Easier Said Than Done
How many times per day do you get angry, and repeat the mantra “it’s okay, just breathe.” When our kids become angered or upset, we tell them to do the same thing, but it becomes cliché real fast and that’s when we think, “Yeah, right.. easier said than done!” With so many of the kids that I work, they shared that just breathing doesn’t work, so that got me thinking… why doesn’t breathing work?
More than likely, just as with any skill, it takes practice in order to become comfortable doing it or applying it. Breathing is a great coping mechanism to use with anxious and overwhelmed children to help regulate them, but how can we get them to become comfortable using it? I started using shape visuals to help them practice and focus on their breathing. Rather than breathing, which may seem ambiguous or formless, I did some research and found a visual that kids can use when they could be breathing to calm their brain and body.
How Do Shapes and Breathing Connect?
Look at these two pictures: a star and a square. On the star, you will notice that at each point, there is a specific direction. Holding your breath at these points, exhaling on the next line and inhaling on the following line, helps create focus on and guide to the breath. This visual provides more than just words to our children, which is especially important for our anxious little ones.
There are two ways to use these visuals: hold one in front of you and trace the line when you engage in the breathing, or to visualize each point of the figure and to inhale and exhale. For the kids who need some extra grounding technique, using their finger to slide from one side of the figure to the next maintains engagement for a strategy that can be so simple yet so difficult. Through visualizing and breathing, our kids can begin to oxygenate their bodies and brain which gives the message, “I am okay. No danger here.”
Time To Practice Breathing in Shapes
Shape breathing is one of many effective tools to add to your child’s coping skills toolbox. This technique can be used when feeling upset, overwhelmed, angry, anxious, or to just bring a little calm to your day. It’s a great idea to practice these breathing visuals in the morning or at night, to start the day off right or soothe a child before bedtime. Lower the lights and play some calming music or use visualization to whisk the family away to a sunny beach, allowing your mind to relax as you follow the shapes. With this practice, deep breathing will become easily accessible and comfortable to use.