Many of our families that come to Sprout discuss the strategies they use in everyday life to ‘Survive’ with their child’s challenging behaviours. Here we like to help our families ‘Thrive’ in everyday life rather than just ‘Survive’. This can be very tricky and requires a child’s caregiver to ‘step back’ and use challenging situations and opportunities for our children to learn and thrive rather than just survive through a situation and wait for it to happen again.
Dan J. Siegal; Author of the Whole Brain Child, explains that by understanding how our child’s brain works will not only help us to support our child work through moments of distress and meltdowns but can also help our child learn from them and understand what is happening inside their brain and body. To help a child ‘Thrive’ they need to feel safe and secure. By helping our children to understand their thoughts, feelings and sensations we can help them feel less overwhelmed and more secure in their day to day life.
I want to share with you a favourite book of mine that has helped me understand and explain the complexities of the brain and how we can support our children and their forever developing minds. I myself am not a parent yet so I hadn’t been exposed to providing this kind of support and communication to a little one’s mind until coming to Sprout. However; this job has pushed my knowledge and encouraged me to seek out opportunities to further my skills in mindful communication with our children.
The Whole Brain Child by Dan J. Siegal discusses 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind. It explains the brain in a holistic manner that helps us to ‘step back’ and look at the bigger picture during different behavioural and emotional situations. Dan discusses the difference between the left side of our brain (logical thinking) and right side of the brain (emotional reactions). By understanding the difference between the two and discovering when each side of our child’s brain is working, we can tailor our conversations appropriately and help our child to feel safe in their emotions and reactions and to then to help them process, understand and learn from their thoughts, feelings and reactions from a situation.
By integrating and joining both sides of the brain at the right time, this helps our children and therefore our families stay in the ‘River of Wellbeing’. The River Of Wellbeing sits our children in a metaphorical river that describes when they are stable and at peace with their life and it’s surroundings. When our children struggle to acknowledge, understand and react appropriately to their emotions and situations they often show rigid or chaotic behaviours! This is when they are stuck on either side of the “River of Wellbeing’. Our job as clinicians and parents is to help our children to understand and learn from these situations to help stick inside the ‘River of Wellbeing’ as best they can and therefore away from rigid or chaotic behaviours. We help them to learn and ‘Thrive’!
Every parent and caregiver have goals and dreams for their children. These often involve wanting our children to be happy, healthy and engaging in life to the best of their ability. The important message of this book and its knowledge will encourage you to pay attention to the everyday, ordinary experiences you share with your child. This is where the best learning can happen. We can combine learning in obvious teachable moments as well as those challenging times that all parents go through with their children. Use those ‘nothing significant is going on’ moments to enjoy and point out happy, successful and feel good moments and to build the confidence of our children to feel good about who they are and what they can do. We can then use those challenging moments to inject the learning we have done with our children in their calm and alert states and encourage them to use these strategies to work through each moment.
Remember! 80% of the time is about Survival and getting through each day (you’re doing a great job by the way!). 20% of the time is about using those opportunities mentioned above to discuss, learn and then thrive! I highly recommend taking the time to read The Whole Brain Child to give you confidence and guidance in your communication with your child to help them and your whole family Thrive in everyday life!
Hopefully I’ll see you next time!