How can we raise joyful resilient kids? We talk with Dr. Mona Delahooke, a clinical child psychologist and the author of Brain-Body Parenting: How to Stop Managing Behavior and Start Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids.
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Welcome, everyone to creating a family talk about adoption in foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am both the host of this show as well as the director of the nonprofit, creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about how to stop managing behaviors, and start raising joyful, resilient kids. Now, who doesn't want that? We all want that. We're gonna be talking today with Dr. Mona della hook. She is a clinical child psychologist, and the author of many books, however, are some books, but the new book, Brain Body parenting, how to stop managing behaviors and start raising joyful, resilient kids. Now you know, where I got the title from? Welcome Dr. Della hook to creating a family. Oh, thank you so much done. I'm really excited to be here. And congratulations on the new book. That is an exciting time. And I'm really happy for you. Thank you. Now I want to couch that the audience we the book is a general parenting book and a great one. But I want to couch our answers really towards our primary audience, which are parents of children either adopted foster or kinship, kinship children. So now, of course, not all of our children that fit in those categories have experienced trauma, but many and most probably have. Children are generally removed, either through foster care, or even just through general adoption, just through infant adoption or international adoption. There has been some trauma or some and certainly for foster and international some neglect that has resulted in children needing to find new homes, be they foster adoptive or kin. So our kids bring with them often additional, additional additional trauma, additional damage, additional issues. So I want to couch what we first of all, the premise of your book Start with that just the basic premise, which is really been where all your much of your research has been as well. So start with that. And then as we talk, well, we will view things through a trauma lens as well.
Absolutely, well, the idea that we are all very interested about the about brains. And there's been a lot of literature, parenting literature and early intervention, all sorts of energy around the brain, because the brain is so interesting, we have the decade of the brain, of course.
But what I found most helpful in my career, helping families with children is this knowledge that the brain gets its operating instructions from the body. And everything that's going up to the brain is coming in through our various sensory systems, including this inside of our body. But this is how humans wire to their worlds. So when we understand that we're never just a brain or a body, we're both. That's where we can start to see your children's behaviors and their development in a whole new light, to me a light that's more holistic, but also, it gives us something to work with, that I call the platform. And the platform essentially is our brain and body connection are our physiological state, which is a fancy way of saying our brain and body is flexing in real time. It's always reacting to what's coming into our coming into our systems, and what we're putting out. So it's a new way of kind of looking at the brain by saying, Okay, we're going to acknowledge that our little babies going on up to adults, have brains that have been wired to their environments.
Do you mean their physical environment? Do you mean their emotional environment? Are both? Well, I think it's absolutely both. But as, as your as your listeners will very well know that you can have a, you know, a one year old, a little what we would consider a little one that you bring into your home who has had a history of messages from the world from the emotional world from the physical world that they're either unsafe or not cared for. And that fee amounts of love and attention and and gorgeous sacrifice that you give to that baby at one
will not always very quickly rewire them to predict safety from humans in that way. It's a very long and arduous process depending on the child because there's so many individual differences. And there's so many different there's constitution there's genetics, there's the type of environment your baby came from.
Enter your environment, utilize
So it's it's complex, it's complex. Yeah, it is complex. And, you know, the history of resiliency and not the history, but the study of resiliency, which is also part of this book, Brain Body parenting, the science of resiliency is fascinating. And, and there is something to say for genetics, and also just happenstance and luck, um, you know, who was the what type of neglect? Who was the abuser? It's fascinating, I think, just to understand that, you have a quote from the book that I really enjoyed, it said too often, we are focused on the child's behavior, instead of the child, we are concerned about solving problems rather than cultivating the relationship. Talk to me some about that I, I do think, and I perhaps raise my hand to say, as a parent, at times, I was guilty of that to focus on the behavior, because that was what was driving me crazy. I'd rather focus on the child itself. And because I figured, well, if I could just get the behavior under control, I could have time for the child. But so talk to me some about that state, because I do think that in some ways, it's would be overly simplistic to say it capsulate the entire book, but I did truly love that statement. Thank you. And I am the same boat as you were, my children are older now. And I, of course, I think it's natural, we focus on their behaviors. And I liberally used things like timeouts that I now know, I maybe didn't have to use, because there's another way, but let's just give ourselves a break. First of all on this is a self compassion zone, no blame, no shame, because as parents, we are all doing the best that we can. And I think that's so important. If you hear me say something, or hear us say something that's like, Oh, this is an ideal way of dealing with a certain situation, you're like, oh, shoot, I didn't do that, please, please,
we will have, we will have made you more stressed. And that's the opposite of what I aim to do. And what I want parents to have is more compassion for themselves. Because truly the messages we're getting from our culture from our pediatricians from our education system, from the way we were raised, is very behaviorally oriented. And and that's, you know, that's kind of the, the paradigm that that we're in right now. But what I'm suggesting is that we can actually view behaviors at through a new lens. And that is as just the signals of much deeper things that are going on inside of a child's body in mind. And once we look at them as useful information, rather than something we have to immediately discipline, then, you know, a new, a whole new array of stuff comes out for us, our tool box gets bigger, because we don't have to think discipline first, we can think, Hmm, let me reflect on what this behavior might be telling me about my child right now. Mm hmm. So it allows us to, to look at each child in a way that now we're looking at the behavior we're thinking, you know, how is my child processing and, and interpreting, they're in their world right now. And through that lens of our nervous system, we see that our bodies and brains are constantly evaluating experiences subconsciously and consciously and telling us if we're safe or not. So with our, with our, our vulnerable children, our children with many, if not most of our children with toxic stress in their histories, have more vulnerable nervous systems. So they they get triggered by things, because they have more cues of threat than safety, in the early wiring up of their experience of the world. So they may be more triggered, they may be more highly reactive, they may be more tricky, to predict their responses, they may be unpredictable, all of these things come into play. So but that's why I want to look at the behavior as with more with more curiosity and, and as a as kind of an interesting roadmap rather than something we have to be afraid of, necessarily. It's a clue is giving us a clue.
And, and thank goodness, we have those clues, because we need to, we need to be able to attune to our children. But it's so easy to take it personally. Like if we're being so kind and we're being so nice. And all of a sudden we get back something that feels threatening to us. As a parent. That's so stressful. So I think we also have to have so much gentleness on ourselves, don't you? Oh, absolutely become. Most of us come to parenting with our own needs. I mean, all of us come to
Parenting where their own needs. And oftentimes our needs are to be a good parent and to be perceived as being a good parent. And if that's if we're in if our child is not able to, it's frustrating to be trying your best. And if we're not to work, how do the you talk about the three pathways? How does that? How does that relate to having to understanding the brain body connection? Yeah, so what we think about it's kind of in in a little bit of a hierarchy, but I talked about the platform is the thing that launches behaviors our brain body connection, and then it's related to a concept that Lisa Feldman Barrett, a neuro neuroscientists that I that I'm finding so useful, in her her research lab, about the body budget, that our that our actual bodies run about a budget, like a bank runs a financial budget runs money, we run our actual physical bodies, the salt, the water, the glucose, the oxygen, everything we need to stay stable. Everything we do, every interaction we have, every discipline, nary measure that gets thrown on us all impacts our body budget. So the way in the book that I described that we measure a body budget is is through indicators of the what are what of our nervous systems, the autonomic nervous system, but all we have to really think about it is some pathways, because I translated the polyvagal theory into little usable chunks. And basically, the idea in the theory is that our nervous system runs on three major pathways. And there are more sciences showing that it's more complicated than that. But this, these are just useful and understanding ourselves and our kids, I think. So I'll just really briefly explain what they are, when we're calm when we're feeling calm in our bodies. And when we are feeling able to learn. When we are I say we are children in ourselves, and we're open, open to learning new things, and we can be stretched, and we're feeling basically grounded, that is known as the green pathway. It's, it's, where are our body budgets pretty flesh, we've got energy, we've got gas in the tank, we're ready to go. And, and basically, you look for just signs on your child's body to like, basically, relaxed posture, facial expressions that are kind of smiling or neutral, their tone of voice changes, they're not too soft, they're not too loud. It's basically, you know, the green pathways kind of easy to get, it's like when your child wakes up in the morning, and you're like, This is gonna be a good day, it's gonna be
versus sometimes maybe when your child wakes up in the morning, or you wake up in the morning, and there's agitation, and there is a grimace on the face or wide open eyes scanning the room, the body might be tense, maybe in this later on in the morning, a child may be kicking or screaming or trying to run away. So this green pathway, often adaptively gives way to the sympathetic nervous system, which we call the red pathway. And that's where movement happens, that's where a child might be moving their mouth or moving their body. And it's not a choice. It's a default mechanism whereby the nervous system tries to protect itself through movement when it detects threat. And the red pathways where we get easily as parents get called from school, bad things happen here, right, it's a moot it's a fight or flight response. But we have to remember that a red pathway person is vulnerable and their body is detecting threat. So if I can apply it, for example, to a child with complex developmental trauma, there may be a smell that triggers that perhaps there is a subconscious a noise, or something that triggers their brain to predict danger, even if they're currently safe. And this is why we have to have a lot of compassion for that red for those red pathway behaviors. And then finally, the third major one is the blue pathway, which is more is is commonly known as kind of that freeze response. But it's where you may a child may lose hope, they may and they don't move very much. They don't want to play, they're disengaged, their eyes are turned down, they may look sad may appear disconnected and really kind of looking through you rather than at you. And this. This is really a conservation stage in humans, if they've been exposed to stress for or trauma for very long periods of time. We want to make sure that we get them activated and feeling like socially engaged again as soon as practicable.
And these again, all of these pathways are our adaptive ways that the nervous system tries to
To protect itself,
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Alright, another I enjoyed the concept of body budgeting. And just from a real practical standpoint, which is not so theoretical, but practical of saying, you know, we've got to have, like you say, we have to have enough rest, we have to have enough food. And if we have to have enough play, we have to have enough stimulation, all these things impact how our children will respond. And so all of that all of it matters, I think
I think about things something simple, but it's it's, it's there's so much research behind the quality of deep sleep cycling. So if our child isn't getting or we aren't getting into that deep sleep cycling over a period of weeks or months, you run a deficit in your body budget, humans aren't meant to go to be sleep deprived. And many of our of our traumatized children have sleeping issues have sleep issues, and they don't get into that deep sleep. So I checked that off the off the bat really first, you know, sleep is so important. But just like you said, this body budget thing is interesting, because even think about blood sugar. Exactly. Right. If you haven't, if you if you're not hungry, some of our kids can't even feel hunger, they haven't eaten, you're at school, you haven't eaten, but but then your blood sugar starts to plummet, that will definitely that's eating away at your body budget, then you're in a deficit.
And if I think back, even with my own children at times, when their behavior was poor, there are a number of times where I can think back and I think, you know, they were I was pushing it, they were tired, or they needed a snack, but I didn't have one and I'm trying to finish an errand, and I've got to get something done. Or they didn't sleep well. And yet, I'm going to be late if we don't get out the door. And, you know, if I think badly, yeah, their budgets were there, buddy was telling me they were out of whack. And, and as much as I didn't want to see that the time because it wasn't a whole lot. I could do better or more honestly, sometimes. I didn't want to take the time to say, alright, I'm not going to run the errands. We're going to, we're going to do this where you're gonna go to bed or whatever, you know. So I do think it's important to I like the idea that says, that says we all all humans, including us parents have that same budget. We need that same budget. And I just love your self reflection. I was that mom too. I was constantly overriding my own body budget, because well, okay, I just picked him up from daycare or from from school, and I have to go to Target before I go home, and where he goes, I know that going to target might be risky, but it would be so much more efficient if I could get this Yes.
This off my list and tomorrow here. And and you know, we are master multitaskers I felt so good when the more I could do with Yes, you're right. If we're thinking about okay, where's my body budget right now? And which requires a little self reflection and tuning into your own body, which I've only done in the last probably 15 years, not when my children were very young. And then where is their body budget? How flesh? Are they do they have enough gas in the tank? Yeah. About that without judgment too. Because I think again, we we sometimes have a big expectation gap between what we think our kids should be able to do and what they actually are able to do. Yeah.
Or what we want them to be able to do because it'd be convenient for us right now.
we want to run our lives with efficiency. So we have I just have so much compassion for that because when I think about how glorious that is, yeah.
