I recall a rough day when my kid was about three years old. It was one of those days when I was tired, and she was in a phase of wearing her clothes in all kinds of creative ways. On this particular day, she decided that a hoody should be worn as a pair of pants. After putting the sleeves for the hoody on her legs, she came walking out of her room, ready for the day with nothing but the hoody on. To keep the hoody from falling down and tripping over it, she had the hood part of the hoody tightly clutched to her chest, and her back side was totally exposed. Of course, I told her we couldn’t leave the house to take her brother to school until the pants were on her bottom and the hoody on her top. The result was a total meltdown. Then, I lost it and yelled.
Stop it, you are being ridiculous; just stop it now!!
The Chaotic World of a Meltdown
Children experience meltdowns as chaotic, overwhelming events. They’re navigating a storm of emotions, and when we lose our temper in such moments, it adds an extra layer of fear and unsafety to their experience. However, there’s a way to turn these challenging situations into opportunities for connection and growth. It also creates a stressful situation for us, the parents.
Revisiting and Repairing Through Storytelling
After the storm subsides, whether later that day or in the following calm moments, revisiting the difficult situation and the experience with your child can be transformative. By recounting the story together, you’re altering how their brain processes that chaotic memory. It’s about adding coherence, understanding, and safety to a once-scary event. This process is known as brain integration, wherein connections are formed across different brain regions, helping to create a network for coherent memory storage.
Revisiting experience by telling the story of what happened changes how that chaotic experience felt in their body. Revisiting those tough times and challenging moments puts the pieces of the puzzle together in an understandable way. It shows your child that first A happened and then B, next C, and finally D. When your child can understand what happened, it gives your child the safety they need to build their emotional regulation skills. Revisiting experience by telling the story is an effective strategy.
From Chaos to Coherence: Building Regulation Skills
Our minds tend to remember experiences when they have a coherent, understandable manner. When we don’t provide that coherence, memories remain fragmented, like puzzle pieces scattered across our brain. These scattered memories can later become triggers in our adult lives, impacting our parenting and relationships. Revisiting the story helps piece together those fragments, offering clarity and safety. This newfound coherence not only transforms memory processing but also aids in developing emotional regulation skills.
Crafting a Repairing Narrative
In the aftermath of a meltdown, when emotions have settled, it’s time to revisit the story with your child. Take a moment to reconstruct the event together, adding the missing elements of compassion, explanation, and connection. This repairing narrative demonstrates that you’re acknowledging their emotions and your own reactions, fostering understanding and empathy.
The Brain Science Behind Repair
When we engage in storytelling and repairing, we’re actively facilitating the formation of vital neuro-networks in our child’s brain. These networks enhance various brain regions’ collaboration, leading to improved coping and emotional regulation skills. Through coherence, connection, and compassion, we help our children differentiate between their actions and their worth as individuals.
The Value of Co-Authoring the Story
Involving your child in co-authoring the story empowers them to organize their emotions into a coherent narrative. The repetition and careful cadence of storytelling soothe their bodies and foster emotional regulation. By treating the story with importance and respect, you create an atmosphere of validation, ensuring your child feels seen, heard, and deeply connected.
Embracing Imperfection and Repair
Repairing these ruptures also teaches our children a vital life lesson – relationships aren’t flawless. They involve moments of disconnection, but there’s always room for repair. This understanding cultivates a healthy approach to close relationships, where acknowledging mistakes, owning them, and working through repairs are integral components.
Nurturing Resilience Through Repair
As parents, we play a significant role in shaping our children’s emotional resilience. By understanding the nuances of neuroscience and brain science, we can turn chaotic moments into powerful opportunities for growth and connection. Repairing with compassion, storytelling, and co-authoring helps our children build robust emotional regulation circuits and equips them with essential skills for navigating their emotions in the future.
So, the next time you find yourself in a similar scenario, remember that the journey from chaos to coherence is within your grasp. You can become the cyclebreaking parent you want to be. By harnessing the science of repair, you’re not just mending moments – you’re building a stronger foundation for your child’s emotional well-being.
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