“Daddy, I want to run!”
That was the phrase that came out of my son’s mouth before we played the above game of chase on the beach…and this has been his repeated phrase of the last couple of months. It began on our 15.5 hour road trip to Florida. A road trip that I thought would take only about 12-13 hours since my wife and I did the same trip in that time a month earlier.
But, oh wait. Our trip was without kids the first time. And as much as I tried to keep driving without too many stops on our second trip with the kids, we eventually had to stop the car to let our kids get out and run. They ran on playgrounds, they ran in big empty fields…they ran wherever they could. So my wife and I learned an important lesson for our return trip from Florida to Texas…and that was to intentionally plan at least two stops of 1.5 hours to let the kids get out of the car and run.
And that made all the difference in the world.
“Research has shown that bodily movement directly affects the brain chemistry. So when one of your children has lost touch with his upstairs brain, a powerful way to him regain balance is to have him move his body.” (The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, pp. 57).
This strategy in The Whole-Brain Child may be one of my favorites. Often when my son or daughter is having an emotional meltdown my wife and I will say to them, “Go out side and run!” “Go jump on the trampoline!” “I’m going to come and get you….” as we laughingly chase them out the back door and around the yard.
And to be completely honest. I can’t think of a time when this strategy hasn’t worked. They may still be having a hard day and may need to go to be earlier, but it usually changes the situation immediately. And it makes sense to me since I love to run. I have never gone out for a run and come back not feeling a lot better. And often when I feel like I’m in a rut, or I’m tired and can’t think…I head out the door and run. It’s amazing what this does for me and what it has done for my kids.
Siegel and Bryson write:
“However you do it, the point is to help your child regain some sort of balance and control by moving their body, which can remove blockages and pave the way for integration to return” (pp. 61).
My wife and I love to go for runs together while our kids ride their scooters and bikes. It’s not only great for all of our brain health, but it models healthy movement to our kids.
So next time we tell our son to go out and run, I will probably join him if he hasn’t already asked me.