I just think women do that better.
And I don't mean to be sexist, but I, you know, my I could never talk to my husband when he was on the phone because he could only focus on just what the auditory but I could talk on the phone, answer emails, you know, do my nails at the same time I loved being busy.
Yeah, I have come to appreciate that that's a fallacy. But I, and I try really hard not to but I, yes, there is still a part of me. I don't call it multitasking, because that's no longer PC, but I call it being efficient.
You know, potato patata here, right? That's one of the other things that you talk about in the book is personalized our parenting. And I thought that was it was also as a mother of a number of children, I couldn't agree with it more that no one size of parenting, there is no one size fits all approach to child rearing. And our rules are less important than the child and each child. It regardless of whether they share the same genes, each child is different. So it's more important for us to not follow rules, but to see how our whatever we're doing is let as you say landing on our child, and then and then adjust. I think that is so wise. Yeah. Yeah, it's, it's when we we think about these two words, individual differences, I think are really important because no two humans process information in the same way. And so I do, I love this idea of customizing or personalizing our interactions and our parenting for each of our children. And then I There are three, three things that I kind of look at in that metric. One is the current state of their body budget, right? Like how, where are they in their in their power? How strong is their platform, or how weak is it? The second one, which is something we don't think about very often and are not taught necessarily by our pediatrician, is where our child is in their social and emotional development. Because if we have a child who did suffer from relational stress, in the first year to five years of life, they are going to necessarily have some delays or challenges in their social emotional milestones. Because safety wires for resilience, and if you don't have safety, your your brain wires itself to protect, which is necessary, but then you're not as robust in your social and emotional development. So I love helping parents understand that even though it seems like their child should be able to, for example, a social emotional milestone is to put yourself in another person's shoes, to build bridges between your ideas and someone else.
That is very sophisticated. And that takes on many years of relational safety. So if your child can't see your point of view, there's a good reason for it. So the second thing, second thing we look at is their social emotional milestones, and where we can help shore that up. And then the third piece is, of course, is their individual differences. Every single human takes in the world differently. You know how some kids love to go to scary movies, and other kids can't even go into a movie theater with a cartoon, because it's too overwhelming. We all have these different experiences of the world that through the bodies were given, were given. And just and I would I would tie that also into the social emotional milestones is that even without trauma, there are some people who just have greater just cute to have greater emotional IQ. That's the you know, the EQ, right? And then we talk about that, but it some people just, that's just not there. That's not there that they're never going to be that that astute at that. And we don't folk we look at our children's developmental milestones, but we don't think often times of where they are on that social emotional, and it's equally as important. Yeah, yeah, that's a very good point. It's such a mystery, right? It's such a mystery on how humans develop. But like you said, some of those things come from some sort of constitutional or genetic
piece. And it's the research is so far away from determining all those pieces that make us unique, but I love that you said that you so people are it's not gonna be their bailiwick to, to have a certain skill in a certain area because it's just not part of who they who they are. On the other hand, we can harvest and, and, and, and water and, and treat children's gardens to grow those areas that we see as challenges. So it's, it's beautiful in that way too, because development is so dynamic. Yeah, very good point. Just because you're not strong doesn't mean that
That's a pass to say that you don't have to grow in that area. What we could do is help our children realize that they have to work a little harder in this area because it doesn't come as naturally to them. Right? Yeah. Alright, so let's put this into practice. Let's say that we have a four year old and who is call it what you want pitching a fit, throwing a tantrum, being a holy terror, whatever you choose your your language. And let's go ahead, let's let's make it public, because why not?
