When Danny was in the depths of one of his depressive stages in 2015-2016 I remember him saying “if anything I’m learning here can help my kids it will be worth it.” Danny and I were learning a lot individually.
We learned about the brain, about anxiety, depression, the pre-frontal cortex, the lower brain, neural pathways, neuroplasticity, etc. etc. etc.
I love knowing that the brain is plastic. To me it confirms a doctrinal truth, that we as humans can change if we choose to do so.
One thing about the brain to be aware of. The brain was purposely created to be less sponge-like as we get older. This makes sense when I think about it. I can tie a shoe, get dressed, and get ready for the day in a somewhat mechanical way without a lot of brain power. For kids it is different. Right now my three year-old literally thinks through every step to put on a pair of shoes. This extra neuroplasticity is an advantage for kids learning new things, and makes it a little tougher for us adults to adjust our beliefs and thinking patterns. Bottom line: it still can happen with practice!
I’ve observed how proactive Danny has needed to be at practicing new thoughts to actually believe them. Right now I could tell my five year old a new thought and he would log it and walk away.
How amazing is it that the tools Danny and I are learning in our mid-thirties, which are invaluable, can be taught to our children right now? These tools will become second-nature to them if they choose to use them. SO.AMAZING!!!
- I’ve become more compassionate in my parenting since 2015. I’ve realized that even though I don’t understand why my youngest screams at the top of her lungs and cries over something I would deem “petty,” it’s not petty to her. It’s real and it’s big to her.
- I’ve learned to let go of things that don’t matter. I don’t care what my kids pick out to wear to school.
- I’ve learned to let go of having a perfectly clean home. I still care that it’s well-maintained, but it doesn’t need to be spotless.
- I’ve been reminded through circumstance of how invaluable time is. Quality time, not quantity, is what I focus on.
- I try to pick my battles with my kids so that I’m not nagging them right and left.
- I let them share whatever their thoughts in a safe space.
Dr. Brad Reedy shared a story of traveling with his wife and youngest into a city for the weekend. The older siblings stayed home due to certain responsibilities. At some point over the weekend the child said “mom, dad, I wish it was just us three in our family.” Instead of quickly saying something like “oh don’t say that you love your siblings we need them for our family to be complete” Dr. Reedy said something like “yeah, wouldn’t that be fun?” The child thought for a minute and replied: “well I’d miss them though so, never mind.”
Do you see what just happened there? Dr. Reedy held the space for his child to play out the thoughts in his/her mind and find his/her own healing—so beautiful. I try to do this as much as I can with my kids while still having healthy boundaries.
Things aren’t perfect over here. Our kids are very much still kids, but they are perfectly kids, living out their lives with ups, downs, and everything in between.