Just Breathe: How to Teach Kids to Calm Down and Relax

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By Keri Cooper, LCSW NBCCH March 17, 2017

When our children are upset, a common reaction is to tell them to calm down, relax, breathe. This is great advice, however, do they know HOW to calm down, relax and breathe? 

It is important to practice emotion regulation on a daily basis for good mental health hygiene. When we tell a child to breathe, we need to make sure that he knows how to properly breathe. The proper breathing will actually slow down heart rate and stimulate the parasympathetic reaction of your body.

In my practice, I work on giving children the tools they need to know in order for them to relax and calm down. Below are a few tips on how to implement emotional regulation starting today.

  • Teach your child how to breathe properly. Have your child lay down and imagine a balloon in his belly. Let him pick a color of his balloon. When he breathes in through his nose, have him imagine the balloon getting really big inside of him. When he breathes out, have him imagine all the air coming out of the balloon. You can also put a stuffed animal on his belly so he can see it rise as he inhales and fall as he exhales. Breathing should be practiced daily.

  • Start implementing family mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, and it is important for families to slow down and be in the moment together. Try to do a mindfulness activity daily as a family. This can be laying down and listening to a guided meditation or engaging in family yoga. Another fun activity is talking a mindful walk. During your walk, talk about what you hear, see and feel to remain in the moment. 
Implementing breathing exercises and mindfulness will help your children be able to calm down and regulate their emotions. Even parents will benefit from engaging in these activities daily!

Keri Cooper, LCSW NBCCH, is a local mom of 4 and a professional holistic psychotherapist that specializes with children. Her private practice is Mind and Body by Nature located in Ramsey, NJ. Call (201) 256-4141 or visit for more information about how Keri can help you and your children live a balanced, healthy life.

Other Macaroni Kid Articles by Keri

Three Ways to Take the Stress Out of Homework

Children and Stress: What Parents Need to Know

Disclosure: Keri Cooper is a sponsor of Macaroni Kid Northeast Bergen.