Have you ever been confronted by someone and been dumb-founded as to how to respond? And later, when you’re ‘out of the moment,’ like let’s say taking a shower, you concoct all the ways you wish you could’ve so powerfully responded to that person? Been there done that!
Our kids often confront or are confronted with situations that they are unprepared for…
School is starting / has started. And maybe you did some social-emotional mental prep-work with your children in advance, and maybe you didn’t. I want to commend you on opening this email regardless, because we can all use more support in how to navigate helping kids in today’s complex world.
Last week I shared an email with my email subscribers about bullying being part and parcel of any school year. But there is a difference on whether we send them in prepared or unprepared for that…
Okay, so what’s one of the most powerful ways to support kids in preparing their minds for success at school, on the playground and social situations? Role-play.
What does brain science tell us about role-playing?
• We have neural circuits in our brain. And these are created by our experiences. And we experience everything… from what we see, hear, read, say, do and the like. The more we do something, the stronger the neural connections/pathways in our brain for those ‘things’ become. This means, that when we role-play a situation several times BEFORE it happens, our brain has some “familiarity” with it (there are some neural pathways in the brain for that situation). When we don’t have neural pathways in our brain about something, our brain doesn’t know “how to think about it,” and then it causes the emotions and feelings in our mind and body to activate. Emotions and feelings are important and strong messengers.
If you think of neural pathways like roads, the roads traversed more often are the ones to develop “grooves” v.s. the ones that don’t get traversed often. Just like taking a certain road to work repeatedly becomes familiar, this creates a sense of “I know this,” “I get this.” And your brain doesn’t have to “be on alert” like it would if it was on a new road…
According to brain-science, familiarity seems to ‘trump’ logic when we become emotionally charged. And, well, navigating certain situations in school, such as bullying for example, is going to be emotionally charged!
• A child’s brain lives more in the “emotional brain” than the “logical brain” because the child-brain isn’t fully developed until past age 25, with the last part of the brain fully maturing being the pre-frontal cortex (PFC). The more logical brain is housed in this PFC of the brain. Hence, it’s natural for kids to have big emotions and less rationalization around certain aspects of day-to-day life. AND, it’s important to note that children with significant trauma have brains that were changed due to these traumas. And this impacts how the PFC engages and the how the limbic brain engages when “stuff” arises in life. What does this mean?...
It means that “in the heat of the moment”, our child may not know what to do or what to say to navigate situations such as bullying because when the brain is highly emotional, the logical part of the brain starts to go offline. There is less access to ideas or rational thought. So even if you’ve talked about bullying, but not role-played it, it can be hard for a child to think of how to respond with a sense of confidence when they are confronted with bullying behaviour.
• Role-playing happens out-of-the-moment and builds neural pathways before a child confronts a specific situation, thereby putting the child in a place of more empowerment than if they hadn’t role-played.
ROLE PLAY CAN:
Support Cognitive development.
Support social-emotional development.
Encourage creative problem-solving and thinking outside the box.
Support parents in recognizing gaps in their child’s social-emotional understanding and seek more tools or professional support. (i.e. When a parent is role-playing with their child and witnesses their child struggling, this can provide insight into where the child may need more support).
Creates more understanding and connection between parent and child.
Bullying is a serious issue that can have a significant impact on a child's mental and emotional well-being. As a parent, it is important to address this issue and provide your child with the tools they need to navigate through bullying scenarios. Providing immense emotional safety as you do this is important.
One of the key areas to support your child is connected to the answers to these questions: What do you do when someone has already done / said something to you? What do you need to say or do for yourself in that moment, (or soon after)?
Often, when parents are confronted with the news that their child was bullied, a parent rightfully becomes emotionally activated themselves. But I have noticed that what often gets unaddressed is the mental and emotional impact on the child who has already ‘gone through it.’ What was said, was already said – it happened already. Sure, we can offer our child to “ignore” it in the future, but what about the mental/emotional stuff now possibly sludging around inside them that is invisible to us?
Ignoring the mental and emotional aspects of bullying won't work, even if you ignore the bullying behavior itself. Make sure to discuss the impact bullying has on your child's well-being, such as feeling scared, anxious, or sad. Encourage them to express their emotions and validate their feelings. And then, offer them tangible tools for self-support when bullying happens. One those self-supports being positive self-talk.
By providing kids with specific tools and strategies, you can help decrease the power a bully has over their well-being. And on that note, I’d like to remind you that today is the last day to register for my Becoming Bully-Proof Coaching Program for kids to avail of the 2 Free Parent Coaching Calls (as described on the website) that will provide immense support.
Empower your kids now! This program is not just for kids experiencing bullying, but also helps kids proactively in the event they do encounter bullying. See you inside the program!