Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson start thier book, "The Whole Brain Child", off with the acknowledgement that many parents are the experts in their child's bodies- how much they eat, sleep, temperature and when they are sick- but few have an understanding of thier child's brains- the inner workings that lead to all their actions, thoughts and feelings. Their book seeks to change that.
Written in plain english, it works through the topology of the brain to give parents, caregivers, teachers, and anyone else who spends time with children, a solid understanding of why kids do what they do, and how, as a caregiver, to respond in a way that promotes integration and development. What I was most impressed about however was their acknowledgment that parents come to the job with thier own experiences of being parented, and without question thier own "baggage" around the job. Dan and Tina devote a special section at the end of each chapter on how to bring your new-found knowledge into your own experiences- enhancing not only the parenting relationship, but inevitably improving your overall understanding about your own thoughts, actions and options. What I find so important about this addition is by not only addressing our response to children, but also our response to the world at large, it works to change the larger family system and improve family functioning and dynamics.
This becomes even more important on the heals of a study by Copeland, Wolke, Shanahan, and Costello published on July 15, 2015 in JAMA Psychiatry, where 1420 children aged 9, 11, and 13 where followed from 1993 to 2010. The study aimed to determine the link between psychiatric and subclinical psychologial problems in childhood and overall functioning in adulthood. Suprisingly the study found that children who experience mental health challenges below a level that would be diagnosed are three times more likely to experience a variety of adverse life circumstances in adulthood (even when social factors where controlled for). While these children won't make the cut for increased support in school, or access to funded psychological support, they are struggling, silently, and carrying the burden into thier adult lives. The interactions and support suggested by Dan and Tina could a way to address this Public Health issue and for caregivers and parents to take steps to combat these long term effects by increasing integration and resiliance. All this is done without blaming, finger pointing and shame. Practical examples, scripts, cartoons and a true understanding of the whole child makes "The Whole Brain Child" a must read.
It also makes me eager for the release of thier new book, "Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain", set to come out on August 4.