Educating Your Child
How to Belly Breathe
Teach your child this relaxation technique:
- Sit up straight in a chair.
- Place both hands on your belly.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose. Pretend you’re filling up your belly with air. Feel it blow up big like a balloon. Keep your chest still.
- Blow the air slowly out of your mouth, through puckered lips. Feel your belly get small.
- Repeat this slowly 5 to 10 times.
The more your child knows about her asthma, the more likely she’ll take the necessary steps if her asthma warning signs flare.
Start with the basics.
No need to be technical. Teach your child, in simple terms, how asthma affects the airways in his lungs, what happens when he comes in contact with a trigger, and what the asthma medicines do. Struggling for air or having a tight feeling in the chest can be frightening, particularly for children. Understanding what happens in his body during an asthma attack or episode can make it much less scary. If you need help explaining the basics, visit Lungtropolis with your child to learn about asthma by playing an online game.
Talk about the common asthma warning signs and help her recognize which ones are especially true for her. Common warning signs are:
- Shortness of breath, problems breathing, or feeling like he can’t catch his breath
- Tight or painful feeling in the chest or throat
- Coughing and/or wheezing
- Feeling tired or grumpy
- Feeling sick
- A reduction in peak flow meter reading
Emphasize your child’s power to take control.
Asthma will always be part of his life, but there are lots of things he can do to manage it. He can stay away from triggers. He can take his medicines as directed. And, he can respond to asthma warning signs in ways that lower his risk of an asthma attack or episode.
Teach her the three things she needs to do if she has asthma warning signs:
- Tell an adult she knows that she’s having asthma warning signs. Do it right away!
- Take her quick-relief medicine.
- Sit down and rest. (Do NOT lie down, as this makes it harder for the medicine to go where it needs to.)
Learn and practice belly breathing with him so he can relax and stay calm when symptoms begin. (See the box on the right for instructions.)
Keep things positive.
Your words, actions, and attitudes can help your child think of herself as a healthy, active kid who is taking control of her asthma. Encourage her to do the same healthy activities a child without asthma would do—try out for the school play, shoot baskets, learn a musical instrument, and so on. Offer sincere praise when you see her taking responsibility for her asthma, like remembering to take her inhaler without being reminded. Let her know how proud you are that she is managing her asthma.
Children easily pick up on the feelings and attitudes of their parents. So be positive and encouraging with yourself, too. It can be scary to let your child go out of town on a class field trip, but remind yourself that—thanks to your efforts—he’ll know what to do if he has asthma warning signs. Acknowledge your fear, but push beyond it. You’ll let your child know that you have confidence in him…which will increase the confidence he has in himself.
The truth is, even with all the education and encouragement you give your child, there will be times when asthma is hard. Having asthma “under control” does not mean she’ll never have another asthma attack or episode. It’s important that your child does not think it’s her fault if one occurs. Let her know that being in control of her asthma means doing all she can to stay healthy and following the three steps if she has asthma warning signs.