In my experience as a therapist Mother’s Day raises all kinds of questions and emotions for my clients. Frequently their own childhood experiences of being mothered will continue to impact them and is affecting how they are in their current relationship. Equally too it will raise questions about their own parenting skills and, in some cases, the parenting skills of those closest to them. To take one example – nowadays many older people are helping out caring for their grandchildren on a regular basis and this brings the challenges of seeing them being parented in a different way. Likewise parents can struggle with feelings stemming from not having their own way of parenting respected and valued by the older generation.
In that context a book that I have found helpful to a number of parents in recent months has been ‘The Yes Brain Child’. Its authors, Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, who specialise in the fields of psychiatry and paediatric and adolescent psychotherapy, are fascinated by the ways in which the brains of children develop.
Beginning from the hopes that most parents want for their children – happiness, emotional strength, academic success, social skills, a strong sense of self and more – they argue that there are ways in which any parent can help their child to develop a ‘Yes Brain’ – a brain that provides a perspective characterised by
“Balance: the ability to manage emotions and behaviour, so kids are less likely to flip their lids and lose control;
Resilience: the ability to bounce back when life’s inevitable problems and struggles arise;
Insight: the ability to look within and understand themselves, then use what they learn to make good decisions and be more in control of their lives;
Empathy: the ability to understand the perspective of another, then care enough to take action to make things better when appropriate.” (Welcome page x)
The book is written in a way that is very readable with its concepts made easily to any reader, by outlining strategies to help in its different areas.
One of the models, which I find very helpful, is the focus on the three zones your child may experience at any given moment. When the child is in balance they are in the Green Zone – but given a conflict or something not going their way – they may move into the Red Zone and lose control, or move into the Blue Zone and shut down. The aim is, of course, to widen the window of the Green Zone and to help children build resilience and find strategies for maintaining their balance within it.
Although the book is written for parents or grandparents, there are of course applications for these tools in our own adult relationships. How often do we move into the Red Zone (and fly off the handle) with our partners or retreat into the Blue Zone (and withdraw)? When we want to ‘have a go’ at our partners – rather than just being the ‘player’ in a fight, can we learn to stand back and with insight become a ‘spectator’ and make a different choice to communicate our frustration or disappointment.
If you are interested in finding out more, then I would encourage you to give yourself or your partner or a friend a copy for Mother’s Day – its good effects will last longer than flowers or chocolates or even breakfast in bed!