Listen to this week’s Spotlight on Learning below.
This week on WCHL during the “Spotlight on Learning,” we shifted from the power of nature to the importance of nurture. One of the key voices in this exploration was Dr. Daniel Siegel, and his seminal work, The Whole Brain Child: Twelve Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive. A paradox of parenting is that, in order to help support our kids’ growth, we must nurture our own well-being. Seigel writes, ““As children develop, their brains “mirror” their parent’s brain. In other words, the parent’s own growth and development, or lack of those, impact the child’s brain. As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward health as well.”
We also explored the importance of social connections: did you know that being cut off from friends or excluded from events triggers the same part of the brainas physical pain? These angles are explored in an article in the New York Timesby Niobe Way called “Middle Schools Need to Focus on Caring and Connections.” Nurturing those social connections and a sense of communal safety for our middle school students is their #1 need during these tumultuous (and changing) years.
For high school students, helping our sons and daughters develop an inner compass that guides them towards authentic decisions is paramount. But that tool takes trial and error to navigate and negotiate. We nurture them best when approaching “mistakes” as opportunities for curiosity, creativity, and courage. You might be surprised to learn how much your high school kiddo thinks that a misstep now means that failure is fatal. Our years down the road offer more perspective for the marathon that is life–but they need the support to see that life really is a long-distance sport, not a sprint. Our friend, Dr. Daniel Siegel, gently reminds us: “Too often we forget that discipline really means to teach, not to punish. A disciple is a student, not a recipient of behavioral consequences.”
With our Highly Sensitive Kids, nurturing their special spirit is one of the greatest gifts we can offer them on the journey of individuality. You might think that they are “wasting time” when staring outside the window, getting lost in a video game, or puttering on an instrument in the garage. Imagine if Bill Gates’ parents had prevented him from playing around with his school’s computer to practice programming a game of tic-tac-toe as a teen. Dr. Elaine Aron, who first coined the term HSP, writes that “…HSCs have a tremendous amount to offer the world. But they do need special handling. They need to be appreciated, to have their special needs and sometimes intense reactions and behaviors understood…”
We end this week with a focus on the family on Friday, and a little ingredient called dopamine. It’s the neurotransmitter that is released when we encounter a moment of novelty or surprise–and it can really boost connections in our immediate tribe. Nurturing little adventures and explorations are not icing for our family on special occasions: they’re essential every day. So let’s find some time to celebrate the weekend and just the small joys of being together: it can be through making an ice-cream sundae or a scavenger hunt–you decide. Just don’t doubt the benefits: the bonds that are strengthened through dopamine dumps reap rich rewards with our relationships and our ability to risk and grow! For many of us here in NC, next week is spring break, so you’ll have some fresh opportunities to explore creating fun adventures together.
Here’s to a new season of nurturing our kids, our families, and each other.