Let’s Play: Calming the Emotional Mind for Children
In this post we will examine factors regarding children and stress. We will look the effects of stress on the brain, neurotransmitters that rule our emotional lives, and ways to incorporate self-regulation strategies to help calm the mind.
Stress Effects the Brain
When children are exposed to prolonged chaos and stress in their lives their brain wires itself differently. Children will often respond quickly to what they perceive of stressful events and then the brain will continue to respond with the perceived threat is finished. The brain is wired for a fright or flight response rather than the body able to self-regulate and contemplate their actions to the situation. According to The National Scientific Center of the Developing Child- Harvard University (2014), “Sustained activation of the stress response system can lead to impairments in learning, memory, and the ability to regulate certain stress responses.” Thus, the architecture of the brain is disrupted leading to behaviors that can alter the course of the child’s life.
Balancing Neurochemicals in the Brain
It is important to understand how the neurotransmitters regulate actions. Here is a rundown of a few:
- 1.Serotonin: regulates mood, sleep, and digestion.
- 2.Dopamine: controls our award center and the ability to attend
- 3.Norephedrine: activates alert and arousal
These neurochemicals each play an essential role in our existence including the developing mind of a child. It is important for parents to understand that they play an important role in controlling their child’s environment thus their brain development.
Here are some resources for healthy brain development activities for children. Please copy and paste the following links into your browser for access:
- 1.The Center for Disease Control and Prevention gives an overview of important factors along with a guide for typical development. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/early-brain-development.html
- 2. Zero to Three provides resources along with activities for health brain development for infants through toddlers. https://www.zerotothree.org/
- 3. Edutopia has much to offer for parents and teachers regarding neurodevelopment for children and teens. This site includes information, activities, and ideas for increase learning and social emotional empowerment. edutopia.org/topic/brain-based-learning. Copy and paste: edutopia.org/topic/brain-based-learning.
Getting Started with Sensory Regulation and Mindfulness
To help children manage their actions and reactions sensory regulation is the key factor. According to Leah Kuypers, author of The Zones of Regulation indicates that sensory regulation is the ability to maintain, attain, and change one’s attention, provoke emotions, and behaviors. It rules our ability for self-control by balancing feelings, impulse control, and working memory. Keeping in mind the neurotransmitter functions parents can engage in activities with their children to help them “regulate” their actions and reactions. Knowing that serotonin calms the mind when a child is upset the parent can foster an environment that will help the child calm down to give the brain time to process the information rather than an instant fright or flight response.
We explored mindfulness in the last two blog posts. Now, we are taking mindfulness directly to the brain. Starting with calming the emotional brain this site has activities for children that will help them lower their norephedrine levels and increase their serotonin for a calm brain. In our next blog post we will further explore sensory regulation with activities and games! Please click and paste this link into your browser for access:
Yet another great resource for learning more about the brain and activities.
Please click and paste this link into your browser for access:
Thank you for your time and we hope you find this information helpful.
Dr. Yvette Evans, Ed. D.,M.S. CCC/SLP-L
Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist
Member of the Board of Directors for
Hope for Children Foundation