Breathing For Children

insight podcast

Knowing what we know now about breathing, we can only begin to imagine how different life would have been if we’d picked up breathing skills much earlier on in life.

Fortunately, our children, currently aged 8 and 5, won’t have to wonder for themselves. They’re both well and truly integrating breathing practices into their daily habits and strategies. And enthusiastically too we might add. Here’s what we’ve learned on our journey.

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Show Don’t Tell

Children are just like the rest of us. They don’t like being told what to do.

(Note from Angie – When Shane first started breathing and was ‘encouraging’ me to practice with him. I was less than keen, shall we say…)

When we started using breathing techniques with our children, we were trying to force them to use the breath to move their energy on. But, because of the energy we were bringing to the situation, they were taking it as a punishment. That’s not conducive to progress!

So after a bit of trial and error, we worked out that the key was to make the experience fun and playful. We made up stories and games around breathing. We starting blowing things with straws, making it interactive and showing them how they could use the breath to affect things. This was a game changer.

The other game changer was us learning that we had to take care of our own shit before we tried to take care of theirs. By that we mean we had to have our own house in order to really have an impact. Children learn more from what you do than what you say so we made sure we were using our breathing practices in the same ways we wanted them to.

It was only when we started using the breathing techniques to manage our own anger or frustration that they noticed the impact breathing has.

When they saw us practicing in front of them and how much more pleasant we were feeling afterwards, they realised they could use the techniques to make themselves feel the same way.

When they saw us remove ourselves from angry or frustrating situations and do some controlled breathing before returning, they liked what they saw. They liked that the unpleasantness wasn’t there any more.

So it’s really a case of ‘Monkey see, Monkey do’ rather than ‘Monkey! Do as you’re told!’

If At First You Don’t Succeed – Breathe Again

I (Angie) can remember one time when the girls were fighting and arguing, and they were scratching, hitting and kicking. It was normal everyday stuff that was happening and I was just so frustrated.

I got to the point where I was breathing and relaxing but they didn’t match me. Finally I just laid down on the floor and started huffing and puffing right in the middle of their little war zone. (NB – huffing and puffing is the technical term for breathing!)

I was breathing it out, breathing my frustrations out, shifting my own energy in front of them, because I didn’t know what else to do.

Then a magical thing happened. They both stopped dead in their tracks. It was a pattern break that changed everything.

They came over to me. One started patting my head and singing to me. The other one (the younger one) laid on my belly. While I was breathing, she was breathing too. So we were breathing together and then, all of a sudden, I was crying because I had finally found something that worked.

It’s Human Nature

We’re telling you how we deal with our family, with our children. It may not be the same for you, but one thing humans have in common is that we all get angry.

We all have emotions, and we all either express them or stuff them down inside and create energy blockages and tension in the body. Just having a tool or a way of being able to release those emotions as they’re coming up, prevents them from getting trapped in the body.

For children to learn this at a young age is powerful.

Separating the Behaviour

What we’ve also found that helps is to separate the behaviour from the person.

Instead of becoming angry or frustrated with the child, we chose to frame our behaviour as a reaction to their behaviour. This neutralises things dramatically.

Now instead of two heads going into battle, we can deal with what’s going on and give the children some tools so they can deal with what’s going on for them.

Just a few simple words is all it takes…

  • Can you breathe that out?
  • Can you hand it over to the breath?
  • Can you hand it over to the breath and just breathe it out?

This really works. We’ve not come across any other tool that is as effective as the breath for managing behaviour. And we’ve tried a lot of things. NLP and other techniques are certainly effective over time but nothing has an impact or shifts energy quicker than managing the breath.

It’s For Everyone

Keep in mind that everything said above applies to grown ups too. You don’t have to have children to make use of the strategies and techniques.

You can use them with your partner for example. We have an agreement with each other that if our emotions or energy are heightened and we’re not operating from a place where we can logically discuss and have an adult discussion, we have to stop and take ourselves away, manage our own energy.

When we’re ready, not forced upon each other, but when we’re ready, we then come back and we talk like adults. (It doesn’t mean that when we say to each other, “you need to go and breathe”, we don’t want to punch each other in the face though. The last thing you want when you’re angry with someone is to have them telling you what to do!).

These are not lofty, esoteric techniques that take years to master or that require you to sit in a cave for seven years and meditate.

It can be as simple as taking a couple of sighs in a row. Take as many sighs as you need to, to move the energy on. 6 or 10 sighs in a row (or 200 in some cases….it depends how stubborn you are!) will move the energy on. It’s as simple as a sigh of relief.

And don’t be afraid to use the techniques in public. They are far more effective and attract way less attention than yelling so you’ll be doing yourself a favour if you do.

Let us know if you’ve found this useful. Raising children isn’t easy but if we can all throw in our strategies and share what works then everyone’s a winner, especially the children.

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