Today I interviewed Deborah Mcnellis, founder of Brain Insights.
Her work focuses on helping new parents to understand how to raise calm, confident children using the latest neuroscientific information. Deborah summarises this as “understanding all we can so that we can give our children the potential to become all that they can become”. This also gives us the possibility of finding more enjoyment and fulfilment in our role as parents.
If you are reading this while you are expecting your first child – well done you are ahead of the game and it will serve you and your child well. If you have older children, this information is still super important and the great news is our brains go on developing throughout our lives.
Our Environment Matters
Experiences create physical connections in the brain. At birth the baby’s brain cells are largely unconnected, synaptic connections form because of experiences they have in the world at a rate of one billion connections per second! If the child has a lot of positive experiences they will experience the world as a largely safe and positive place.
The prefrontal cortex – the highest functioning area of the brain which gives us the capacity for empathy, reflection and self regulation doesn’t finish developing until we are twenty five. Early experiences, however, contribute to its development.
Deborah offers resources to parents to help them to understand how to interact with their baby in a positive way and nurture the bond with them. Her neuro-nurturing cards offer ideas of specific actions you can take and information about how this benefits your child.
Parenting As Relationship
My suggestion is to reframe parenting as a relationship and to understand your child’s more challenging behaviour as a signal that the relationship may need repair or that your child needs more high quality attention from you. Deborah highlights the fact that we need to be aware that the child’s prefrontal cortex and therefore their ability to self regulate is not fully developed. We can help them to develop this capacity for self regulation by helping them to name their emotions and describe for them what is happening. Difficult moments can be regarded as an opportunity to learn.
If the world isn’t always safe how does offering your child a safe, secure environment prepare them for the world? Deborah explains that if we offer them a sense of safety during the first eighteen months they have the confidence to explore the world and take risks later on – knowing that they have a safe place to return to.
You can watch the full interview here.