It’s tough. Your child is likely to be in the yellow zone, and even the red zone often despite your best efforts. This is very normal and natural. Not only is it normal developmentally, it also gives you information about what’s happening for them, and what their needs are in the moment. They’re in the red zone because they’re tired or angry or not sleeping well, or in the yellow emotional brain because things aren’t good at home, or there’s been a lot of changes happening in their body, new stages of development (eg. teething, or growth spurt), a medical problem, bullying or stress at school. The emotional pain is a way of saying something’s not working, or I need rest or some other form of attention. Our bodies are constantly seeking equilibrium and will let us know if something is out of balance.
We want to enable our children to be in ‘the green’ as much as possible. It’s the brain state where they’re more receptive to learning, being creative and able to function at their highest capacity. Most mothers want to know, “is there anything I can do to help them be in the ‘green’ more often?” The answer is, “Yes!”
Other than it being much more pleasant for you, the benefits of helping your child ‘be in the green’ for their nervous system – calming and positive brain wiring – are HUGE. It’s a win/win, for both you and your child.
There is a massive amount of emotional development that takes place in the first few years of a child’s life, and to varying degrees right through to adulthood. Children need the right sort of connection, positive experiences, skilful interventions and healthy modelling from their parents and caregivers to fuel their emotional & social development. This can be likened to a kind of SUPERFOOD or GREEN JUICE for the BRAIN.
How do you provide this for them? In this next section we’ll cover these ways to fill your child up with GREEN JUICE for their brain:
THE TWO KEY INGREDIENTS – GREEN JUICE FOR YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN
These two ingredients are and absolute MUST. They are the elixir for your child’s brain, heart and soul. Focus on these and everything else will fall into place.
1. Embodiment Practices – Whole Body Listening
You already know about this. This is the part where you open your heart and feel how your child feels while at the same time keeping a sense of yourself. The bodyfulness, heartfulness and thoughtfulness practices you learnt about in modules one and two. All in all it’s about whole-body listening, responding and helping your child learn about their inner world. There’s no faster way to bring them back to green. More about ‘being’ than ‘doing’:
“I hear you.”
”I see you are feeling…” “I get it.”
”Hmmmmmm. Yep. Sad.” “Urrgh!, you’re so MAD!”
Use the embodiment practices often. (You should have plenty of opportunities every day!). When your child wants something that they can’t have, acknowledge and stop talking. Repeat if they persist and then if necessary, set a boundary and redirect.
Sometimes it comes down to: do you want to be right or do you want to be connected? Your wise choices can have your child feeling seen, felt and heard. They feel like someone ‘gets’ me. This is extremely calming to their nervous system and nourishing to their brain. Your child will be relaxed, peaceful and happy to ‘be themselves” more often.
And, of course, we all make mistakes. Remember to use the Rupture and Repair process, as explained earlier in this module, to sort through conflict and disconnection and to make things ‘right’ again.
This is the other biggie! ‘Appreciations’ fills them up with emotional juice (this is constantly drained especially with growth and development. The more they have, the better). Tell your child all that you are appreciating about who she/he is and does. “I really appreciate how patient you’ve been while I’ve been talking”. “Wow, I’m loving how you’re growing and changing and doing new things!” “Thanks for being so clear with your desires”. Give appreciations for who they are in their being-ness as well as their doing-ness. Often. Often. Often. Every day. See it as currency for their love tank & green juice for their brain. Fill them up. Give the appreciations ten times more than the boundaries. That’s what their brain needs. Do it in a whole body way using warm eye contact, touch, a verbal “wow, look at YOU, you gorgeous person”, the smiles of gratitude, “you’re awesome”. Give these type of YES’s ten times more than the NO’s. Don’t give up. Sometimes it takes a hundred times to see a shift, and yet it’s SO WORTH IT. Brain wiring. Emotional love tank fillups. More compliant behaviour. Sweet feelings of connection. A child who is thriving! YOU rockin it as a mama!
Embodiment Practices and Appreciations are extremely useful tools when it comes to motivating your child to adopt positive behaviours. A child who feels validated and connected with through being attuned to and appreciated will begin to relax their nervous system and more easily shift into a higher brain state of GREEN. And by helping them indentify the different feelings they’re experiencing, either verbally or non verbally, you’re helping them develop emotional intelligence so they can identify and name their feelings, and manage them more easily in the moment.
On the other hand when these practices aren’t used and when a child feels misunderstood, disregarded or that their experiences are minimized, wrong, or they should ‘just get over it’, the resultant stress will have a negative impact on their nervous system and they’ll begin to ‘slide into the RED’.
OTHER VITAL INGREDIENTS – GREEN JUICE FOR YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN
Just like a health juice needs the added nutritional value of other ingredients to make it a ‘complete food in a glass’, so too does your child’s brain need the nourishment of other key factors. This will make it extra delicious, extra good-for-them, and have your relationship set apart as a ‘WOW”.
Using Play as a strategy
Yes. Use play as a strategy. Not just because it’s fun and they like it. Because it is the language of your child’s brain. Particularly in the first 3-5 years. They process information and learning more through the right- brain. This is less verbal and more creative, imaginative and body-centred. So if you want to connect with your child and teach them something then using play is the vehicle. And here’s a tip: their brain is constantly seeking novelty, newness. When kids have mastered a task the brain wants to move onto something new. So save your ‘play energy’ for the boring repetitive tasks such as getting dressed, putting toys away and sitting at the dinner table. Bring some playful craziness and fun into these activities and your child’s brain will be more engaged. It’s the way you ‘speak their language’. Engage with the right brain first then bring in the left brain if you need to give direction or explanation using words. Doing both is also helping them be whole-brained and smarter. Play is currency for your gorgeous relationship together AND it is an opportunity for YOU to free up your own inner child. It’s the perfect way to awaken your senses and really feel the aliveness of your authentic joy.
