Chapter 1 of the Whole Whole Brain Child discusses the importance for parents to understand the inner workings of their child’s developing brain. This will help them to better understanding their child, respond to them more effectively in difficult situations, and help them to build foundation for social, emotional, and mental health.
When parents understand how the brain develops, they can help to integrate their child’s brain. Integrating the brain, in this sense, refers to integrating the different parts of the brain (i.e. the left and the right side). If the different parts of the brain are integrated, and can effectively work together to address a situation, the child can thrive.
Though this may sound complicated, the basis of the idea is quite simple. Parents can use just about every life experience to help their child’s brain to integrate with itself. The Whole Brain Child discusses many strategies for doing so throughout the book.
There is good news for us grown-ups too! The human brain, though its thought to be fully developed by a person’s mid 2os, remains mouldable throughout all ages. As long as your brain is functioning healthily, you can continue to develop and mould your brain.
The writer’s of The Whole Brain Child paint a vidid picture of what mental health, in relation to brain integration looks like. They describe a river of mental health. If you are floating along, in the middle of the river, you are integrated, and therefore socially, emotionally, and intellectually balanced. However, if you veer towards either banks; the bank of chaos or the bank of rigidity- you are experiencing a lack of integration. In other words, the individual parts of your brain are not working together effectively. If you are veering towards the bank of chaos, you may be losing control of different aspects of your life (i.e. organisation, emotions, etc.). However, if you are veering towards the bank of rigidity, you may be employing too much control to your life (i.e. lack of flexibility, lack of perspective).
Children, as well as adults, are floating along these rivers of well-being. Parents can help their child to move towards, or stay within, the middle of the river; living a balanced and well-integrated life. However, it is important to note that it is perfectly normal for children to veer towards the river banks. They do this because they are new to life, and still in the beginning phase of their development. When this happens, parents can help their children to learn from these experiences. Learning from these experiences help children to become more resilient and both strengthen and deeper their own understanding of the world. Their brains, subsequently, become more integrated. So you see, even the most horrifying toddler temper tantrum can have a silver lining.
…even though it may not seem that way when its happening in the middle of the fresh fruit isle in an action packed supermarket.