Earlier in Chapter 5 of The Whole-Brain Child, authors Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson talked a lot about awareness and helping a child stay in their hub, where they have the ability to bring awareness to what they focus on. From that central place (i.e. hub), a child can with intention look out at the various things (negative and positive) vying for their attention…and they can choose what to focus on.
So for example, with my daughter Hayden, her hub is “the inner place of the mind from which we become aware of all that’s happening around and within us. It’s basically the prefrontal cortex, which you’ll remember helps to integrate the whole brain. The hub represents part of what’s called the executive brain, because it’s from this place that we make our best decisions; it’s also the part of the brain that allows us to connect deeply to others and to ourselves” (pp. 93-94).
As she is at the hub she practices being aware of the various things that are going on in her life:
positive things — soccer, play dates with friends, family time, art
negative things — peer pressure, feeling rejected at school by friends at times, fighting with her brother, getting in trouble at home
As she is aware of those things she is in control of what she decides to focus on — the positive or the negative.
This is important to understand for strategy #10 as the focus of this strategy is that “When we help our children return to the hub of their wheel, we help them become more focused and centered so they can remain aware of the many rim point (positive and negative things going on — my addition) affecting their emotions and state of mind.” (pp. 111)
So how do we help our children return to their hub where they can make better decisions and connect with themselves and others in a deep and meaningful way?
In the book, the authors list several exercises that can be helpful. One that I find particularly helpful in my own life, and that I’m learning to teach my kids is helping them focus on their breathing. By focusing on their breathing they are able to calm down and bring awareness back to their hub. As they do this, they can better make decisions, connect and manage anxiety, worries and fears they might experience.
One way to do this is to have your child lay down on the couch, bed, or floor. Have them begin by telling you what they notice around them. After they talk about what they notice, then move on to what they hear. I usually have them closer their eyes at this point to really focus on what they hear. Then I have them begin to concentrate on their breathing. To really concentrate on it I have them put their hands on their diaphragm and notice how it moves up and down as they inhale and exhale. I might even have them over exaggerate their breathing like they do at the doctors office when the doctor is listening to their heart with the stethoscope. And for the next couple of minutes I just want them to focus on the breath entering and leaving their nostrils/mouth. And anytime they get distracted on something else (a worry, fear, etc.), help the child return focus to their breathing.
I think this is a very powerful exercise. Most of my clients I teach this to (adults and younger) get easily frustrated because it doesn’t feel like it works right away. They are looking for a magic answer and focused breathing doesn’t seem to meet their need at the moment. But as they practice it more and more they begin to see the power in it’s ability to calm them down and help return their mind to its executive functioning.
As your kids learn to do these exercises they will literally rewire their neurons in their brain that will connect these exercises to feelings of calmness and peace (pp. 112).
“Watch for ways to help your children learn to be still and calm at times and find the deep-ocean peacefulness within their hub. From there they’ll be better able to survive the storms brewing within them from moment to moment, and they’ll have a better chance of thriving–emotionally, psychologically, socially–as they grow toward adulthood.” (pp. 114)
[Image: Utah Foster Care]