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Breathing and Emotional Regulation: What’s the Connection?


Breathing is obviously important for physical activity. But did you also know that breathing plays a crucial role in emotional regulation?


When your child is feeling panicked or anxious, their breath gets short and shallow. Their heart rate goes up, too. And when the body is in such a state, it is physically impossible to be calm.


So how do we teach our kids to take control of their body’s physical reaction to emotions? One way is with their breathing. Taking slow, deep breaths from the belly will help slow the heart rate and calm the body. (It’s important to get the diaphragm involved.)


If your child is having a hard time breathing properly, here are three ways to practice:

  1. Blow bubbles. Who doesn’t love blowing bubbles?! Take a deep breath through the nose, and then blow out through the mouth - imagining you’re trying to blow as many bubbles as possible.

  2. Use a stuffed animal. Kids love to pretend. Let them be the doctor or teacher and show their toy how to breathe.

  3. Expanding/shrinking sphere. If you’ve got one, use an expanding/shrinking sphere toy (called a Hoberman sphere), to demonstrate how our lungs expand when we take a deep breath in, and shrink as we breathe out. This visual works well with older kids.


Helping your child learn to control their breathing, can help reduce the likelihood of an impulsive reaction to the emotion they’re feeling, and helps our kids regain control, so practice, practice, practice!


For more expert parenting tips, check out KidStrong University.




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