Your child may seem unable to sit still, but there is a reason for it. The brain wiring needed to curb his or her restless impulses is not yet developed. That’s why children need room to roam, a change of scene, or a novel toy—all of which activate the calming chemical dopamine in the frontal lobes.
If you are planning to travel with your child this summer, think about how long you will be expecting him or her to sit still. While your child sits passively in a car, train, plane, or other form of transportation, his or her motor impulses will become stronger as the sitting time lengthens—and the result will be restlessness and fidgeting.
Adults have a more mature brain, which allows for inhibition of these motor impulses. Adults can even enjoy sitting—with a book or a little conversation. Children, on the other hand, feel lots of stress when there is “nothing” to do.
The solution to fidgeting is providing something to catch your child’s interest and curiosity. By doing so, you calm the primitive impulse to move around. A guessing game, paper and crayons, and, most important, your attention will be very helpful. The more you join with your child in his or her quiet form of play, the more your mature brain and body will help emotionally regulate your child’s immature brain system. If you are calm, your presence will have a calming effect on your child. Also, keep physical closeness in your playbook. If you let your child sit on your lap or give him or her a hug, you will be helping his or her body release oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is the calming anti-stress chemical.
Your travels will progress more smoothly if you remember to plan for your child’s immature brain system. Creative activities will make the trip more fun for everyone.
More to consider: Vital systems . . .
In children, certain brain systems are slow to mature. These systems, including the brain’s dopamine and norepinephrine systems, are important for concentration and focused attention. These immature systems are why your child is often easily distracted, impulsive, and inclined to keep his or her body moving.