Don’t forget to breathe—and help your kids do it too!


Did you know that our kids need us to help them regulate their nervous systems? The younger they are, the more support they need. But even as our children get older they still need us to help them co-regulate their bodies. Which is simple enough—until you are a mom who also needs to regulate your nervous system. So what can we do to calm ourselves down and our kids? Take some big, deep breaths. 

Diaphragmatic breathing is the breathing that all babies are born doing. Have you ever watched their little bellies rise up and down as they sleep? They breathe from a deep, nourishing part of their diaphragms to get the most oxygen to their bodies. As we get older, we sometimes unlearn this behavior as we ‘suck in our stomachs’ in an effort to look slimmer. Instead of breathing from our diaphragms, we breathe with our chests.

How do you know which one you are doing? Lie down or sit in a comfortable position and place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Notice which hand rises as you breathe. If you notice that the hand on your chest is the one going up and down, you probably aren’t breathing with your belly. So practice! Try making the hand on your belly rise up and down. When you fill your belly up and exhale completely, you are oxygenating all the way down to the bottom of your lungs. It is a deeper, fuller experience of breath and it helps you regulate your nervous system.

Next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and out of sorts, practice breathing deeply in through your nose, using your full diaphragm. Blow the air out like you are blowing through a straw as slowly as you can possibly go. This exhale calms the parasympathetic part of your nervous system which tells your body that you are safe. 

Then try it with your kids. I like to tell my kids to “smell the cake” and “blow out the candles” nice and slow. When my kids feel upset, when they get hurt, when they seem overwhelmed and dysregulated, we smell the cake. I like to take all those big, deep breaths with them so we are co-regulating our nervous systems together. We practice breath work at bed time as well and have found that falling asleep seems to go much easier after we take lots of deep breaths. I remind them every night at bed time, “all you have to do is close your eyes, and breathe.”

In our fast-paced, modern world, it seems ridiculous to remind yourself and your children to breathe. What I have found more often than not, is that as moms trying to carry the mental load and gently parent our kids, we are not breathing. So here’s your invitation to take some big, deep breaths and invite your kids to do it too. 


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