Primitive Brain reactions to modern day problems

Sometimes, when we are faced with a very emotional moment, it can feel like we are both in the emotion and at the same time, separate from it.  It is almost as if we are looking down at ourselves.  This is because the primitive part of our brain has taken over, where the automatic programmes of Flight, Fright and Fight reside.  And is why, in these moments, it can feel like we have no control.  As we experience our primitive brain reactions to modern day problems.

Whilst this plays an essential role in getting us out of the way of an oncoming car, we do not want to rely on our primitive brain reactions.  Especially when our best friend has simply said something mean about our drawing.  But this takes active development and practice to do well.

Your child can only manage the feelings of others when their own are not overwhelming them

However, unless your child’s well-being is effectively nurtured, they are unlikely to offer a considered or empathetic response to others.  So if need be, help them to take a moment as you model or suggest a calmer and more considered response. 

Through your non-judgmental interactions, you are showing your child how they can experience their feelings.  And express their ideas while respecting and accepting the needs and wants of others.  You can acknowledge how another persons behaviours might be displaying an emotion they are feeling.  All the while, gently reminding your child that their emotions are all their own. 

Talk with your child about the people and emotions they see around them, imagining how a given situation must feel.

You can model this in the ways you interact with your child and the choices you make.  During a difficult moment, show them and remind them that you always have a choice to make.  When you stepped on a brick you had asked them to tidy away, you have a choice over whether you continue with a negative emotion.  Getting cross or actively seek to change it by asking them to put it away.

You can also show your child how you might support family, friends or a charitable cause.  You can consider the actions that are best suited together.  A visit to grandparents for example might be much better than flowers sent through the post.  Or volunteering your time may be better than a charitable donation.

Help them to recognise how they could respond warmly to a friend’s feelings and offer them opportunities to do so

Through the games you play, the programmes you share and the books you read, support your child in recognising the behaviours on display.  You might like to think about the emotions that could be making a person act in a particular way and talk about how they could act differently.

Once you help your child consider how someone else might be feeling, talk about how you could support this person as they begin to feel better.  With more difficult emotions, it may be easier to use the characters in a book or a show you are watching together, rather than the people directly involved.

Teaching your child strategies that recognise and help manage their feelings and emotions, offers them coping methods that they will rely on for life.  And in time, even pass on to their own children.

This session is taken from our course: The Secure Child

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.


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