Teaching children from an early age to deal with what life throws at them will only help their future emotional wellbeing. The first of six values in our Open Ears programme looks at being present. Being present helps children to develop good listening skills, including listening to themselves. Being present also helps them to reduce their stress levels, feel calmer and more centred, relaxed and more positive. 
Grieving the Living: Alzheimer's

How breathing techniques work 

One of the methods we teach for children to achieve being present is how to breathe. Why? Breathing is something we take with us wherever we go. It’s a useful tool for slowing down mentally and physically, and can help us relax, or bring a sense of calm in a crisis. Breathing in fresh air and being in nature are also part of the programme. 
 
But why do breathing techniques work? It has to do with how your nervous system functions. 
Here’s a quick biology lesson to explain why we think a handful of breathing techniques are important for children to learn.  
 
Your autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions like heart rate and digestion, is split into two parts. One part, the sympathetic nervous system, controls your fight-or-flight response. The other part, the parasympathetic nervous system, controls your rest and relax response. 
These two parts of your nervous system can’t be turned on at the same time, which means if you work to activate one, the other will be suppressed. 
 
Breathing more deeply also allows for more carbon dioxide to enter your blood, which quiets down parts of the brain, like the amygdala, that handle your anxiety response. More carbon dioxide also helps synchronise your heartbeat and breathing. 
Learning how to breathe

Help for teachers and children 

1. Explore our classroom resources. We have gone to work to create engaging, fun-to-use resources for the classroom that promote emotional health and listening skills. Download some of our free resources and sign up to receive updates on our page for schools. 
 
2. Become an expert at helping children deal with loss. We offer life-changing training programmes for individuals and groups with our Helping Children with Loss programme which can even be offered online. Find out more here. 
 
3. Start a conversation. Our Open Ears - Box of Hearts card deck can be used in the classroom, during play and at the dinner table for creating a dialogue with children about being a good friend, how to handle difficult emotions and more. This set even comes with your own Barney Bear. 
 
4. Adapt the curriculum. The best way to equip children with the tools for resilience and happiness is to teach them in the classroom. Our Open Ears programme provides an entire years' worth of PSHE lessons, circle times and assemblies as well as stickers, certificates, and worksheets. Let us help you teach about grief - the programme is available for ages 4-7, 8-12 and 13+. 
 
5. If you need support in dealing with your own losses, we have Certified Grief Recovery Specialists all over the country who can help. We also have Advanced Grief Recovery Specialists who can support you online.  
Deep Breaths
About the Author 
Maria Bailey
Maria Bailey is an Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist and looks after media relations for Grief Recovery UK. She has spent her career working in public relations. Maria now lives by the seaside in Devon with her family and dog, and is a school governor and preschool chairman. 
Tagged as: Schools
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