the whole-brain child (chapter 4)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The intro post for this series can be found here.
Read along and give your opinions!

Chapter 4 helps us begin to focus on integrating our children’s memories for growth and healing. Especially if your children are from hard places, memories are one of the primary battlegrounds of the mind. The chapter begins by debunking a couple of the myths surrounding this battleground. Memories are filed away by association, and they are not exact. According to the authors, when memory retrieval occurs, our brain activates a neural cluster that is similar to, but not identical with, the one created at the time of encoding. Memories are distorted – slightly or greatly – even though you believe you are being accurate.

Some memories are explicit – a conscious recollection of a past experience, and some are implicit – where past experiences influence your behavior in the present without any conscious realization that your memory has been triggered. (This is how we ‘remember’ how to do things that we’ve done before.) Teaching our kids to integrate the implicit and explicit memories can help them turn even painful experiences into sources of power and understanding.


Strategy #6 – Use the Remote of the Mind: Replaying Memories
This strategy is quite simple. It’s just about helping our children to retell their painful and hard memories. By encouraging them to re-tell it, it enables us, as parents, to help them work through the implicit memories that are involved while they remember the explicit ones. Pause at important points to offer them control over their story.

My own take-away: As a parent, I need to help my kids’ implicit memories become explicit ones so that they become aware of both the facts of the event and the big feelings behind those facts. When they’re aware, I can help them deal with experiences intentionally. I also need to be careful to not mythologize every negative thing that’s happening in my child’s life. The authors offer a helpful acronym to deal with different situations – HALT. Before I assume this is about some sort of gigantic implicit memory, I need to ask myself, is my child simply hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? If so, I can fix those problems. If not, then I have this new powerful strategy at my disposal to help get to the root of what’s going on.

Strategy #7 – Remember to Remember: Making Recollection a Part of your Family’s Daily Life
Take the time to talk with your children about what’s happened in their day, at special events, during holidays, etc. Do it as a matter of course, just in everyday conversation. Talk through the details, whether it’s a simple re-telling of their day or a more complex memory from several Christmases ago.

My own take-away: I can encourage my kids who write to start journaling. They already do a bit of this at school, but a more structured time at home would be good for them too. We already play the High/Low game at dinner, and this year, we’re adding an ‘act of kindness’ portion to try not just to get the kids to think through their own days, but also pay attention to others. I’ll continue to show pictures, make videos, and save memorabilia.


What about you? What was your take-away from this chapter? Do you have any good ideas for building memory-recollection into your kids’ days?

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