:bubble-tray

  1. Bubbles: Blowing bubbles is a simple way to get kids blowing a big breath outwards.  If they
    do a big exhale this automatically encourages a big inhale. Making ‘Bubble Monsters’ (see picture) is particularly helpful for encouraging a long exhale. Make sure to supervise your child and practice in water first if you are concerned that they might suck up the bubble liquid!
  1. Ping Pong Soccer: Set up a goal on the table or floor and encourage your child to blow a ping pong into the goal using a straw.
  1. Whistles: Blow different types of whistles or pinwheels. Whistles don’t always have to be noisy!  Some whistles have a visual element that moves when you blow them.  We order our whistles from sensorytools.netair-time-space
  1. Air Time Space: This is a computer based activity from a website called In the game, the child has to practice their deep breathing to take their space shuttle on a journey around the solar system.
  1. Breathe Think Do With Sesame App: This app does more than just deep breathing. It assists children to problem solve and cope with situations that they might find frustrating, disappointing or upsetting. We have found that kids love to complete deep breathing along with the main character, a friendly monster.

These strategies are helpful ways of teaching about deep breathing and should be done when kids are calm.  Once the kids become more confident they can start to remember the sensation of taking deep breaths and they can start practising this without props.  The more you practice the easier it will be for them to start putting their deep breathing into action when things don’t go their way.

Which strategy does your child finds the most effective?  Or do you have other ideas that you want to add to the list? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

– Kate Kleinau (Occupational Therapist)



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