It’s been with you since the moment you were born. You do it every day, mostly without thinking. It’s something so powerful that it is fundamental to and synonymous with being alive. Yet no one has probably ever taught you how to do it. No one probably ever thought they needed to teach it.
It’s just there.
Or is it?
Perhaps the better question is, “Should it just be there?”
We don’t teach our children how to breathe. Why not? For most of us, it’s probably something we didn’t think we needed to teach. After all, we do it without thinking. But at what cost? What are we missing by letting our breath be unconscious? What would happen if we made breathing more conscious, more mindful. Something we don’t just do because our brains and lungs make us inhale and exhale but something we do to enrich our lives, to cope with a hectic, out-of-our-control world..
What would happen if we taught our children to breathe? Then they taught their children? Teaching breath work could, and perhaps should, be as important as teaching a child to add two plus two.
Our breath is powerful. When we slow the breath down, elongate the inhale and the exhale, we notice things about ourselves and about the world in which we live. By changing the pattern of our breath we can soothe, calm, renew, refresh, energize, and most importantly, self-regulate. Teaching a child to breathe can increase their resilience. By learning how to breathe, a child will know he always has control of something in his chaotic world. No one can take away his control of his breath. Control over his breath will help him have control over his feelings. Having control over his feelings will help him have control over his actions.
So try this right now: sit up tall and draw your thoughts to your breath. Is it slow and steady, quick and shallow? When you are angry, your breath probably becomes shallower, more rapid. When you sleep or are fully relaxed, your breath is probably slower and more even. Now as you inhale, count to four (1-2-3-4), pause (1), exhale (1-2-3-4-5-6), pause (1) repeat. Notice that your mind must focus on counting the parts of the breath and thus can’t focus on anything else. This is just one example of mindful breathing.
By teaching our children to breathe, we give them a tool that is not only powerful, but readily available. They never have to worry about forgetting their breath at home when they encounter an unexpected stressful situation.
So yes, we need to teach our children to breathe. We need to show them the power they have in that breath.We need to teach them to use their breath as a tool just like we might teach them to use a hammer, or a ruler. By teaching our children to breathe, we are teaching them so much more than to inhale and exhale. We’re teaching them how to be alive, to live, to cope, to manage, and to be mindful.
For fun and powerful breathing practices suitable for children (and adults!), check out these articles: