Well Being Resources
The Five Finger Breathing exercise is super simple to remember and can be used on-the-spot when we’re overwhelmed, need some space to think, and when we want to calm down to make better choices.
You can use it pretty much anywhere, at any time. The exercise anchors our awareness back to the present moment. The idea is to use the five fingers to count each breath cycle.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the way you present mindfulness. If you’re relaxed and happy, your children will associate mindfulness with good, connected feelings that they will remember their whole lives. You wouldn’t want to make mindfulness feel like a chore or, worse, a consequence for negative behaviour, because the associations would then not be positive.
The best way to introduce mindfulness is by practicing it in the moments when your child is calm. Practice when your child is in a good mood and tell them that the exercise can help them calm down the next time they feel overwhelmed. Model the process yourself to show the child exactly what to do.
Here’s the exercise:
Purpose: Emotional regulation / Calm / Focus
What you need: Nothing!
After a few tries, the child can use this calming strategy independently. Here’s how it works:
1. Tell the child to fan out a hand “like a star” and hold it up in front of them.
2. Next, direct them to take their Peter pointer finger from the opposite hand and begin to trace along the hand that is fanned out. Tell them to inhale through the nose as they trace the outside of their Tommy thumb, then exhale through the mouth as they trace along the inside of the Tommy thumb. Inhale as they trace the outside of the Peter pointer finger, exhale as they trace the inside of the Peter pointer finger…and so on and so forth until all of the fingers have been traced.
3. As they trace each finger, encourage them to not only focus on every breath, but also consider how the small movements feel on their hands. Conscious attention applied slowly has a calming, awareness building, and relaxing effect.
When they are finished, ask them about their emotions. Is there a difference in how they feel afterwards?
(Simply start with tracing if combining breathing with tracing of the fingers feels like too much at once. Even the simple act of tracing can help your child to focus and calm down.)