Deirdre’s Tips for Understanding your Child’s Brain
How do you respond to your children when they’re upset?
For some parents they immediately go to the Left Side of the Brain with logic/reasoning.
Do these phrases sound familiar?
“It’s not a big deal that it broke. Just fix it”
“There’s no reason to cry. Losing is part of the…
★ There is nothing wrong with this ‘left sided’ response however it usually doesn’t work when a child is upset. This is because left-brain logic doesn’t connect with a child having a right-brain meltdown.
★ Other Parents react using the right side of the Brain. This reaction provides the chance for emotional connection however it may cause overwhelm and chaos if not careful.
★ Ideally, we work with integrating both sides of the Brain to work as a team in helping children to calm down and restore a balanced and regulated bodily state.
★ These signs are ALL messages that your child sends to let you know that their brain isn’t in a state of integration, and that they need help building skills when it comes to handling challenging situation.
★ Think about yourself now, and how you respond in high-stress situations. Do you generally respond with logic, explaining the reasons, do you typically match emotion with emotion, elevating the chaos in the situation? Or are you usually more integrated, combining left and right brain approaches?
★ Be Mindful as Parents that sometimes before you respond to your child you may need to redirect yourself, breathe and focus so that you can connect to your child in the most appropriate way.
Techniques to Use to Help Re-Integrate Your Child’s
When your child is upset logic won’t work until you have responded to their right side emotional needs. Acknowledging feelings in a non-judgmental way, using physical touch, empathetic facial expressions, and a nurturing tone of voice, are all ways you use your right brain to connect. Once you sense that your child’s brain has settled enough that it can handle a left-brain, logical approach, you can then redirect by problem-solving with your child or making suggestions on what he can do now that he’s feeling calmer and more in control of himself.
Nonverbal communication plays a big role in the Connect and Redirect strategy. Small changes in your behaviour can make a huge difference. Below is a list of various ways to connect effectively with your child using nonverbal cues. Try to be more mindful of how your child perceives these and what way you want your child to view you.
Using soft eyes, a relaxed face to show that I am in control of the situation, not losing my cool and that the child doesn’t need to be fearful
Using a soft, calm, steady tone of voice helps me to communicate that I am here to comfort my child, that I am available to soothe and help my child
My shoulders are relaxed, I use open hands and I am kneeling down on my child’s level, so I am not communicating anger to my child
Offering touch/hugs to show comfort and help soothe a child to bring their body back to a balanced state
I allow my child to finish before I speak, I am a listening ear but don’t use long pauses that imply guilt/shame.
I try to stay as calm as can be as I know if I don’t it will only heighten my child’s reactions, I move closer with relaxed movements
Deirdre Ward: Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist & Play Therapist (B.Ed., MIAPTP)
Tel: (085) 1780736
COPYRIGHT © 2018 DEIRDRE WARD