Overwhelmed By Stress? Try 4 For Calm Breathing

Overwhelmed By Stress? Try 4 For Calm Breathing

Being around children on the verge of a meltdown is hard for most parents, but it’s especially tough if you’re dealing with unaddressed trauma from your own childhood.

You try to stay calm, but your stress response may ramp into hyperdrive. Pretty soon your chest is tight and your heart pounding. Before you respond, try taking a few deep breaths and letting them out slowly. Slow exhales help bring responses like a fast heartbeat back to normal.

Once you feel grounded, talk with your children. You may need to comfort them, hold them if they want you to, and let them know it’s all right to cry.

When your children seem ready, try a few calming breaths together. There’s a technique “4 For Calm” Breathing, which helps the body calm down by reducing the “flight or fight” response. Here’s how it works:

1) Have your children put a hand on their belly.

2) When they breathe in, the belly goes out.

3) When they breathe out, the belly goes in.

4) Take 4 low and slow breaths in and out.

5) Count silently from 1 to 4 with each breath.

6) Do the same breathing along with them.

Practiced regularly, this technique can reduce stress for you and your children.

Check out this short film “Just Breathe.”

In it, kindergarteners discuss how their body feels when they get mad and how it feels when they do slow breathing.  One girl compares being angry to a jar of rain and glitter being shaken “so that it goes everywhere and you can’t think.” By breathing slowly, she says, “it’s like all the sparkles in the water just go to the bottom.”


Sources: 4 for Calm Breathing – Elizabeth McMahon, PhD, and Susan Schmitz, MAIDP

Bubble Science — Center for Youth Wellness 4 for Calm Breathing –Noe Viloria, BCN, Elizabeth McMahon, PhD, and Susan Schmitz, MAIDP

Mindful.com. (n.d.) Kindergarteners Talk About Mindfulness in “Just Breathe” short video. Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/kindergarteners-talk-about-mindfulness-in-just-breathe-short-film/