How could so how would you apply some of your approach in this situation? And you can add facts if however you want to, to make to make it I just want to be, I want to have a practical application before we keep going? Yeah, that's great. Well, I was talking about ah, to a friend of a parent of a four year old, in fact, and they were out in in some in a park, I think it was, there was an older sister, and the she was playing with a train set. And the child wanted to have one of the pieces of the train the four year old wanted to have one of the pieces. And he asked a couple of times. And she said no, I'm playing with it right now. And then he just had that reaction screaming, yelling, he threw it, it chucked someone in the head, you know that this like, you're, you're like, Oh, let me disappear. And the mom was like, What do I do, because the child is screaming, and I'm trying to tell them, that's not nice, you need to shoot, you know, sometimes your sister has her own stuff, and you need to wait and be patient. Okay? That's what I don't recommend doing. So what do I recommend when you're out in public and your child has a, what we might consider a tantrum. Number one,
check your body budget. Because if you have just landed in the red, you need to take a breath, or ground your feet, or just take a moment because if you're in the red, if we are in the red, as parents, we we aren't really going to be very effective. Number one, we may say the right thing. But our our emotional underbelly is going to come straight through to the child and they're going to feel it, they're going to feel our agitation. So check yourself and then number to check the child. And so once you realize these features of when the when the physiology when your child's platform has shifted from receptive, which is when they can still talk to you and reason to defensive when they're throwing things, you will likely also see a rapid heart rate, sweaty hands, sweaty nose, red face, you know, this child's physiology shifted, in spite of the child's wanting it to shift, it wasn't a choice. So in this particular situation, since we had a four year old, what I would say to myself then is okay, I feel green, my child is red, my first thing to do is to share my green with my read child's pathway and help bring him back. Because that child is not open for teaching and learning when our physiology is meant to run or to hit or to throw or to froth at the mouth. We are our nervous system is begging for connection.
And that's where we institute the sensory strategies that's in our toolbox for each child. So in both of my books, I have chapters where we I help parents figure out which sensory pathways help calm the help calm the child down it for some children, it's standing close to them for some child is moving away. For some children, it's using a singing a sing songy voice. For some, it's whispering for some it's being quiet. So we do an inventory of what helps calm the child. And basically that's called co regulation, we are helping that other human calm down with our nervous system. We're sharing nervous systems, we're adding to their body budget. And it's remarkable at how if you're effective at it if you figure out and so it takes a while to figure out so it's not you know, I'm not trying to make it sound easy. But once you figure it out, then you don't need things like timeouts because you're getting to the again you're getting you're not just treating the the signal as the target you're actually going to the to the meat of it which is dysregulation, which is a child who predicted that his sister was going to give him the toy, and when she wouldn't. He goes into distress because the brain can
can't predict anything better. And he just needs more time he needs more time cooking, his self regulation.
He needs more experiences of self of CO regulation to develop the muscles of self regulation.
Now, how do you respond to people who would say he's still took the parser? He took the the sisters train and and chunked it and hit somebody. So there have to be consequences. Yeah, what the Lord did Baba right? Yeah, I'm so glad you mentioned that because A, the first thing I think, if it's within your family values is that we have to keep everyone safe. And we don't have to allow behaviors that are not in our family's values to occur. So me, for example, I would probably just let the child know, we don't, we don't do that. We don't throw things that could hit people in our family or something that sounds right for you, like show the value, set the limit. That's okay. But you can set a limit and still be empathic at the same time knowing that the child didn't mean to so it'd be more like, it wouldn't be like You bad boy, you you know, it's not okay to hit to throw something, it would be? Oh, my goodness, something happened. I know you I know. You know, we're not supposed to throw toys. Let me see how I can help you right now. So we're acknowledging that children do well when they can, as Ross Greene says, but we're also setting that limit and making sure everyone's okay, so I would go over to the EU make sure that other child is okay. Right and, and make sure everyone's safe first, and then integrate these techniques into the knowledge that
it's not discipline that is going to help our child develop self regulation. It's our relationship where we come alongside and help build that body's capacity to tolerate stress, when we're talking about tolerating uncomfortable feelings, and for many kids that can take that can take up through your teenage years. Well, early adulthood, early adulthood. Adulthood for some people, but yes,
how many adults have a hard time, if you ask them how they feel, especially if it's not a, if it's a negative feeling, many adults can't really pin a word onto a feeling. And so we have to have a lot of compassion for that too.
And as we know, our children better.
