New year, new me, new routines, we’ll see!

Tara Seay, B.A.,M.A, LPC-MHSP | Director of Family Solutions, Family Therapist at Christ Community Health Services

New year, new me, new routines, we’ll see! This is that time of year where we make personal vows with the intention of making changes, only to fall into the same routine of what we are used to. Ever wonder why this happens? Hopefully the answer to this will be helpful to you and your family and put some things in perspective. This can also help parents to understand the challenge of seeing change in our children when we have had countless of discussions with them, teachers, and others.

First, we must understand how our child’s brain is built. The bottom of the brain controls our lungs, stomach, heart, and other vital life sustaining organs. On top of that, is where our feelings, emotions, and 5 senses are. The last part of the brain, that is developed, is the part we need the most, which is what helps us make decisions, problem solve, be creative, logical reasoning, and retain complex things. As a side note, this last part is not fully done until about the age of 24! That’s crazy right? This is one of the reasons parenting is really never done until about this age, which is when people become most independent as they are able to make better decisions than they have before.

The next most important part of the brain is under the middle part, where the feelings are. This is where our body’s stress alarm is. Anytime your child is stressed, this part of the brain secrets hormones that help your child through emergencies to be able to fight, flight, or freeze. Please make a mental note that whenever your child is stressed, overwhelmed, or sleep deprived, this part of the brain is likely working overtime. The problem with this is that, over time, this part begins to malfunction and react to everything including non-emergencies. The other fun, well not really, fact is that while your child’s stress response is active, the part they need to remember things, learn new thing, make better decisions, learn previous lessons from mistakes, and be creative is not able to function because the brain is in a “safe mode.”

Now that you know how your child’s brain works, take a moment and think about how this answers our initial question. If your child is stressed or overwhelmed, then it will be very challenging and difficult to do what you know they can do, and to respond with what you know they already know. In order to help your child live to their full potential with less stress and frustration, you have to help your child understand the need to calm down. This lesson also applies to adults because our brains are built the same way.

Children’s stress looks very different, they are experts at hiding things, their “bad behavior” can simply be a scare, nervous, or avoidant behavior if they are not taught how to manage these things and life challenges appropriately. Children don’t always ask for help and some don’t even recognize their challenge, it is your responsibility as a parent to notice this and get them help. Talk to your child, notice things you have to repeat, or things they continue to struggle with. Then take a moment to think about what has your child experienced and could be they be worrying or stressed about something. If in doubt, reach out to a child psychologist, therapist, counselor or your child’s PCP to talk about this and get resources on how to correct this and be more successful at seeing your child success, learn new things, and make more positive changes in the home at school.

Family Solutions at Christ Community is located at 3461 Austin Peay Hwy is a center with you and your family in mind for times like these. We are here to help you navigate the parenting challenges in life through assessment, educational awareness, parenting coaching, individual, and family therapy. You can reach out to your local CCHS clinic, PCP, or call 901-701-2626 to make an appointment.

Happy New Year!

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