‘Just Breathe’: This Short Film Illustrates How Mindfulness Helps Kids Manage Their Emotions

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
A girl meditating in order to manage her emotions
Wavecrest Films / YouTube

If you have kids, you know a little something about the great, big emotions they have. In fact, one of the hardest things about being a parent is dealing with the ways in which these emotions can sometimes completely implode, and not knowing exactly how to handle your kids (or yourself) when that happens.

Trust me: All kids lose their shit. It’s normal, and you are not a bad parent just because you have a kid who is having a bad moment. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t look for ways to help our kids through these tough times.

Enter mindfulness and meditation. You’ve probably heard these terms buzzing around the internet for a while. In a nutshell, mindfulness is taking some time to become aware of our emotions — really letting ourselves feel them. And meditation can be as simple as sitting or lying down with our eyes closed and becoming in tune with the feelings we so often hold inside.

The idea is that sometimes just being aware of our feelings is a huge step in the direction of managing difficult feelings. And it’s not just theory: Mindfulness and meditation have proven benefits in terms of behavioral and emotional well being of children as well as increasing their ability to concentrate and perform well in school.

This is all pretty awesome, right? But how the heck do you get your kid to actually practice mindfulness and meditation? What would that look like exactly, and how do you get started?

Well, the good folks at Wavecrest Films put together a gorgeous short film back in 2015 that is a fantastic intro to mindfulness and meditation for kids and their parents. The film was made by two parents, Julie Bayer Salzman and Josh Salzman. It was inspired by what their 5-year-old son was learning in kindergarten about how emotions affect different parts of the brain, and the ways that breathing can help calm the nervous system.

So, being the fabulous filmmaker parents that they are, the Salzmans got together some of their son’s classmates and family members and filmed them discussing the way that the emotion of anger feels in their bodies and minds and how breathing can help bring their anger levels back to a more manageable place.

The film was totally unscripted, and so the kids are just being themselves and telling it like it is — which, as we know, is what kids are masters of. The results are beautiful, raw, and totally relatable. Check it out:

When describing how anger feels to him, one boys says, “When I’m mad, my brain can get a headache, and it can start hurting.” Soon after, a girl describes it in her own way: “When your body can’t control itself, mad just takes over your body.”

Wavecrest Films / YouTube

How simple and yet entirely accurate is that?

But the way one girl describes it is really quite striking and is an image that I think makes the whole concept of anger that much more understandable.

“It’s kind of like if you had a jar, and your jar would be your brain and the glitter in your jar would be how you feel,” explains the young girl. Then she takes the metaphor a step further, alluding to the way that an emotion like anger can so easily spiral out of control.

“When you shake up the jar, the glitter goes everywhere…that would be how your mind looks,” she says.

Wavecrest Films / YouTube

Mind. Blown.

Soon after, these very enlightened kids describe what they have learned to do when they start to feel like their emotions are beginning to make them feel as though they are losing control.

“First, you find a place to be alone, then you try to relax and calm down,” says one girl.

“When I get really angry and want to yell, I just take deep breaths,” says another girl.

Wavecrest Films / YouTube

I think I need to hire these kids as my personal life coaches. For real — they are totally inspiring.

By the end of the video, the kids take you to a place of resolution, where they are all now breathing through their feelings and where the viewer starts to feel just as calm as they do. The video is almost like a guided meditation, except your guides are beautiful, honest, wise young kids. How perfect is that?

As you hear the sounds of deep breathing and soothing music in the background, one child describes what happens when her feelings of anger start to resolve. “I feel more calm, my brain slows down, and then I’m ready to speak,” she says.

And the girl who used that awesome glitter metaphor to describe her anger? She says that the way she feels once her anger has dissipated is that all the glitter has now settled down to the bottom of the jar.

Love. It.

Besides the fact that watching this video just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, and totally Zen, I am blown away by how smart and articulate these kids are. I think it’s a great video to use when you introduce your own kids to the idea of mediation. Kids can see right through most bullshit, and meditation can seem like a pretty abstract concept to them. So hearing about it in the words of fellow kids is a huge step in the right direction.

So excuse me while I go sit my kids down to show them this little gem. I’m thinking we’ll all be “just breathing” a little more deeply — and happily — by the end of it.

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