Updated: Jul 7, 2022
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When a child is experiencing stress, is very hungry or thirsty, feels fearful or threatened,
experiences overwhelming emotions even if they are positive (such as excitement), the pre-frontal cortex, the logical thinking part of the brain, goes offline. The pre-frontal cortex, or the 'Smart Part', is responsible for things like understanding instructions, reading, writing, maths, listening, making plans, and more. It develops during childhood and doesn’t complete it's development until around the mid-20s!
But when we experience some of the things listed above, as a child whose pre-frontal cortex is still under development, we can lose our sense of logical thinking, and we can quite literally flip our lid.
What this means is that the child loses some or all of their ability to have logical/rational
thought, make decisions, understand who they are and what they stand for, solve problems, and even to understand language.
Therefore, it's really important to help the child regulate and bring the pre-frontal back online before anything else. Mindfulness and in particular having an internal focus, plus meditative practices like body scans and breathwork help bring the pre-frontal cortex back online and help young people process emotions quickly but also in a healthy manner.
Understanding the principles of mindfulness and meditation helps you embed the benefits of both into every situation that you may encounter with the children in your world.
Re-learning your A B C’s
Understanding and using X-HAIL's ABCs provides a framework to help make supporting your child in difficult situations much easier.
Support your child to move the focus back into the body.
Encourage your child to use breathwork or exercise to bring the body and brain back into balance. (SCROLL DOWN TO GET YOUR FREE 'BREATHING WITH KIDS' DOWNLOAD)
CALM; CHECK-IN; CHAT
Allow your child to settle and access their natural state of calm; confidence; creativity and compassion before checking in and discussing what they have just experienced.
How do we help children come back into a regulated state?
Quite often, before we can reach awareness, we need to support children to balance first. One of the easiest ways in which we can help children tap into their balance is through the breath and through movement. We can enable children to access their rest and digest state by encouraging them to work through some deep breathing exercises.
There are many examples of mindful breathing techniques you can find online, but here are some of our favourite ones you can use from age 2 up to the teenage years.
A great one for younger children as it allows them to learn how to breathe deeply through play. Provide them with a small container of bubble mixture and a wand. Let them experiment with their breath. They’ll soon discover that breathing too hard or too fast bursts the bubbles before they’ve had time to form and float away. Encourage them and model to them taking slower more purposeful breaths, and they’ll soon see that they can blow the perfect bubble. After a while, you could encourage them to imagine using their breath to blow the perfect bubble and watch it float away without the mixture and wand.
For this one, children could lay down on the ground or sit up. For younger children, they could place their favourite teddy onto their belly to ‘rock to sleep’ with their breaths. For older children, we can ask them to imagine their belly is like a ball or a balloon. They could even place their hands onto their belly to feel the expansion. Ask your child to breathe in slowly through their nose, into a relaxed belly. Ask them if they can feel their belly expand (or for younger ones, see their teddy rise), and then slowly breathing out through their mouth, feel their belly deflate or see their teddy move down.
Using either their imagination or the printable you can download, ask your child to trace up and over the different colour arches of a rainbow. They inhale through their nose up to the top of the arch, and exhale through their mouth as they trace down the arch. If you download the printable, they can even colour it in first.
For this technique, ask your child to hold up one of their hands and spread their fingers wide. Using the pointer finger of their other hand, starting at the base of their thumb, ask them to trace up to the tip of the thumb and back down again to the base of their first finger. They continue to trace up and down each of their fingers until they get to the other side of their hand next to their little finger.
You can have them do this a few times, quickly and slowly. Then ask them to breathe in through their nose as they trace up each digit and breathe out through their mouth as they trace down the other side. Alternatively, you can download the template.
Using their imagination again, ask your child to imagine a number 8 lying on its side: a Lazy 8! Or they could imagine it as an infinity symbol. Tracing around the Lazy 8 with their finger, on the ground, in the air or using the downloadable template, ask your child to breathe in through their nose as they trace around one side of the Lazy 8 and breathe out of their mouth as they trace around the other side.
Children love pretending to be a bunny with a twitchy nose. This is a great technique of children are struggling to breathe deeply into their belly. Have them take 4 smaller breaths in through their nose, then exhale out through the mouth. They can pretend their hands are their ears on top of their heads or hop around like a bunny as they practise their bunny breaths.
Using the template or their imagination, children use their finger to draw around a triangle starting at the bottom corner, up to the top point then down the other side and along the base. They can practise tracing slowly and quickly. Then ask them to follow their breath as they trace the triangle; as they inhale, they trace up the side to the top point. As they exhale, they trace down the other side
and along the base. This encourages them to make their exhale twice as long as their inhale.
Tracing around an imaginary box shape or on a downloaded template, move around the box slowly and quickly, before adding in the breath. This technique encourages the breath to become even in and out. When they are ready to add in the breath, ask your child to trace up the side of their box as they inhale through their nose for about 3-4 seconds. As they trace along the top, they pause the breath, then breathe out of the mouth as they trace down the other side for about 3-4 seconds. Finally, they pause the breath as they trace along the base.
Many of these techniques have the added bonus of mindful movement, which will help your child to not only bring balance, but also help them to bring awareness into their body. Then that leaves you the space to be able to find Calm, Check-in and Chat.
DOWNLOAD our free 'BREATHING WITH KIDS' HANDOUT so that you can start practicing TODAY!
If you found these techniques and download useful, please share them on Pintrest, and you can check out our X-HAIL KIDS meditation teacher training diploma here: Kids Meditation Teacher Training Package