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Breathing and Meditation to Relax Anxious Children–And You!

Need a quick technique to help your child ease her anxiety? Teach her these simple breathing techniques and practice them together. Then, when she’s starting to get upset or anxious, you can cue her to do a “balloon breath” or “Darth Vader breathing (you may need to take a calming breath, too!).

Balloon breath. Open your mouth and draw in as big a breath as possible, filling your lungs. Close your mouth and hold the breath for a count of five seconds. Exhale all at once and relax your upper body muscles as you do so.

Darth Vader breath. Lift the tongue so it is very close to the roof of the mouth while the mouth is closed. Breathe through your nose, keeping your tongue close to the roof of your mouth. It will sound a bit like Darth Vader breathing, or the sound you make just before making a snoring sound. It is subtle enough to be used discreetly in any situation.

Also, adults, teens, and kids (as young as 4!) can do meditation for relaxation and reducing anxiety. Meditation can increases focus, memory, and self-awareness. I like to silently think “in” and “out” as I inhale and exhale, or “cleanse” and “release”–and sometimes I envision a beautiful color as I inhale and an ugly cloud going out of me when I exhale. CLICK HERE for a terrific description of how to do mindfulness meditation (explained by psychologist Dr. Ronald Alexander).

You might also find it helpful to have your child listen to natural sounds, such as the ocean's wave, while she focuses on her breath meditatively. Natural sounds can be very calming. Videos with many hours' of natural sounds are plentiful on Youtube. Here's one of my favorite examples:

Apps such as Relax Melodies are another option. You can play more than one sound at a time with this app. For instance, you might choose to play a loop of windchimes combined with the sound of the wind in the trees. You can also choose just one sound, such as a crackling fire. Listening these audio files when she is especially stressed may be a terrific tool for self-regulation of her mood. Try several different audio files and see what works best for your child. And try them for yourself as well!

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