Reviewing! Like all human beings, children are ruled by their emotional right brain and their logical left brain. Helping children to understand and integrate both sides of their brain equips them with an invaluable tool that enables them to lead a more balanced, emotionally stable, and mentally healthy life.
Even though our goal is to raise calm and happy kids, very often we make mistakes in the moments when our children are at their most vulnerable. For example: when our kids throw tantrums, we may attempt to appeal to them through pure logic, instruction, or worse case scenario, by “losing it” ourselves. When we comprehend what is going on in our child’s brain during these meltdowns, we learn a better way to relate to our children as well as a powerful method to teach them effective tools for coping with their own tumultuous emotions.
- Use logic to make sense of feelings. Simply telling children to “calm down” or “stop crying” is not an effective way to help them through what Dr. Bryson calls “emotional tsunamis.” Demanding children to be rational, when they are operating under the influence of their irrational right brains is a mis-attuned effort often made in vain.
- Instead, offer children empathy. Acknowledge that they are feeling bad, scared, or frustrated and express that you are sorry they’re in pain. As they become calmer, ask them to explain what upset them and help guide them through their story, while investigating what triggered the meltdown.
- Help children tell their stories. Protective as we may be, children will all experience at least mildly traumatic events. Mean teachers who ridiculed them, like scary moments when they got lost in the supermarket; instances that incited fear, anger or sadness will arise. We can help children resolve these traumas when they occur by supporting their effort to make sense out of what happened to them.
This process starts with talking to them about it. Don’t avoid stressful topics in hopes that children will forget all about the incident. Instead, gently guide children, as they tell you their story. “When did you notice your mother wasn’t around? How did you feel when you realized you were lost?” Talking may seem difficult at first, but the more a child can make sense of his or her story, the more integrated and calm he or she will become. Contrarily, any unresolved trauma can present problems later in life.
Next time Part 3 will follow to share some activities for the right and left brain (ages 4 to 10), for the left brain (ages 4 to 7) and finally the right brain (ages 7-10).