25 Feb

We have used "brain language" in our house ever since my oldest was about 2-3yrs. Specifically the Upstairs/Downstairs model of the brain.

In case you are not familiar, the Upstairs brain is responsible for awesome things like problem solving, language, thinking before acting, social skills, etc. The Downstairs brain is in charge of our fight/flight response to threats and stress, and is where our big feelings come from.

When we go into the downstairs brain in response to a threat or during big emotions, we "flip our lid" and essentially lose access to our upstairs brain.
Of course, there is much more to it than that. But that simple understanding has made a big impact on my kids and how I parent!
I am always looking for ways to deepen the learning and layer in new information to help my son better understand his brain.

For example, like creating a paper mache brain hat! 

Lately, my 7 year old has had to deal with a lot of increased demands on his attention and frustration tolerance. Being a 1st grader is TOUGH.
We have talked about the Upstairs/Downstairs brain model for years. It has helped him to better understand and provide a little separation from those tricky behaviors that show up when he "flips his lid".

Now this model comes in handy when we talk about frustration! Here is how we use it...

Step One: during calm/engaged moments talk about what it feels like in our body to be calm, focused and in Upstairs brain.

Step Two: ask questions like "how can you notice when you are starting to feel frustrated?" "What does it feel like being in downstairs brain?"

Step Three: talk about and explore things that can help bring frustrated brains/bodies back to calm! Things like: breathing, movement breaks, squeezing play-doh, listening to music, snack or water, connection with an adult, etc. Make a plan to USE those strategies proactively at the first sign they are starting to feel frustrated! Use the knowledge you uncovered in Step 2.

Part of this means trusting your kid if/when they say they want or need a break. Engaging these strategies are not rewards for completing tasks, they are what their body needs to complete a task!

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