The Whole-Brain Child: Chapter 5
We all have things we worry about or focus on more than others. This chapter teaches us how to help our children think of the bigger picture. The author suggests to have our children draw a Wheel of Awareness when they get overwhelmed with emotions.
This wheel allows kids to see that there are other things in their lives that they can focus their attention on. In the middle of the wheel is the hub. The hub is the mind with which we become aware of everything in our lives. The rim of the wheel are thoughts, feelings, desires, memories, perceptions and sensations of the body. As you can see in the image above, this is an example of how you can fill out the wheel. It may seen tedious at first, but this is a great tool for kids. It lets them see the bigger picture. It helps them stop obsessing about things that aren’t worth obsessing about. If you are in a situation where you can’t make a wheel, you can get creative with it. You can use a pizza or your plate. You can point to different parts of the pizza or plate to get your point across.
There is a word that’s introduced in this chapter and that is ‘mindsight’. It means two things, understanding your own mind and understanding the mind of another. This wheel helps our children understand their own minds. Earlier in the book the authors mentioned that our brains build new neural networks based on our experiences. When our children use this wheel and realize how their fears and perceptions are just a small part of their lives, their brains change in response. Their brains change for the better. The brain is such an interesting organ in that it can be molded and shaped in any way you want. It just has to have the right tools and support. As parents we have a duty to help our kids think through things so that they grow up with a healthy mind.
The chapter also distinguishes between “I am” and “I feel”. When a child says that they are sad, it becomes part of them and they get stuck on the perimeter of the wheel. The proper way to say it is that they feel sad. Feeling something and being something are two different states of mind. Feeling something can pass. It is a fleeting moment. You can feel many different things. Being something and saying that you are sad becomes part of you. We need to help our children shift this way of thinking. The wheel helps our children influence the factors that affect their lives instead of being influenced by them.
There will be times when our children can’t seem to get over a fear or certain emotions. We can help by teaching them that their emotions come and go. The chapter compares our emotions to the weather in that they both change. It takes time but teaching them that they aren’t going to be scared or sad forever is an important step. We also have to teach our kids how to create the wheel. We have to explain the wheel to them so they can actually use it. We can help our children understand what emotions are going on inside of their bodies. We can teach them to SIFT through Sensations, Images, Feelings and Thoughts.
It might seem easy or obvious but children don’t know how to describe what is going on in their bodies. We can help our kids recognize what butterflies in their stomachs are or recognize what happens when they are frustrated.
We should also help our kids sift through images in their minds that affect how they feel and act. Images in our kids’ minds can affect what activities they participate in at school or how they make friends. Helping them recognize which images trigger a certain reaction can help them control how it makes them feel or act.
We also have to label what they are feeling to broaden their knowledge. The chart above is helpful because it shows kids what emotions look like. We can teach them how to recognize their emotions. Instead of just feeling happy, mad or sad, they can feel excited, frustrated or disappointed.
Thoughts are different from images, sensations and feelings. Thoughts are those little mini conversations in our heads. We can teach our children to argue with negative thoughts in their heads. We have to teach our kids that they don’t have to believe any negative or unhealthy thoughts they might have.
We can practice the SIFT method with our kids on car rides or when at the doctor’s office. But this isn’t always easy for kids, especially young kids. Some children get engulfed by a certain fear or feeling that it is hard for them to get back to the hub and focus on the bigger picture. We can teach our children to focus on their breathing to calm down. We can even do this ourselves. When I feel frustrated because she won’t eat or she won’t sleep, I should focus my attention on my breathing and calm down. I should focus on the images of her when she is smiling and laughing. I should think of the moments after she falls sleep and how she looks so peaceful.
This is a great chapter because it allows you to see how integrated your child’s brain can be. It also helped me with my own mind.