Childhood can be stressful, and stress is bad for the growing brain. Our Breathing Butterfly project is all about giving kids stress-busting coping skills. Using a universally loved butterfly metaphor, we give you - whether you're a tech-savvy kid or a caring adult - the resources you need to deal with stress in a simple and straightforward way.
Teachers, you can empower your students by explaining to them how to use a few deep breaths and visualize a butterfly, in what's known as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Simple to learn, quick to use, but even at only three minutes in length, it packs a powerful punch.
Medical professionals, social workers, and others who work with children... feel free to peruse our resources. Or, contact us if you'd be interested in a looped butterfly visualization - perhaps English interspersed with other languages, providing both calming and teaching moments, in your waiting rooms or closed circuit TV for recovery or pediatric units.
When you teach them the Breathing Butterfly, kids learn that, while they may not be able to control the environment, they do have some power over their response to what goes on around them. It's a bit like a vaccination, an 'innoculation' that helps protect against stress... except that there's no needle. There's only a gentle butterfly, always ready to help kids feel better, and always as close as their very imaginations.
Here's how it works: The Breathing Butterfly exercise starts with closing your eyes and imagining a little butterfly you can call your own. Visualize it in your mind opening its wings; as it does this, take a nice deep breath counting 1-2-3. Hold your breath at 3 and then, slowly breathe out counting 3-2-1. Imagine the butterfly closing its wings as you breathe out. Repeat one more time. How are you feeling now? Are you getting a little more relaxed and peaceful? Take in good feelings - inspiration - when breathing in; let go of any negative or stressful feelings when breathing out.
Everyone has stress, and all kids, whether highly stressed or simply dealing with the stress of growing up, can benefit from additional coping skills. MBSR has been shown to build resilience and improve outcomes by reducing the toxic effects of the body's response to this stress (see our studies page for details). Older youth who learn the Breathing Butterfly technique for the purpose of teaching younger children will surely also benefit, themselves, perhaps without even knowing it.
Butterflies as Pets? Caution
Children who participate sometimes then ask that the class attempt to raise butterflies. Butterfly raising kits can be purchased online, but we caution you that outcomes vary, and that butterflies are very short-lived. Better to plan a field trip to a butterfly garden, or, where class pets are an option, animals (rather than insects) have the best stress reducing potential according to the American Pain Foundation, http://www.painfoundation.org/learn/living/treatment-options/complementary-medicine/pet-therapy/. They cite benefits including: lower anxiety, decreased depression, and lower blood pressure.
Thank you for doing what you do. We would love to hear from teachers, social service workers, and healing professionals about ways in which we can improve these resources and help you help the kids you care about. Please CONTACT US for more information.