Parenthood is an adventure. Each day brings new challenges and new surprises. We can feel exhilarated one moment and the very next minute we may feel overwhelmed. One of the most important things we can do is remember to breathe. A few deep breaths create a little cushion of space to think over how to best respond.
When we do not give ourselves a few moments to calm down, we cannot connect with the reasonable, logical part of our brain. Our parenting hopes and goals are stored in this area of the brain. It is difficult to think at all. This inability to think can create even more frustration and little options. We may end up yelling or reacting too harshly when we feel pressured to act right away. Acting while we are emotionally escalated is somewhat like shaking up a snow globe. It becomes more and more blizzard-like the more agitated it gets. We cannot see clearly.
In the following video, Dr. Daniel Siegel uses a simple model to show how the brain disconnects, or “flips it’s lid” when overstressed.
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Take a Breath
Can we give ourselves permission pause for a moment and breathe? Deep breath connects us instantly to the calming mechanisms of our body. “As it turns out, deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, and the immune system.” (Cuda, 2010) When we take a few deep breaths, we give a signal to the body that it is okay to calm down. Our brain reacts just like the snow globe. We set the snow globe down, the snow settles, and we can now see clearly. When we are able to pause and take a breath, we reconnect to the front part of our brain and lessen the pressure to have to act right away. This space opens up more options in how we want to respond to our children.
We can even share this little breathing space with our children. When we are upset, or our children are upset, practice breathing together. This practice can teach our children how to calm themselves, too. Here is a simple breathing exercise we can do anywhere:
- Breathe in and say, “Breathe in, one.”
- Breathe out and say, “Breathe out, one.”
- Repeat with consecutive numbers (2,3,4,5, etc.) until 10.
- Notice any shift in the body’s stress level. Notice any shift in your child.
This breathing exercise can easily be used anytime, anywhere, and for any type of stressful situation such as work, traffic, and even relationship conflict. As we breath deeply, we calm ourselves and are able to see more clearly. We open up the ability to respond with more care for ourselves and others.
For more great resources on parenting, check out Fuller Life’s on-line parenting magazine, Growing Kids and Teens. Also, check out our Counseling Kids and Counseling with Teens pages for more resources and support.
Cuda, Gretchen. (2010). Just Breathe: Body Has A Built-In Stress Reliever: http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131734718/just-breathe-body-has-a-built-in-stress-reliever