Understanding the basics about brain development and functioning has everything to do with having that "aha!" moment in understanding your child's behavior and figuring out what to do about it. And, luckily, recent developments in brain science (or rather, explosions in brain science) have met up with mindful parenting experts like Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. to create helpful and readable parenting books such as: The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind (Siegel & Payne Bryson, 2011). This book provides an excellent foundation to positive parenting theory.
Consider how young children seem to become easily overwhelmed by their emotions, much to parents' dismay. Logic often seems lost on young children who are in the midst of a tantrum, where their emotional brain regions are flooded and cortical areas associated with emotional control are not yet fully developed. Even teenagers who visually can appear quite mature seem to act impulsively and make poor decisions compared to adults - and speaks to the importance of parental involvment in teen's lives.
Now brain science explains what actually happens when children (and parents) become flooded with distress. Their "fight or flight" stress response kicks into high gear, dominated by emotions like fear and anger - and rational thinking takes a back seat!
Children can benefit from understanding some very basic lessons about brain functioning and how it relates to self-regulation, learning to be aware and compassionate in the present moment, welcoming and valuing their emotions, and gradually learning to evaluate the nature of their thinking. Raising children with mindfulness may help them to be better prepared to learn, modulate their feelings, be empathetic and attuned with others, and better able to manage stress. Research is now exploring positive benefits of mindfulness on brain development.
Adults can teach mindfulness to children in everyday moments by teaching and practicing together. Parents who practice mindfulness themselves may create a less stressful environment for children, mirroring a calm, compassionate demeanor. Mindfulness can also be cultivated through the senses, using opportunities such as mindful eating, listening, seeing. Daily mindful breathing (even for just a few minutes) may help reduce stress and encourage greater awareness, acceptance and clarity of thinking. Exercises in mindful listening in relationship with one another may also help to improve relationships and social skills.
Revamping approaches to parenting via clear instructions on how to retrain old reactive/ineffective parenting habits and develop the capacity to have collaborative, constructive conversations with your child, just when you thought it wasn't possible!
While healthy marriages can be beneficial to children's development in a number of ways, the reality is that approximately half of marriages in the United States end in divorce. When divorce becomes inevitable, there are important ways in which parents and other supportive adults can help children transition into their post-divorce lives.
Consider the divorce experience as a story that is being written, and you (the supportive parent/s) are the author. In truth, children do internalize their experiences as a narrative, and important adults in their lives have great influence over its content. Remember your child's other parent is also important in their lives, regardless of your feelings towards them.
The following resources may be helpful in planning and navigating the journey through divorce:
So, reflect on what you want to contribute to your child's story. Build on themes of resilience to increase self-confidence, with messages about what does not change with divorce, as well as coping with and overcoming challenges that come with change.