Teaching Kids Why Breathing Works!
For Day 3 of Coping Skills, we focused on learning why the breaths are so important and actually work.
I gave them a simple image of the brain that highlighted the important parts (for today): the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.
I explained how the amygdala decides what to do with any new information coming into the brain. I gave some examples, such as if the information coming in is that your hand is on a hot stove, the amygdala would quickly alert your brain and you would remove your hand. In this example, the amygdala does not talk to the prefrontal cortex – it makes a quick decision to keep you safe.
In another example, the information coming in is that you see a box of cookies sitting on the counter. In this example, your amygdala would share this information with the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the decision making center of your brain. So in this situation, the prefrontal cortex would help you come up with the best plan – like asking a parent for a cookie!
When we are under stress, the amygdala, reacts quickly – sending us into fight, fright, or freeze, instead of talking to our prefrontal cortex to problem solve. When we deep breathe, we help the amygdala to calm down and make the best decision.
We talked about some examples recently where if we stopped and breathed, we might have been able to help our amygdala make a better decision. Not naming names 😉 but recently one kiddo got upset while playing a game and threw a game piece across the room. This individual now understand that if he or she took a deep breath in that moment, perhaps his or her prefrontal cortex could have helped to make a better decision. O also gave an example of how he might go into “flight” if he hears the Zombies 2 Soundtrack for the fifth time in a row. (Some other parents may be experiencing something like this right around now…)
I had the kids draw pictures and name their amygdala and prefrontal cortex. This way they could visualize themselves calming their amygdala so it can talk with the prefrontal cortex. This was very cute! And now, we have been able to give them cues and ask them how “amygdalette” or “head and the heart” are feeling and if they are able to talk to “fluffy” and “ten”. These cues have helped to diffuse a few minor incidents here!
Hope it helps for you too!