As parents, we become expert about a child’s body. For example, we know that a fever occurs when our child’s body temperature is above 98.6 degrees, and we know to clean a cut he or she has suffered to avoid infection.
It is also important for parents to understand some basic information about a child’s brain. After all, the brain determines who we are and what we do. Because the brain is shaped in part by the experiences that parents offer, gaining some expert knowledge in how the brain changes in response to our parenting can help us make choices that nurture a strong and resilient child.
The key to a flourishing resilience involves integrating different parts of the brain. We want all the brain’s parts to work well together. We want our children to be able to use their whole brain in a coordinated way. We want the horizontal integration of the left brain’s logic to work well with the right brain’s emotion. And we want the vertical integration of the physically higher parts of the brain to work well with the lower parts because vertical integration allows children to “think” as they consider their actions, rather than react solely on instinct.
As parents, we can use everyday moments to influence the integration of a child’s brain. For example, children who have parents who talk with them about experiences they have had tend to be able to recall the memories of those experiences. Parents who are willing to talk about feelings with their children tend to nurture emotional intelligence—and emotional intelligence allows children to understand their own and others’ feelings more fully. Shy children tend to let go of their inhibitions when parents nurture a sense of courage and “can do.”
An integrated brain is a well-functioning brain. Parents can help children develop different parts of their brains by offering opportunities for sharing, talking, listening, and nurturing.