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Why telling your kids to take a deep breath doesn't work!

How many times have you asked your kiddo to take a deep breath and it has backfired? Does it make them even more upset? Do they look at you like you have 3 heads? Well, let me share why telling your kiddo to take a deep breath hasn't worked, yet!! 


  1. They have no context for the word deep when it comes to their breath. Think about it, when do they use the word deep in their day to day life? They know when a puddle is deep or when they have dug a deep hole in the ground but equating “deep” and their breathing just doesn't make sense right away.

  2. Their breathing is a natural innate thing and not something they recognize they can control. When they were born their breath was an automatic response that kicked into gear and from that moment on they just go about their day breathing. They honestly have no context for breathing as a method of slowing their body or mind down so saying take a deep breath is just as silly to them as saying, Look a purple elephant!

  3. If you have already provided them context for breathing techniques and they still don't respond to you when you say “Take a deep breath” think about the last time someone told you to relax when you were upset. Did you relax?

Ok, I know this all sounds strange but breathing techniques are a learned skill and for kiddos it works best when paired with a tool or a mechanism that supports the elongated inhale or exhale. You know what else? Modeling what a deep breath looks like at times when it isn't necessarily needed helps too. Kiddos can't learn new skills in a time of heightened emotions!


don't tell your kids to take a deep breath, how can I help my kid relax, how can i help my child take a deep breath,

In the very first paragraph of this email I said yet, so here are my thoughts on how to make this work for you and your kiddo!


  1. Take some time to teach your kiddos about their lungs, where they are, how they work and what the act of breathing is.

  2. Teach them what an inhale is and looks like as well as an exhale. Play around with durations and model what a quick inhale or exhale looks like as well as an extended inhale or exhale looks like. Make it fun!

  3. Give them context to what a deep breath really is!

  4. Model taking a deep breath when you need a reset or a moment and actually say out loud that you are taking a deep breath so they can see it in action. Then state how it helped you.

  5. When your kiddo needs a deep breath try this.

  • Use a prompt of counting to help facilitate the duration. Instead of saying “Take a deep breath” say “Let's slow our breathing down, we can do this together. I will count to five and you breathe in and then I will count to five and you breathe out”.

  • Use your fingers as a guide by tapping or using them to count so they can utilize additional senses as a regulation tool too.

  • Another way to help your kiddo take a deep breath is for you to start to take some deeper breaths and ask them to match your breathing. If you can bring them in close to you so they can feel your breath, co-regulation kicks in for an additional benefit!

As always I am here as a support system for you and your kiddo so if learning more about ways to incorporate breathing techniques, movement or mindfulness into your day to day life is something of interest, please click on the button below to learn more about my private support program.


Hope you have a wonderful day - Krista


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