Your child is angry and beginning to escalate. Or you know your child is anxious and not sure how to feel better. I want to share a simple, fun technique designed for children I recently learned about at the Oklahoma Play Therapy Association’s Annual Conference. Dr. Jennifer Baggerly, PhD, Professor at the Counseling and Human Services at the University of North Texas at Dallas presented the Butterfly Technique. Here is how it works:
- Let your child know there is a way to make them feel better. It is always best to help your child when the emotions have not escalated to a very high level. The sooner you can assist the better.
- Ask your child to pretend to be a butterfly! Model for your child what butterfly wings would look like. Hold your arms out and bring them in toward each other. And then out again, letting your arms / wings flap.
- Practice together with your child how their butterfly wings work. Practice always helps for being able to remember later when it is needed.
- Have your child now let the butterfly breath as it flaps it’s wings. Model for your child how the butterfly breathes. There is more than one way this can be done. The most important message is for the butterfly to breathe deep. One way to model this is by demonstrating and talking through the following wing / breathing pattern.
- As the butterfly opens its wings, take a deep breath – you can count 1, 2, 3 as you open your wings if you wish.
- As the butterfly closes its wings, let the breath out, letting all your worries out – you can count 3, 2, 1 as you close your wings if you wish.
5. Continue “Butterfly Breathing” until your child feels more calm. Model and do this with them as they learn this technique.
Note: One website that shows the Butterfly Breathing technique with the 1,2, 3 count is: elfenworks.org/butterfly. In addition you may go to iTunes and look at the Butterfly Breathing app put out by Elfenworks, which is free. The Elfenworks site has a butterfly breathing script and additional information in regard to their butterfly breathing technique.
To add to your “Butterfly Breathing” you can add “Butterfly Hugs”. Here is how you would do butterfly hugs:
- The arms / wings can fold into the chest with hands moving to rest on the arms, giving a hug to yourself.
- Hands tap the arms and then hands rubbing the arms from left to right.
Good luck with your butterfly breathing and butterfly hugs and remember you may find it helpful for yourself to use as well. And the more you model for your child the more he or she will probably use it!