Imagine telling a 9-year old that to calm themselves during a panic attack, they must learn how to control their breathing. When a counselor taught me the breathing methods I would later need to drill down on daily with my child, my mind went numb. I am barely helping them with their third grade math homework. When we went back for counseling, they would ask about the assigned breathing homework, and each week I would say it isn't working and we see no changes. Nothing feels more defeating than feeling as if you are failing your child. See also: "Who Really Got an A on the Science Project Volcano?
Seriously, the thought of teaching my child to breathe through a panic attack on their own, as a 9-year-old, not awesome. Zero progress. It was not that the counselor was wrong. My child was too young to process the information given, especially the part about making sure they concentrate with each breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Fail.
In Albert the Fox and The Very Tall Tree, I added these words to draw attention to panicked breathing but not breathing techniques.
Albert’s tummy was doing flips. He had never felt like this in his life. He felt his breathing getting a little faster and his heart beating stronger as he thought about the gusty wind in the tree.
Dear parents of 9-year-olds and older, this breathing thing might or might not work for your child, and that is okay. In our families experience it did not so we kept trying the next best thing. Anxiety is not choosy. It will take what it can get. Your role is to do the same. Instead of narrowing in on one technique because someone else said it worked for them, try what works for you. Your job is to keep moving forward with the next best technique.
The one technique I would say never to drop is prayer. Maybe this week, instead of praying for healing, pray that you may have understanding. Hard prayer.
Tell me how you are doing. I'd love to hear from you.