So I wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote again this blog. I think I just couldn’t decide what it should really be about. Should it be about brain development like the podcast? Should it be about learning to breathe like Kristi’s last blog? Or should it be about Thanksgiving because that is what happening right now? Nothing came to me. I even contemplated calling Donna and begging for her to take this week for me.
Was this writer’s block? (or is it bloggers block?) I was overwhelmed and stuck. My brain wouldn’t budge. I wondered if that’s what’s it like when kids become overwhelmed with everything that goes on over these next several weeks. Their brain becomes blocked. With all the hustle and bustle and here and there and fast and slow I wondered if their brain becomes so overwhelmed that they to end up wanting to ‘delete and re-write’ like I did. Not literally writing and deleting but more through their behaviors, actions and words. Maybe there is more crying and clinging? Maybe there is interrupted sleep and more aggression. Whatever it is their brain is overwhelmed and stuck with all of the busy-ness of the adults in their lives.
As we look ahead to the next several weeks I think it becomes important to remember the brain development podcast – we are in charge of growing their brains. Be kind and gentle to their brain. Understand that all of this busy-ness may overwhelm their brain to the point of ‘waving the white flag melt-downs’. Remember to breathe over the next several weeks AND breathe with your children. They are never too young to learn to take a deep breath for relaxation. And finally ponder what the whole holiday season means for you and your family. Share those thoughts outloud with them as you walk through the next several weeks together.
How has your child shown you when their brain is stuck? What have you done to help them get through it?
I’m not deleting and re-writing this one……
As we come into the busy-ness of the holiday season, we asked a special guest blogger (Kristi Cooper) with expertise in stress relieving techniques, to help us share some thoughts with you on how to breathe more through the next couple of months.
I remember being so frustrated at not being able to calm a crying baby that I walked outside and around the house several times before I was calm! Stress levels rise for parents and children for a variety of reasons. Children take their cues from parents and when parents’ are feeling out of control, children will sense the stress and respond with clinginess, crying, and other comfort seeking behaviors. As a young parent, I knew that removing myself and calming down was important. I just wish I had had a few more self-calming tools in my repertoire at the time!
Now I know that some very simple breathing techniques can lower my heart rate and take the stress down a notch! To calm yourself and a child, start by noticing your heart beat. It is probably racing like your child’s! Now take a deep cleansing breath and pay attention to each inhale and exhale, slowing down each exchange for about 10 breaths. To help you pay attention you can silently count to 4 on each inhale and count to 6 on each exhale. This will slow down your breathing and heart rate and bring down your child’s anxiety level at the same time. You can teach your child this technique as well, asking them to imagine their belly as a balloon blowing it up gently on each inhale. On the exhale, they can imagine blowing a cloud across the sky. Pinwheels or blowing bubbles are also good ways for a child to regulate their breath, thus reducing the stress response.
Breathing . . .
I could not begin to guess how many times I’ve asked one of my children or grandchildren “Why did you do that?” And the usual answer is “I don’t know.” While that may push one of my buttons, it is likely a truthful answer.
I learned a new phrase when listening to the podcast – executive functioning. That is the part of the brain last to develop and it has to do with reasoning, decision making, and assessing risks. Executive functioning is not well developed in preteens and teens. Well, that may not be “new” news to you but now you know the” why” behind some of your child’s behavior.
Don’t we all remember some of the stupid and dangerous things we did as preteens and teens? And do you cringe to think your child might be making some of the same choices? As parents we don’t have to just wait it out with fingers crossed until the teens grow up and the brains are more fully developed.
The experts in the podcast have two suggestions on how we can be engaged parents and help our children.
- If you are present and involved prior to your child making a decision, you can help her stop and think through the consequences. What will happen if I do this? What will happen if I do that?
- If you become involved after the fact, there is still an opportunity for learning. Talk with your child about the consequences of his action and why this perhaps wasn’t the best decision.
In simple words – we have multiple teaching and learning opportunities. Do you have examples to share from your youth or with your child that show undeveloped executive functioning? How did you help turn it into a learning situation?
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast this month make sure you do. I laughed out loud as I was listening to the gang talked about parents being Brain Farmers -as in growing the brains of young children. Living in rural Iowa it certainly created an interesting picture in my head. My children are 14, 12 and 7 and I guess I’d like to think I’ve done a lot of brain growing over the years.
One thing that really struck me was how each and every experience my children have with me makes a difference in how their brains become connected. That means that all of their experiences good, bad and otherwise have helped to wire the connections in their brains. That’s a lot of responsibility !
Rather than focus on moments I may not be proud of as a parent, I thought about the positive things that has helped to grow their brains. Spending time talking, laughing and playing together grows brains. Ensuring our children get proper sleep, nutrition and physical activity grows and wires their brains.
So really, all of it is important. Each and every little thing makes an impact on their brain. How very cool that just plain ‘doing things’ with our children – that active involvement in their lives- builds their brains. Or like Doug says in the podcast, “ No More Fads Needed”. My kids don’t need the next best gizmo and gadget this Christmas – they just need me!
What are some ways that you have grown your kids’ brains by just being with them? What are some ideas that you could give other parents about how to be ‘with’ their child while growing their brain?
There’s a reason that kids act like zombies sometimes, and it’s all in their brains. Children’s brains keep changing from birth through the teen years and into early adulthood. Learn how parents can help those young brains develop — listen to this month’s Science of Parenting podcast.
ISU Extension materials
From University of Georgia Cooperative Extension
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