As moms we have all been there: the grocery store, the living room, the middle of somewhere we can’t escape, and it happens…your kid is freaking out (fingers crossed it’s only one kid at a time). You may know exactly what triggered it (such as saying no to the sugar cereal) or have no clue what set your kiddo off.
Regardless of why your kid is upset, you probably have the urge to try to contain the situation. Sometimes I have the urge to run away. Kidding…sort of. It doesn’t really matter why or where your child has decided to melt down, one thing is for sure: they probably need your help to calm down and get through the situation.
The challenge as moms is often that when our kids are freaking out, it pushes our buttons and we’re no longer in a calm state. However, if we can help our kids understand what to do when they’re feeling upset, are stressed out or just need to calm down, we’re teaching them a critical life skill. (If you need help with calming yourself down, check out How to be a Calmer Mama with the free Calmer Mama Checklist).
One of the bet strategies to help a child regulate emotions is using something they do all day, every day. Through their breathing. Though this is an automatic function, when we focus on it, and breathe in a specific and deliberate way, we can slow down our body and our mind.
Try these 3 steps to help your kids calm down:
- Ask your kiddo to imagine there is a balloon in their belly that they need to fill up with air.
- Tell them they inflate (blow up) the balloon by breathing in slowly through their nose. Do this with them and have them put their hands on their belly to make sure their balloon is blowing up.
- Once their balloon is full, let them know it’s time to let all of the air out of the balloon- blow the air out slowly through their mouths until there’s no more air in their balloon.
And, repeat. Again, and again if needed. Tell your child that these are balloon breaths and that you’ll practice them together. This is a skill that will work with all ages (you may not need the balloon analogy if your kids are older). Get the free printable if you’d like to have a visual reminder for your kids. Get the printable here.
Think about teaching this skill when they’re not stressed or melting down. For example, at night before bed, suggest they try with you to help them feel sleepy. Or if you’re feeling stressed out and they can tell, say something like “Mommy is feeling upset right now. I’m going to try to calm down. Want to help me?” And walk them through the steps.
If you’re a mom who gets stressed out and worked up, you’re definitely not alone- check out this post with a free Calmer Mama checklist.
The idea is that you want to teach them this skill, and practice it, before you actually want them to use it well. And if you can model it and let your kids know you use the idea too, they’re more likely to do it when they need it. I really do believe the saying “More is caught than taught.” We deliberatly taught this to our older son and now our younger son takes deep breathes at less than two years old, and we didn’t teach him this. He picked it up from watch us use this skill when we’re stressed.
You may not notice right away that these balloon breaths help your kids calm down but in time, you’ll all notice a difference. You may be able to cut off a melt down by having them breathe, be able to diminish a freak out more easily, or get back to neutral a bit more quickly.
In the biggest meltdowns, it may feel like the breathing isn’t helping but chances are it will (especially if it’s been practiced) and even if it doesn’t have a huge calming effect, some calming down is usually better than none. We started doing deep breathing with my son around the time he turned 3 (maybe earlier…hard to remember!) and by about 3 ½ he’d ask me to take deep breaths with him when he needed to calm down. Now, he’s able to manage his emotions more easily, and can help himself calm down (though at age 5 he still needs reminders).
As moms we have a responsibility to help our kids understand how to deal with their emotions. Balloon breathing is something that can become a habit for everyone in your family, helping to create more calm moments and allowing you all to calm down when needed.
Don’t forget to access your free printable to help your kids remember about using their breaths.
Share with us how it’s going for your kiddos with balloon breaths.
Posts and information on Get Mom Balanced are educational in nature and are not meant to be a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, treatment or care. If you have medical or mental health-related concerns, contact your personal health care provider without delay. See full disclosure for more information.