family

Creating a YES brain

The Whole Brain Child duo Dr. Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson’s latest book release is entitled The YES Brain. Based on real neuroscience by leading experts in the developmental field, this book is an invitation create ideal conditions for your child to develop the lifelong skills of resilience, empathy, insight and a sense of balance. With real and down to earth techniques of simple shifts in how one does their day-to-day parenting, this manual is a quick read for changing things up in ones’ home and fine tuning attitude. I am speaking from the perspective of a clinician who works with families,  and as a parent to four children.

A YES environment offers children an opportunity to grow their creativity, curiosity and neural connections toward a healthy brain. Sadly, many factors in our current generation are contributing to children growing up in a NO world. The NO world (that many of us experienced in our own childhoods) is based on fear, rigidity, and anxiety. Sadly, this negative pattern is often perpetuated for generations, and endemic to many institutions across our social landscape.

What we know now, thanks to brain imaging, is that a child’s brain is really a reflection of the environment they are raised in. Brain imaging has also shed light on the level of flexibility of the human brain (a concept known as neuroplasticity), and its ability to change, which negates most of the 20th century’s concept of how a brain works.  An entire genre of thinking has evolved with this new information, and the parenting market is clogged with products and books espousing miraculous techniques for brain growth.  It might be hard to discern what is real and what is fluff when shopping for the right type of book, product, food etc, with so many things crowding this new market. The YES Brain, and everything else written by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, are the real deal.

 

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Digital Sabbath

Digital Sabbath. Not a new idea by any means, but one being thrown around lately. Can you unplug to be with your loved ones for a day, half a day or even an hour? This conundrum we have found ourselves in happened so quickly, most of us can probably trace our rapid plunge into this new reality phone contract by phone contract along with evolving technology. If you have observed young children these days, this is the only reality that they know.

For a little insight into this experiment and experience, please find some paper and jot down a few reasons for not unplugging yourself. Now find a time and some people you enjoy hanging out with for some eye contact, conversation and other activities, preferably in a place which doesn’t have any screens. Turn off your devices and tuck them away somewhere safe. Have your friend or friends do the same. When you return, let the experience sink in for a few hours and then jot down some feelings connected to this experience . What exactly did you miss about your machine? Are you finding it hard to just simply communicate with others as we rely more and more on texts and documenting our world. Good Luck. If you succeeded in this adventure and enjoyed it, could you try it again for a longer period of time?

Yesterday’s project: Were you able to learn more about neuroplasticity. Did any of the information encourage you to try tackle something new?

Post Mother’s Day USA

Like or not, we are all connected to Mother’s Day here in the USA. Unlike other days invented and endlessly marketed by our culture, this one lives on a stratosphere of its own. For reader’s living outside of the US, this blog entry might be relevant for you as well. Most likely motherhood conjures up some sort of emotions, depending on where you are on the spectrum as: a daughter, son, mother, grandmother, foster parent, step parent, soon to be parent, unable to become a parent, etc.

For today’s art project, we will explore our connection to motherhood through a letter writing exercise. Please find some paper and a pen. Write a letter to yourself and describe the most complicated emotion connected to Mother’s Day and the topic of motherhood. Give yourself some advice on how to tackle the emotions you connected to it. Now turn the letter over and start over, with another letter to yourself but date it ten years from now. Explore those same emotions, but imagine that time has aided in giving you wisdom connected to handling these emotions. What kind of advice can you give yourself? Can you think of ways to self soothe yourself if these emotions are intense or a source of baggage?

Yesterday’s art exercise:

Are you a victim or a survivor. This is a loaded question might require quite a bit of time and energy to answer. The goal is to become a survivor and the best way to start is to think of yourself a survivor. Survivors tend to have a quality of resilience. One way to think about this is to ask yourself, Do you own your emotions or do they own you?

 

Spring Cleaning….dealing with perfection

Are you drowning in stuff? This conundrum of the western world seems to have left many people completely incapacitated. As the furniture catalogs of perfect spaces come through the mail, and the topic of organizing is growing, many of us have been left feeling inadequate due to the inability to make all of our “stuff” look the way the media tells us it should be. Some have even identified this new organization craze as a new type of eating disorder, with the ever present images of the perfect living room, the perfect closet, and the perfect orderly kitchen. The solution according to many of these companies is to buy more “stuff” to assist in organizing, thus leading to a larger problem of having more things.

Today’s art project will explore your connection to this problem either motivating you to clean up a corner of your world, or make peace with pervasive imperfection. Find some paper and make a list of the spaces in your home you would like to organize. After you make this list, jot down some feelings these disorganized spaces are causing. It might be stress, anger, shame confusion, resentment or no feelings at all. Carve out some time into your day or night and try to tackle a tiny space, maybe even a drawer or shelf. Can you reorganize it? Please stick to this one spot, so you don’t get overwhelmed. How does is it feel once completed?  Too complicated or overwhelming?

OK. The alternate option is to find some to the mailers, catalogs, magazines and newspapers lying around your home showing the perfect spaces. Rather than being intimidated by them, really take a look at them and jot down on the actual picture the real behind the scene details. Is it a real home or just a set for a photo shoot? Can people really live in these perfect homes? If it is a real home, are these people happier than you because their spaces look perfect? Do these people who live in this space have more free time than you? Spring cleaning has taken on a whole new agenda these days, and these this little exercises are meant to help you explore your feelings connected to it. Happy spring!

Can You Indulge in a Sick Day?

Too busy for a sick day? This seems to be the growing trend in our world, and this form of thinking seems to have even infected elementary school aged kids. There is no longer time for a sick day, because the amount of work required to make up for the missed day can be more debilitating than the initial one needed. Today’s art project will explore this phenomenon and help discover your relationship to a good old-fashioned “sick day.” Please find some paper. Draw a line down the middle. On one side draw images or write a list of reasons to stay home if you are feeling sick. On the other side, write the reasons you feel pressured to not take a sick day, including the consequences by your employer/school etc. Most likely, your paper might parallel the lopsided view our society has on our physical health. Just because it is the new norm, it does not make it all right. We are often sent mixed message by employers to stay home if we are sick, but then are made to feel very bad if we choose this route of catering to own needs. Sound familiar?

Yesterday’s Project: Did you find any patterns in your two images? Do you tend to be a leader or a follower in your cohort? Are you happy with your social status? Are there things you would like to do to change your pattern or break out of old habits? An honest assessment of our past can be a great place to start to assess these patterns we often carry along and repeat in new relationships. Assertiveness is often the key element needed for change.

Social Status

In honor of President’s Day ( in the USA, which is the location of this blog) today we will explore our own leadership skills and where we fit in a social hierarchy. Please find two pieces of paper. On one, please draw a very simple family portrait (family of origin), maybe just using stick figures or a simple face to represent each person. Make sure to include yourself.  On the other page, please draw a portrait of people in your current environment (this might be your current family/relationship, a group of close friends, co workers, roommates etc). Now look at the two pictures together and look for patterns of where you fit in each group. Are you a leader in both? Are you a follower? There is no “right” place to be. This is an exercise in self exploration and learning about patterns in our lives.

Yesterday’s exercise: Do you suffer from technology overload? Are you nostalgic for a less “connected” stage of life when we relied more on real human interactions? Is there anything you can do to find a balance between the two worlds. Did you notice a connection in your timeline between improved technology and decreased human interactions?