by Jenna Laroque
Master of Clinical Psychology Student
There is a growing body of research indicating that mindfulness techniques can reduce anxiety, depression and symptoms of ADHD in children. The basis of many mindfulness techniques is deep and conscious breathing. This is a tricky task for many of us adults. Imagine being a hyperactive five year old trying to consciously think about each breath!
‘Milkshake Breathing’ is a technique developed especially to teach children the skill of slowing their breathing to help relax and reduce anxiety. Specifically, the strategy encourages abdominal breathing. This is long, deep belly-breathes in and out, slowing the heart rate and calming the nerves. Abdominal breathing encourages self-awareness and allows children to actively think about the motion. Teaching this to kiddies is often a hard-task, but the Milkshake Breathing analogy creates a fun activity – with a yummy reward! So how does Milkshake Breathing work?
Treat yourselves to a milkshake at your favourite café! Alternatively, you can grab a cup of water at home and use your imagination (you can have an imaginary strawberry and chocolate milkshake all in one!). Put your hand on your tummy and take a big deep breath in – count to five. Feel your tummy moving out as you fill with air. Using the straw, slowly breath out – count to five. Feel your tummy move back in as the air leaves your body. The aim of the game is to make the bubbles as silent as possible. Rigorous, loud bubbles means that you are breathing out too fast and you need to control the pace of your breathing a bit more. It may take a few milkshakes to get the hang of it! The beauty of this technique is that it provides a basis of deep breathing. Slowly, your child will be able to implement this strategy at any time and place, without the milkshake.