Posted in Positive Parenting, Therapy

The child brain and parenting- integration

A book that every parent and teacher should be required to own and read.

It is the fact that our brain has many different parts with many different jobs.

We have left side of the brain that helps us think logically and organize our thoughts into sentences, and a right side that helps us experience emotions and read nonverbal cues. We also have a “reptile brain” that allows us to act instinctually and make split second survival choices, and a “mammal brain” that leads us towards connection and relationships.

One part of our brain is devoted to dealing with memory, another to making moral and ethical choices. You could say that our brain has multiple personalities, some rational, some irrational, some reflective, some reactive. This explains why we can seem like different people at different times!

The key to helping our kids thrive is to help these parts work well together, to integrate them. Integration takes the distinct parts of your brain and helps them work together as a whole. Integration put simply is linking different elements together to make a well functioning whole. Your brain cannot perform at its best unless it’s different parts work together in a coordinated and balanced way. This is what integration does, it coordinates and balances the separate regions of the brain that it links together. It is easy to see when our kids are not integrated, they become overwhelmed by their emotions, confused and chaotic. They cannot respond calmly and capably to the situation at hand. Tantrums, meltdowns, aggression, And most of the other challenging experiences of parenting, and life, are a result of the loss of integration, also known as dis-integration.

Our goal as parents is to help our children become integrated so they can use their whole brain in a coordinated way. We want them to be horizontally integrated, so that there left brain logic can work well with the right brain emotion. We also want them to be vertically integrated, so that the physically hire parts of their brain, which let them thoughtfully consider their actions work well with their lower parts, which are more concerned with instinct, gut reactions,  and survival.

With new technology there was a scientific surprise that has shaken the very foundations of neuroscience, the discovery that the brain is actually plastic, or moldable. This means that our brain physically changes throughout the course of our Lives, not just in childhood, as we had previously thought.

You maybe asking yourself what molds our brain? The answer is simple, experience. Even into old age, our experiences actually change the physical structure of our brain. When we undergoing experience, our brain cells, called neurons, become active or fire.

Our brain has 100 billion neurons, eat with an average of 10,000 connections to other neurons. The ways in which particular circuits in the brain are activated determines the nature of our mental activity, ranging from perceiving sounds And sights to more abstract thought and reasoning. When neurons fire together they grow new connections between them. Over time, the connections that result from firing lead to rewiring in the brain. This is incredibly fascinating. It means that we aren’t held captive for the rest of our lives by the way your brain works at this moment. We can actually rewire it so that we can be healthier and happier. This is true for all ages.

Genes play an important role as well, especially in terms of temperament. But findings from various areas and developmental psychology’s suggest that experience profoundly affects the way our brain develops.

Hours of screen time, playing video games, watching television, texting, will wire the brain in certain ways. On the other hand educational activities, sports, and use that will wire it in other ways. Everything that happens to us affects the way the brain develops. Children whose parents speak with them about their feelings have children develop emotional intelligence and can understand their own in other peoples feelings more fully. Children whose parents talk with them about their experiences tend to have better access to the memories of those experiences. Everything that happens to us affects the way the brain develops.

The wire and rewire process is what integration is all about, we want to give our children experiences to create connections between different parts of their brain. When these parts of the brain collaborate together, they create and reinforce the integrative fibers that link different parts of the brain. Resulting in a connection that is more powerful and can work together even better. We want to help their brain become more integrated so they can use their mental resources to full capacity.

When a child has a dramatic but the scary experience, such as a car accident that results in the temporary loss of a loved one, it is important for the child to be able to retell the story over and over again and for an adult to help fill the story with logic this will help diffuse the scary Intermatic emotions in the child’s right brain so that they don’t rule. Adults can help by bringing in factual details and logic from his left brain, which at a young age is just beginning to develop. If an adult were to not help the child talent understand the story- the child’s fears would be left unresolv e and could surface in other ways. 


Dan Siegel’s book “The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind”

The Dan Siegel Website: Full of great resources, including more on the healthy mind platter, videos, and audio of his wheel of awareness and breathing practices.

Video Series: 6 steps to Build Kindness and Resilience in Children with Dan Siegel


Mother, Pediatric Nurse and a Trail Blazer for Positive Change.

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