By Hanna Bogen Novak, M.S., CCC-SLP
Co-Creator of The Brain Talk Curriculum (Former CW Employee and Guest Blogger)
Have you ever wondered what is happening inside your child’s brain when she has a big reaction to a seemingly small problem or leaps into action without considering the consequences? Maybe you have wondered these things about your own brain. Having even a simple awareness of how the brain works gives our children a way to better anticipate, understand, and manage impulses and strong emotions. This understanding of one’s own thinking, or metacognition, is a critical capacity to building strong executive functioning skills in order to pause impulses, make plans, and follow those plans towards future success.
The Brain Talk Curriculum is a helpful resource for teaching children about the brain. Brain Talk personifies key parts of the brain into relatable characters and explains how these parts of the brain communicate in order to mindfully respond instead of impulsively react.
- Myg, or the amygdala, is the part of the brain that triggers avoid If the brain senses some kind of threat, even if it comes from being told, “No more ice cream,” it gives you a Myg Moment to fight, flee, or freeze.
- Buster, or the basal pleasure-and-reward circuit, is the part of the brain that triggers seek impulses. If the brain senses an opportunity, even if the perceived opportunity breaks the classroom rules, it gives you a Buster Bam to grab-and-gulp the immediate reward.
- Hipp, or the hippocampus, is the brain’s personal memory librarian. It keeps track of past experiences to help determine how we should act in the future.
- The Professor, or the prefrontal cortex, is the brain’s goal-setter and plan-maker. It helps us pause impulses, come up with options for how to respond, and choose the best option in order to reach our goals.
Children of all ages can begin to learn how different parts of the brain communicate and work together to help us make mindful, goal-oriented decisions. Here are some ideas for helping your children and students build metacognitive awareness and learn about the brain:
- Help your child notice patterns in what gives them a Myg Moment (i.e., avoid impulse) or Buster Bam (i.e., seek impulse). Is it certain people, activities, places, or times of day that tend to cause these impulses? It is always easier to manage impulses and strong feelings if you anticipate them rather than feeling surprised by them.
- Help your child label his feelings and whether they are gentle or strong. Often labeling an emotion with language makes it seem more manageable, which means fewer impulsive reactions and more mindful responses.
- Remind your child that sometimes she needs to ignore an immediate reward that might seem good in the moment in order to achieve an ultimate reward that will be great in the long-term.
Check out this video for more information about Myg Moments in our brains: