Everyone has an Upstairs and a Downstairs to their brain. As adults we learn to control these 2 parts to the brain but this is much harder in children; in fact it takes us until we are in our early 20's to fully gain control of our brains to allow us to be rationale thinkers i.e. we often expect children to be able to control certain behaviours that they simply cant!
Teaching children about their brains is a great way to support their development and help them to control angry, emotional outbursts.
The picture below shows a cartoon of the brain and the parts of the brain controlling which aspects of our self and our behaviours.
The Upstairs brain controls all our best sides i.e. our creativity, our empathy and our kindness. When we are happy and feel safe this part of the brain takes over and allows us to do things such as dancing, singing, writing, accessing our work on Seesaw etc.
Our Downstairs brain is the brain that controls are basic reactions e.g. Flight or Fight and breathing (the things we need to do to stay alive).
These are inbuilt reactions designed to keep us safe and the Downstairs brain will take over when your child feels angry, scared, confused, upset...
Signs that the Downstairs Brain (The Amygdala) has taken over and hijacked the Upstairs Brain:
This side of the brain can be incredibly hard to control and stop so we work with the children to do several things to tame the Downstairs brain (Amygdala).
Here are some strategies and a social story for any children struggling with anger and emotional outbursts:
Tell your child how it makes you feel when they displays this behaviour.
Explain that when you ask them to do something it’s not because you are mean it is because you love them and want to keep them safe and healthy.
Talk to them about what’s going on and how everyone is worried and that’s normal but you are the adult and you will take care of it.
There are support documents on the Covid 19-Well Being Page
Make sure you have structure:
Structured day – have a timetable during the week. Routine is a good way to make everyone feel calm as we know what’s coming next.
09:30 wash brush teeth get dressed etc
10:00 school work
11:00 break etc……..
Sit down and plan your day together letting your child choose part of their day which towards the end they can earn as a reward e.g. Lego time
At the weekend keep it chilled and easy as everyone needs to be able to relax and have down time.
Games are a good way of building the relationship and have fun.
Board games where your child has to listen to instructions to play and take turns.
Follow my leader – hide something e.g. an Ipad or a treat.
Give him specific instructions on how to find it. Turn left – turn right – go to the kitchen – walk up the stairs etc .
When they finds it really praise your child and explain that if they hadn’t listened to exactly what you had said they wouldn’t have found it.
Take turns at being the leader and let your child hide something for you.
Trust game – set up an obstacle course for you both to walk around blindfolded
Take it in turns to verbally guide each other round the obstacle course blinded folded.
Share a story-choose your favourite book and take turns at reading to each other. It is important to make sure that you listen carefully and don't over correct your child. Praise their reading and make it fun. Encourage the use of voices and actions and mirror what you want your child to do.
There are free books available on these websites:
My Angry Monster
Sometimes we can get angry, sometimes we know why and sometimes we don’t.
Sometimes we say it’s because someone has made us angry or cross.
It could have been because of a game we are playing or because someone told us to do something we don’t want to.
What makes you feel angry ?
When you start to get angry or mad how do you feel?
Does it start slowly in your tummy or head like a snake or is it fast like lightening?
Does your anger make you want to throw things, shout (AHHHH!!) or do you go very quiet (SHHH)?
Do you feel very hot or do you feel cold?
How do YOU feel?
How can you or a grown up help you to calm down?
Do you count to 10?
Do you want to be left alone to calm down?
What can you or a grown up do to help you?
How do you feel when you have calmed down?
Are you sad because you have broken something or said nasty words to someone?
Do you still think its someone else’s fault that you are angry ?
How do you feel?
What do you think you could do if you have broken something or said nasty words?
What could you do if you have hurt someone?
What could you do?
If someone had said nasty words to you or hurt you what would you want them to do to make things better ?
Imagine if your anger was a monster what would it look like?
What colour, size or shape would it be?
Would it be spikey or smooth?
Would it get bigger the angrier you got ?
Is your anger like food and feeds your angry monster or would it get smaller?
What would your angry monster look like?
Now draw your monster-
What do your friends and family look like when they see your angry monster?