Telling Stories as a daily Practice
Help your child’s brain integrate the experiences that they’ve had (make sense of them). A powerful daily practice is to have quiet time in the evening and go over the events of their day with them. If they are old enough to ‘join in’ you can interactively tell the story of what happened that day, and help them make sense of it. It can be a good teaching opportunity, a time to pick up on any relationship ruptures that need repairing, and a good way to help your child see different perspectives, problem-solve and prepare ahead.
Also, telling your own stories models to your children how to tell their own, and helps them feel connected to you as a person outside of the ‘mother’ role.
Daily Focus Time
Every child’s brain needs a challenge that’s goal-orientated. It’s important to give them age-appropriate activities to strengthen their attention and engage in problem-solving and learning. This will create deep connections in their brain as a result. You can begin with all sorts toys and games when they are younger, and progress up to cooking meals, reading, learning crafts, tinkering with fixing things, and more advanced games and activities when they are older. When they are little it will be important for you to ‘set this up’ and show them how’.
Following your child’s lead
They come into the world with their own uniqueness. It’s what makes them special and separate from you. We can call this their essence, their spirit or their soul. You choose what you want to call it. The thing is we need to absolutely honour it and realise that their ‘essence’ might take us on a journey that’s very different from our own. And that’s to be celebrated. How do we do this? We follow the path of their passions and interests. We acknowledge what brings them delight. We seek to support natural inclinations and make choices that are supportive of their unique needs. Instead of presuming we ‘know’ our child and label them accordingly, we understand that likes and dislikes, attributes, tendencies and traits can shift and change as they grow and go through developmental stages. We meet them as a new person each new day allowing space for the ‘not-knowing’ to emerge. So often even the most aware parents are surprised!
You allowing YOUR essence to express, explore and shine is equally as important. They will sense your passion and aliveness giving them permission to do the same. They will not feel responsible for YOUR happiness as you are taking responsibility for this yourself. There’s no better way for your child to embody their happiness potential that to witness you doing the same.
Time in Nature
There’s growing evidence that nature is an energy source that we can draw on just by ‘being in it’. Firstly it mimics the natural rhythm and time of children’s being-ness, their right-brained natural state. It can be very soothing and nourishing for them to run around barefoot on the grass, have deep inhalations of clean air, allow sounds of release in an open space, and experience the timelessness and delights of nature in her cycles. And for us as mothers it helps us reconnect to our child through their natural state of being-ness. We can experience more relaxation and aliveness with the possibility of both you and your child activating green brain states very quickly.
How can you bring nature into your day? Can you park the car a bit further away and take a walk with your child through the trees? Can you leave 20 mins earlier or stay later to have time in the park. Daily.
I talk about embodiment a lot. This is because the body is SO IMPORTANT. The brain and nervous system are part of the body, and need stimulation and nourishment to fully develop and to give your child the experience of aliveness and a healthy body, mind, emotions and spirit. Movement produces neurochemicals into the bloodstream which helps lift mood and energise and calm the body. It’s provides a way for pent up energy to be released helping your child’s body to come into balance and sometimes even ward off a meltdown or tantrum. It helps with so many things including co-ordination, balance, strength and even the physiological release of toxins through deep exhalation that comes with exercise.
Young children can get this exercise from play. Older children can be introduced to body-centred activities and sports if they’re not getting enough exercise naturally. These include yoga, martial arts, dance, and many forms of sport. Exercise that is done within a team is great for children to learn about relating to others and managing within structure and rules. All in all it’s ‘green juice for your child’s brain’. Well worth investing in.
It goes without saying that nutritional food also provides ‘green juice for your child’s brain’. All their organs and body systems will be functioning well which means they will ‘feel good’ and their brain will have the nourishment it needs to work well. Your child’s immunity will be stronger, they’ll be less likely to get sick. Their physical growth and development will be fully supported.
The neuroscience supports the importance of good sleep hygiene. This is about helping your child get into a routine of winding down before bedtime and creating the right conditions for a good nights’ sleep. This will help their brain consolidate and integrate all the learning’s of the day. A lot of processing happens during sleep. It’s important to turn off technology at least an hour before bed, and provide a dark, well ventilated room for a good night’s sleep. Encourage relaxing activities during that last hour such as bathing, reading, storytelling, quiet connection time, listening to soothing music and meditations. This can become one of the rituals of the day. Their brain will begin to predict this sequence of events in the evening, and begin to calm automatically. This is providing great foundations for deep and nourishing sleep, and for your child to wake refreshed with a brain that is less irritable and able to function ‘in the green’.
Let’s end with the most powerful strategy of all. This strategy has the potential to change subconscious patterning and beliefs that rob you from being a better version of yourself as a mother.
What we know from the attachment science is that when you make sense of your own early childhood experiences and patterns of attachment, you can begin to heal and change and give your own child a different experience.
This is the most incredibly powerful and effective thing you can do. It will have the greatest impact on your child.
The way to heal your childhood wounding is to bringing awareness to it and taking the steps to understand the past and have a different experience of the present.
There are many ways to do this including the practices and meditations within this program, and by seeking professional counselling/ personal development as required.
Well done you have completed Module Three. Head on over to the Facebook Village and share your thoughts and experiences using ‘Green Juice for your child’s brain’