Being able to anticipate and seeing them move from green to red, and to try to, if possible, intervene to prevent that we can't always do that. But being able to recognize he's asked three times to play with the train, I see him getting angry. What can I do right now to? Alright, let's go over to the slide, or talk to the sister and say, How many more minutes? Do you think you're going to want to play with it before you can give it to Johnny, or something along those lines? You know, we a lot of parenting, a lot of discipline can be avoided with anticipation. I think, I love that. I'm so glad you said that. And you you describe the perfect example of something called scaffolding. And as a parent, you could see it, like, you know, okay, something's gonna be shifting soon. And let me lend to,
you know, that's a good thing. You see the child's platform start to shift or their colors start to shift. It's really wonderful to head it off at the past and do add some help. And in that example of a four year old, by the way, asking nicely three times is huge for four year old. That's great. He's already he's already on his way.
Yeah, I love that. Yeah. lendahand is a you know, diversion. This is where where it's not, it's not coddling. It's sensitively reading our child's shifts in their self regulatory abilities. So I love thank you for mentioning that. But it's also part of your the idea of personalized parenting in the sense that each of your children will have different limits, each of your children will have different ways to that they best will regulate and that you need to co regulate with them. So it's a part of creating that toolbox. It's part of creating that toolbox of my three children. I have one who who really needed quite a bit more and and they're all you know, so every you can't expect that each of your children will have the same needs for your support. In fact, I could almost guarantee if you do
If you have more than one kid, I can guarantee that the second one will not, will not, will not fit the mold that you have established with the first.
I hope you were enjoying today's conversation about raising resilient and joyful kids. If so, please do us a favor and tell your friends about what you've learned and where you heard it. Most people learn about podcasts through their friends, so be a friend and let your friends know. And that would also be helping us. Thank you.
The second part of Brain Body parenting is solutions. Well, we are all solution oriented here we like solutions. So can you walk through some of the of the the high points of the solutions that you think are that are most helpful?
Well, I think when we think of ourselves as the biggest tool, it's why on chapter five, I have very basic and easy ideas about our own self care, because I just feel like any book on parenting needs to include the fact that we are the vehicle that helps drive up our child's relationship and their development forward, when we have our own body budget that we that is, it is perfectly fine, to take care of yourself and to recharge and refuel.
And I don't know, again, looking back, I'm looking back, because we were talking about how we love to go to target, you know, and get a lot of good things done. I think I over I didn't understand the concept of a body budget in his a young mother and because frankly, I felt really good, I had a lot of energy, and you can have a lot of energy. But if you tune in, it's it's it's a learned skill tune into your heart rate, your your how your insides are feeling essentially, there's this whole study of something called interoception, which is the the feedback from your body to your brain. And sometimes you have this awareness of it. And sometimes you don't, but people who have more of an awareness of their internal state are actually healthier, physically and mentally. So it's a very interesting new area of research. So tuning into ourselves, I'd say, in the solutions is it's okay, in fact, really desired to take good enough care of your body budget, and it doesn't mean you have to go to a fancy gym every day, or that you can write or massage is what I would like but no,
not Oh, I love that. Yeah, like maybe in a year or so. But, but it could be as much as making sure you drink enough water, or trying to, to cut down your activities in the hour before you go to bed so that you can actually get enough sleep. And then some other fun things like on the fly kind of some of the research that you could do on a mindfulness or prayer or meditation of only moments a day that can really help build up your body budget. So take care of yourself. And then I think in the in the solutions category, I really, I push a whole chapter of the meaning of CO regulation because I think it's a catch word that's thrown around a lot right now, it's a very popular word. But I don't think we have a very granular idea of what it means. And so I had an an acronym. And I think in that chapter of love L O V. And that acronym for CO regulation, basically the L for love is look at your child through soft eyes. And when we have soft eyes, we're kind of a soft heart as well. We're just like looking through this new lens of adaptive protective nervous systems rather than misbehaviors. The Oh, is to observe our children without judgment. So we can observe in a new way, before we we make a judgement we can reflect to be curious. So that's local soft eyes observe. And then the third one, the Wii is to validate to validate their experience as real. And again, if you have a child is in the red pathway. And many of our children who've had toxic stress, trauma or developmental trauma
will have these reactions fight or flight reactions that are somehow were protective in their nervous system. They were wired up for safety in that way. But these behaviors look very out of place and feel horrible. But if we can, if we can validate the experience underneath the behavior, that's very useful. That would be I see you, I witness this is hard for you right now, my dear. Maybe How can I help so the V of love is validate and then finally, the E is experience.
