How are you doing? Really, I mean how are you doing, not just in the polite sense of the question, but in the reality of life in Stage 4 lockdown. It’s not easy working from home, schooling our kids remotely, and being isolated. In this current climate we all feel from time to time like we are struggling. We miss our normal life, our friends, our families. When we are under ongoing and intense stress/trauma as we are in this COVID time we can sometimes be outside our ability to cope well. Understanding and knowing how our brain works can help us understand what’s happening when the kids get upset and angry, throw tantrums, or flat out refuse to do any more remote schoolwork. It also helps us adults to understand why sometimes we lose the plot, become upset, angry and frustrated, sad with life, and/or overwhelmed with the pressures.
The front part of our brain, is our reasoning, thinking empathy and compassion part of our brain. It helps us manage emotions (illustrated by the fingers). This is the upstairs brain - our prefrontal cortex. The downstairs brain is called the limbic system. The brainstem (illustrated by the wrist) is responsible for breathing and our heart pumping. The thumb folded over represents the amygdala responsible for sensing danger. This is where our flight, fight, freeze responses occur. When fear, danger and intense emotions or BIG emotions take over... our upstairs and downstairs brains stop talking to each other and we flip our lids on the upstairs brain. We lose the plot and our amygdala fires off sending us into fight, flight or freeze. Our thinking and reasoning abilities are impaired or all together knocked out.
So what can we do when we are flipping our lids and how can we get our upstairs and downstairs brains working together? First of all, those big emotions need to calm down. Calming things such as a big hug with a person, teddy/soft toy or a pet, getting under a doona, taking time out in one’s own space, can all help. We might also need to let off steam by running, riding, climbing or doing big body movements. Kids might need some space and time. Adults might also need to step outside, take some time, and cool down. We need to try to allow that calming opportunity without reacting and responding from our own emotions. The child and you need to regulate. Once the upstairs and downstairs brains talk to each other then we are ready to re-join relationship and start to think and reason again.
If you notice that schoolwork is getting too hectic and the kids are getting angry or you are getting angry or upset, stop for a break and engage in soothing and calming things so we all don’t flip our lids. Get outside in the backyard, blow bubbles, rest, colour in, have a snack, play in the sandpit or mud, take a walk in nature, do some gardening or digging, climb a tree, listen to music, do Mr Brown’s 6-week lockdown challenge for PE. Mums and Dads could have a cup of tea or coffee, a snack, take a break from work, have a play in the backyard for a bit with the kids, get out walking or riding so that everyone can get back to being calm and peaceful.
To learn more, see Cassie Eckard’s video on your child’s Primary Schoolbox page explaining big emotions.
https://youtu.be/7lDCypH6nws for kids
https://youtu.be/YZoIlnNMqqc for teenagers
Visit Cassie’s Corner for more ways to stay calm and manage at the moment.
Stay Safe. Be peaceful, and remember to make sure you are OK.
Assistant Principal - Primary