The brain is divided into two hemispheres with each side having its own unique functions. The left side is logical, literal, linguistic, and linear (the four L’s). The right side is holistic, non-verbal, and focuses on the emotions and experiences of relationships. When it comes to development, very young children tend to be right brain dominant! This is especially true during the first three years of life when they live completely in the moment and have not mastered the ability to use words and logic to express their feelings.
When can you determine a change to using both side of the brain? Once your toddler begins asking “why?” all the time! This is because the left brain strives to know linear cause-effect relationships and uses language to express logic.
The following are some strategies that parents can use to help their children survive and thrive through the challenges of childhood. However, these strategies are not just for parents. Anyone who plays a significant role in a child’s life, whether you’re a grandparent, relative, teacher, or babysitter/nanny, can use these strategies in nurturing whole-brain development.
Strategies to Help Your Children Thrive!
- Connect & Redirect: Surfing Emotional Waves: First, connecting with the right brain means acknowledging your child’s feelings. Regardless of how illogical and frustrating your child’s feelings may seem to you at the moment, they are real and important to your child. Using nonverbal signals, such as physical touch, empathetic facial expressions, a nurturing tone of voice, and nonjudgmental listening are great ways to connect and communicate with your child’s right brain. Once your child’s brain is back in balance, you can move to step 2 to integrate the left and right brain. Next, after responding to your child’s right brain, you can now redirect with the left brain through logical explanation, planning, and discussing misbehavior and consequences.
- Name It to Tame It: Telling Stories to Calm Big Emotions: Help your child retell the story of a frightening or painful experience. Allow your child to retell the story as much as he can and help fill in any details, including lingering feelings since the experience. You and your child can retell the story several times, with the aim to lessen his fears or pain. Also, this technique will help your child bring the left and right brain together and make sense of their experience.
- Engage, Don’t Enrage: Instead of presenting ultimatums, direct your child to use more precise and specific words for how he/she is feeling. Then, give your child the opportunity to practice problem solving and decision making. Also, this will help your child consider appropriate behaviors and consequences, and assist them in thinking about the wants and feelings of others.
- Move It or Lose It: Moving the Body to Avoid Losing the Mind: Research has shown that movement directly affects brain chemistry. Therefore, physical activity is a powerful way to help your child regain balance and change his emotional state. This could be in the form of yoga, going to the park, blowing/popping bubbles (who doesn’t love that), or a bike ride.
- Increase the Family Fun Factor: Making a Point to Enjoy Each Other: Sometimes, with all the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to forget to have fun with your family. As such, “playful parenting” gives your children positive experiences to prepare them for relationships and encourage them to connect with others. Some great ways to have fun as a family include, playing improv games, telling jokes, being silly, playing board games, family bike rides, and making cookies. Lastly, don’t forget to take interest in things they care about.
More strategies and information can be found in the book The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!