There has been increased interest and research on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation strategies for both adults and children in recent years. Mindfulness encourages people to be intentionally present with their experiences while suspending judgment and being open and accepting to what is happening in the present moment. Achieving this state can help us calm down and allow us to experience relaxation (Kabat-Zinn, 2013, p. lx). Mindfulness based practices are now incorporated in many school environments with the goal of helping children to increase compassion, kindness, and emotional regulation. You may be wondering how you can support your children with using mindfulness at home as a strategy for relaxation and enhancing self-regulation.
Here are some ideas on how to get started. The list below includes a few of the resources that I have used in my sessions with clients. There are many additional resources available!
“Peaceful Piggy Meditation” by Kerry MacLean (picture book)
“Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)” by Snel (includes an audio CD)
"The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids" by Shapiro & Sprague (includes both stress reduction and mindfulness interventions for parents and kids to do together)
Free Child-Friendly Apps:
*Because kids are always more eager to practice a new skill when there is an app for that!
Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame: Interactive and ideal for ages 4-7.
Settle Your Glitter: Simple to use and great for practicing deep breathing!
Stop, Breathe, and Think Kids: Requires a parent email to activate. Includes guided meditations for children.
Headspace: Includes short (1-3 minute) meditations. Some of the features require a paid subscription.
Calm: Better for older children and adults. Includes several free meditations, and timed unguided meditations. Additional meditations are available for purchase.
Want to learn more about mindfulness? We are fortunate to have the Center for Healthy Minds as a resource here in Madison. Check out their research and upcoming events on their website.
We’ve all heard it. That advice you don’t always want to hear when you’re stressed out, panicking, tense, angry, and worked up. Someone nearby tells you to “Take a breath.”
Relationship between Stress and Breathing
There is a good reason for this old and common piece of advice. When we become stressed, we begin to take shorter, faster breaths, and this intensifies our stress and anxiety. When we experience anxiety, stress, trauma, or panic, we shift in to a reactive and protective fight or flight survival response. The simple act of deep, controlled breathing allows our breath to move beyond our chest and into our diaphragm to bring in more oxygen to waken the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body. Some of the many benefits of deep breathing include lowered heart rates and blood pressure. Relaxation allows for clear thinking and buys time to use logic and reason for responding thoughtfully to the stressful situation at hand rather than reacting based on emotion. People who practice deep breathing regularly will find that they are able to manage day-to-day stress more effectively.
I suggest practicing first thing when you wake in the morning to start your day off right, and practicing again at the end of the day to relax before sleep.
So how can you practice deep breathing?
Generally, it is recommended to practice deep breathing by inhaling through your nose and slowly exhaling through your mouth. See if your exhale can last longer than your inhale. You might try counting as you practice this technique. One technique I often teach people (both children and adults) is the 4-7-8 breath. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for the count of 8. Repeat. It may take some practice before you are able to exhale for 8 full seconds, and that’s okay!
More creative strategies for kids:
Practice blowing bubbles
Teach your child to pretend they are blowing out candles
Have your child lie down and place an object on their belly button, such as a beloved stuffed animal. Ask them to watch the object move up and down with each breath.
Sara Kind-Michels, MS, LPC, LMFT
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