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Monday, April 11, 2011

Right-Brain Workouts for Kids & Parents

So, what do you do if your child is no longer a babe in arms?  How do you continue to nourish his/her brain’s right hemisphere, not to mention your own, to promote emotional intelligence and overall well-being?  In Western culture, we tend to overvalue and over-emphasize left hemispheric learning.  Therefore, to keep nurturing right hemispheric health and the connection between you and your child, I have adapted Jill Bolte Taylor’s (2006) and Rick Hanson’s (2009) recommendations for right-brain health.  A brain in balance increases the likelihood for physical, emotional, social, and mental health.
Dr. Lisa’s Parenting Tip:

Right-Brain Workouts for Kids & Parents:
v     Be present.  Notice when your mind is elsewhere, bring it back to the present moment.  Easy ways to become more present: sit down and put your feet up for five minutes, look around at your surroundings, gaze into your child’s eyes as he/she is speaking, notice your breath breathing you—in and out, in and out, in and out.  Straighten your posture to wake your body up. Do a few gentle neck or shoulder rolls.  Imagine you have roots growing from the bottom of your feet grounding you in this moment.  Ask your child to imagine strong roots extending through their feet deep into the ground. Now try to lift him/her or ask someone to try and lift you…you might be very surprised by the power of your mind! 

v     Touch.  Offer your child a manicure or pedicure, or ask for one.  Hold your child’s hand on a walk.  Massage each other’s feet at bedtime while telling one another about your day.  Snuggle your child in your left nook.  Offer a kiss!  Touching the lips stimulates the parasympathetic branch, the calming side, of the autonomic nervous system. 

v     Look for Beauty.  Fill your home with art, music, flowers, aroma therapy…anything that your eyes, ears, mouths love to feast on that fills your hearts with joy.

v     Eat, Drink, and Be Merry. Good nutrition is the foundation for brain health.  Try not to skip meals and become over-hungry—a big trigger for mood meltdowns.  Make dinner together.  Cook to your favorite music.  Decorate the table as if it is a special occasion, even if it’s just Meatball Monday or Tofu Tuesday. Make spaghetti and eat it with your hands.  What we eat results in positive or negative feelings and thoughts—it’s up to you.  Under your paediatrician/physician’s guidance, take a good multivitamin (complete with B vitamins) and an Omega-3 Fatty acid supplement. 

v     Play.  Find games or activities that fill you up and that your kids love, too.  The goal is to have fun, laugh…not to raise the bar even higher and feel like you’re not a good enough parent because you don’t play enough.  Scrabble's not your thing, try bananagrams.  Puzzles make your head hurt, try jumping on the trampoline or bed. Play Pat-a-Cake or make up your own secret family handshake.


v     Be Creative.  Finger paint, draw each other’s body outline, make cookies and handle the dough with your hands, play music, make a collage of pictures and words that represent your goals and visualize your family's future, dance, do a few yoga moves, knit, sing, hum—you don’t need to be an “artist” to be creative and inspire your kids’ creativity!


v     Get all the information FIRST.  I often remind myself and my kids to “get all the information first, before freaking out.”  Inevitably, when we are able to do so, we slow down our emotional reactivity significantly enough to be able to respond much more proactively, calmly, and accurately to the situation at hand. Remember, it only takes as little as 90 seconds to change your biochemistry response to any situation.  So, count to 90 and get all the information before making a decision. 

v     Start with “YES”, then move to “NO”.  This suggestion relates to getting all the information.  When stressed, we are apt to shut down our kids’ requests with an abrupt “No!” Instead, respond, “Yes, I hear you.  I need to think about your question.  Please ask me again in 5 mins. when I can give you a thoughtful answer.”  OR “Yes, I hear that you want to visit X, let’s look at the calendar to decide when the best time would be.”

v     Call a friend.  Listen more talk less.  Ask for help.  Feel your feelings.  Be brave and share what makes you feel vulnerable.  

v     Love.  Notice something you love about yourself. Notice something that you love about your child today.  Something that makes you feel especially proud of or appreciative about in him/her.  Heart-to-heart communication strengthens emotional intelligence skills like empathy and compassion.

v     Smell.  Close your eyes and breathe in the sweetness of your child’s smell.  Spritz yourself or your house with your favorite non-synthetic scents like lavender or rose, lemongrass or jasmine. 


v     Take a Bath.  Lie in silence under the water with your ears suspended in sound deprivation.  Or, fill the tub with bubbles and make bubble sculptures.


v     Take a walk in the woods.  There is no better place to feel present, to tune-up your tired senses, or connect with your child, than in nature.

v     Send a prayer. Think of someone you love.  Picture them in your mind’s eye.  Send them this prayer:
May you be safe.
May you be healthy.
May you be happy.
May you live with ease.


Sources:

Bolte Taylor, J. (2006). My stroke of insightA brain scientist’s personal journey. New York: Penguin Group.

Hanson, R. (2009). Buddha’s brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love & wisdom. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Lisa for these beautiful tips to promote emotional intelligence and overall well-being. Such great reminders to continue to nourish our hearts and the hearts of our children.... and "feast on that what fills [our] hearts with joy."

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