Try to experience that green pathway together as much as possible. Because relationships that are able to withstand these, these storms of the nervous system, I really believe is what heals trauma over time.
And I remember you're talking to Dr. Bruce Perry. And he was he said something so amazing, it was something like, the magnitude of therapy doesn't happen in the therapy room with a therapist once a week, it happens in those magical moments, with your child with an adult having these relationship experiences that help wire the child's brain up to be healthier in my, in my model, it's it's like, or in the polyvagal theory, it's like, wiring for safety, wiring for safety. So when we share our green pathway, we we kind of make deposits from our body budget into theirs, which means we really have to take good care of ourselves, because it's not always easy. But over time, those magical moments are healing. And I believe that's the core of resilience. And it's not just what I believe the resilience research, which is pretty strong, supports it. And if you're interested in the the science behind it, you could look at Harvard's website, Harvard, the Center on the Developing Child, and they'll just show you all those hundreds and hundreds of studies that are proving that this is true. Yeah, I have I love that website. And there's, there are other there are other websites as well. But that's one of the best. So how do we build resiliency in our children, you've mentioned co regulating with him as as a method. And, and, and I think that I mean, part and parcel of that is what you were saying before, as well is, is entering relationship and focusing and valuing relationship with kids. What are some other ways, because I think if we really fundamentally, if I know certainly for me, I, of course, I want my kids to be healthy, and I want them to be happy. But mostly, I know, they're going to have ups and downs in their lives, all humans do. And I'm not sure I would wish for them not to, because I don't know that they really would have lived if they, if they if they never have had any downs. But I them to be able to come back from the doubt I want them to not have I want them to be resilient, that it is such a high value. And I realize that it's almost a buzzword now, but I I just feel to my core that it is such a good one. You know, it's it's such a
Yeah, it is.
In the long run isn't that what we really want is to know that they will be able to survive in the world. Yes, without us and five in the world and be be those people who can ride the storms of life. And as we know, with like with the pandemic, if nothing else, this has shown us that sometimes life is gonna throw storms at you that you never predicted would happen. So when you don't work and other people don't deserve it. So it's it's not a matter of right, right? A matter of life. And so,
so what it means for our kids to have it, how, what's another way one way is to model it. And we can model resilience in very in again in micro moments. So I in the later chapters of the book, I describe the this linkage between
which basically describes again, going back to Lisa Feldman Barrett's work in her lab on how emotions are constructed. And we can help construct emotions for ourselves that's going to provide a beautiful model for our children, because they're watching us. They're emulating us, right? So what is the basic formula for that one is a model and awareness of shifts in our body. So let's just say that you are at your you're waiting patiently for a parking spot at Target. You've been waiting for like two minutes, and then all of a sudden someone comes in, just goes right past you grabs the spot, and your kids are in the car. And if you're if you're not like shouting expletives, which I hope you're not if your kids are there, but you're inside you're feeling activated, right? So it might be Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. Let me see. Now my heart's beating. My heart's beating pretty fast because I'm feeling mad.
They just took my spot.
All right. I'm gonna take a breath, and then we're gonna go look for another parking spot.
Now, that's just a very little example. But what did I do there? Number one, I paused, and I went into my body. And I mentioned to my children that I was feeling something, I could actually feel my heart rate. Now you might feel something else you might feel sweaty palms or you might feel just like my tummy has grabbed me or, but it's okay, as long as we're not scaring our children. No, I don't recommend doing this. If you're going to scare your child, but if you let's say you have elementary, elementary school kids or teenagers, it's alright to say, Whoa, my body felt that somebody just someone just stole that parking space, and I was waiting patiently. And then what do I do with it, I took a breath, I regulated myself. So in that moment, I modeled resiliency, something unexpected happens, I acknowledge that it, it hurt, it took a toll little toll on me, but then I did something. So modeling can be very effective for how we help our children see that the storms of life, little or, you know, big or little aren't going to blow us over. Now, if I would have gotten out of my car and started screaming and yelling at the person who grabbed my parking spot, that would have been modeling the opposite of resilience, that would have been modeling vulnerability in the nervous system. So we want our kids to know that, yes, emotions are tough. But if we have concepts,
if I can say I am mad, rather than going in banging on on someone's car and putting my life at risk,
I have resilience, and we can use concepts and words. And that is in the later part of the book, I help parents understand how we can help children use concepts, words, categories, whatever you want to call them, to help explain our experience to ourselves and to other people. And that is, I think some of the magic of therapy if you have a really good therapist that can help you translate your basic body feelings into emotions, and then making sense of it with your words. So that other than not, so we have modeling as one. But then we also have this way of talking about our nervous system and our feelings. And I describe that in a way that's age appropriate for it depending on your child's age.
