This is Stephanie Cook speaking and I wanted to talk about the importance of being emotionally available for your children. More particularly because of the impact it has on brain development.
When children are born they have, I suppose, a blank page in terms of emotional development and their brain is the area in which that is a bit like a computer. It is programmed so if you don’t give your child the care and attention and the support for regulating their feelings and of course, that’s going the damage the neurones and the pathways in their brain. So it’s really important that when children are very small that we pay attention to their emotional needs so that they can then learn how to self-regulate.
So, for example, the human brain has got two parts to it. It’s got the mammalian brain and the reptilian brain, and the reptilian brain is important because it helps us to, well it sends signals of alert when, for example, we are emotionally challenged or stressed in any way, and it sends signals to the amygdala to then action the hypothalamus to produce stress hormones, and what those stress hormones do is switch off all the other actions in the body and help us focus on the fight or flight reactions.
Now of course, in a normal course of event, if a child is anxious what the mother will do, or the father or the other care givers in the family, will come and take care of them, calm them, and contain their feelings and help them manage their feelings, and so that then sends signals to the brain and it opens up the neurones and the pathways and they then develop, a bit like a computer – a blueprint on how to manage their feelings. If this doesn’t happen then of course the child doesn’t learn those abilities about managing their stress and self-regulation. Now this has a huge impact, not just when they are small, but as they get older and when they become adults, it impacts them in terms of how they are able to manage themselves in the world and they’re not able to self-reflect or make emotional attachments and in some cases become aggressive and violent, and sometimes they become depressed, so it’s really important that we pay attention to our children and help them cope with their emotional sense of themselves.