Excerpts from The Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel

I have been reading this excellent book called The Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel and I wanted to share some of the concepts about growing children. 

When a parent or caregiver is in tune with the child’s emotions, the child can develop a coherent and balanced sense of self. The child can use the internal state of being of the caregiver to organize and regulate themselves. Kids can develop into states of more complexity when their internal state matches what the caregiver mirrors. The caregiver ‘gets’ what’s going on for the child. The child feels understood and can therefore continue developing and not be stunted in their emotional growth.

Kids, like adults, need to be understood. This process, called attunement, implie that one person understands what the other person wants or needs in a given moment. With this comes emotional harmony between two people that can bring about a sense of calm for both of them.

By not understanding a child, or adult, or by being ‘intrusive’ in forcing them to do what you want them to do (sit instead of explore, eat when they’re not hungry, etc.), the caregiver is disorganizing the child's internal world and creating chaos and distress for the child. This becomes a negative cycle because the child keeps trying to organize their internal world, but they are met with intrusiveness instead of understanding. The cycle keeps getting reinforced. The child and the parent/caregiver become more and more frustrated. The child then becomes more likely to develop clinical symptoms such as depression or anxiety in response to overwhelming stimuli. 

Simply learning to soothe yourself when you feel overwhelmed by your own life or by your child's reactions due to their needs and wants can help your child find ways to internally soothe themselves. Think about modeling the behavior which you would like to see your child mirror. If you find yourself angry, anxious, or frustrated, that is what your child will mirror. If you can find ways to create an internal world of happiness, balance, and calm in yourself, your child will be able to learn those behaviors from you.

Again, a lot of this applies with adults in your life as well. If you'd like to learn more about building an internal world of happiness, balance, and calm in yourself, feel free to contact me and we can set up a session to discuss this further. 

Give Your Teen A Break

I came across this great article about the relationship between teen risk taking behaviors and anxiety. Developmentally, teenagers face a number of social and emotional challenges that are anxiety-provoking transitions. A few examples are starting to separate from their parents, getting accepted into a peer group, and figuring out who they really are. Research shows, albeit counterintuitively, that there is a surge during teenage years in anxiety and fearfulness. Despite their enhanced capacity for anxiety, teens are novelty seekers and risk takers in ways that most children or adults aren't capable of.

Another important point in this article was the use of stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall in teens. What we have learned should make us think twice about providing adolescents with stimulants. Because these drugs may worsen anxiety and make it harder for teenagers to do what they are developmentally supposed to do which is to learn to be unafraid when it is appropriate to do so, the ever rising use of stimulants in young people, can be detrimental in allowing fear responses to develop naturally as they move into adulthood. 

Click here to read in more detail.