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So many kids and so I think kids who have experienced trauma fall into this category, including kids that have prenatal exposure and other things. So becoming rigid or less flexible. Yeah. And that is the opposite of resilience. Because that's it is not it resilience, if nothing else requires the ability to move into change. How can we help our kids who struggle and not all kids who struggle with flexibility have experienced abuse, but it is certainly a hallmark of children who have experienced trauma? How can we help our kids become more flexible, to kind of have to be able to adapt as situations change and not to end to avoid rigidity? Yeah, completely and just again, to remember that a feature such as rigidity, has an aspect to it that was so that is protective, and when you're rigid, you are actually trying to control your environment. So you don't want if you don't want something to happen, you're gonna have a very narrow range of what I allowed to happen. So I think just remembering that in the flexibility which is doesn't support resilience, and what are Why are many of our child traumatized children aren't very resilient and need help becoming more so is that they claim to rigidity their bodies cling to rigidity as a defense mechanism as a coping piece. So I since I'm a developmental psychology, you know, child psychologist and
If the child is under, say, you know, around 10 developmental age, I really use, we use pretend play, we use the the data on expanding a child's tolerance for change, and 1,000,000% of the child's under five, but I'd use it under 10 to developmental play is a much more effective way than trying to teach it. So I use, I have a whole chapter in the book about how we use play. And I'm talking about actual, it's therapeutic play, it's paired mediated play, but parents can do, you don't have to have a degree in play therapy or anything like that. It's a pretty simple formula where we follow the child's lead. And then we playfully become characters in their play, whereby we are allowing their nervous system to stretch under conditions of pleasure. That's what play is, your your nervous system is tolerating these emotions that you were not able to tolerate in real life, when you were abused, or when you were neglected. And through play, you reimagine yourself. And so for younger children, definitely, it's it's play. And again, of course, modeling and in how we talk to our children about changes is good, too. But from a very organic place, you know, you don't talk to a toddler about how to build resilience, you play with them, so that their characters can actually begin to believe that
I can flex
and not be destroyed.
Because for some kids, if they give up their rigidity, they're opening up their brain to predicting that they could be harmed. Yeah.
And that's so sad, right, because we do wire up to, especially if it happened in the first several years, which is not a sentence in any way, you know, as you know, and as Dr. Perry said, and others, there's always rewiring, that's happening, there's always remodeling. But if your brain is wired up to predict that something bad is going to happen from other humans, or from certain sense, certain sensations, rigidity is going to be your friend on a nonverbal level. So we don't want to take away rigidity very fast. We want to do it in measured ways. And again, for the children that I've worked with who've experienced trauma that I and I'm an early childhood specialist, but you know, under 567, we use have used play very successfully in expanding their flexibility, which is basically what resilience is, is being flexible, right? Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm going to give you the final word, anything that you would like for parents to know that we haven't talked about, about raising joyful, resilient kids?
Well, I'd say the first thing is be gentle on yourself and take good care of yourself. And thank you for being there for your kids is, and and thank you, Don, for for the information you're giving to the world. I honestly, I've been listening to your podcasts. And I'm so grateful for people like you in the world, giving hope to parents who really need it, because this is hard. And I guess the second part, I would say is please get support for yourself, because I know it's easy to lose hope. The repetitions that a child needs of your patients and your presence 1000s and 1000s of times over several years is what rewires the brain, so stay hopeful and get really, really a lot of support. Well, perfect ending words. Thank you so much, Dr. Mona della hook, author of a new book, Brain Body parenting, how to stop managing behavior and start raising joyful, resilient kids. And for all the audience. Thank you guys for joining us. And I will see you again next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai