Deep breathing is a quick and natural technique that children can apply to help manage their feelings of stress and anxiety. This cost-free mindfulness tool involves slow, controlled breathing that directs air to the belly.
Children can be taught to imagine blowing a balloon when inhaling air into their lungs, and count to four in their heads before exhaling.
Deep breathing encourages children to relax and helps overcome quick, shallow breathing with tension, rapid heart rates, dizziness, or hyperventilation.
Research found that older children who used deep breathing before a timed math test helped reduce feelings of anxiety and enhance test performance.
Once learnt, deep breathing can be a child’s self-regulation tool when faced with anxiety-inducing situations.
Deep breathing is not limited to older children, but is more age-appropriate and accessible for younger children who are unable to write down their worries.
The effectiveness of deep breathing may be enhanced when children spend more time practicing it as a tool to manage their emotions. In other words, learning this technique at a younger age provides children with more opportunities to master it for future use.
Additionally, children who recognise their bodily reactions to anxiety like hands shaking, can identify it as a cue to apply deep breathing. Hence, deep breathing is a crucial tool for every child to have when regulating emotions.
- Boiten, F. A., Frijda, N. H., & Wientjes, C. J. (1994). Emotions and respiratory patterns: Review and critical analysis. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 17(2), 103–128.
- Khng, K. H. (2017). A better state-of-mind: deep breathing reduces state anxiety and enhances test performance through regulating test cognitions in children. Cognition and Emotion, 31(7), 1502-1510.
King, D., Sandhu, M., Henderson, S., & Ritchie, S. M. (2018). Managing emotions: Outcomes of a breathing intervention in year 10 science. In Eventful learning: Learner emotions (pp. 193-216). Boston: Brill.