By Sara Lapp, Counsellor, Counselling Services, Catholic Family Service

thewholebrainchild_cover_largeA Review of The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Tara Payne Bryson, Ph.D. (2012)

You’re in the grocery store, finally at the checkout after a long day. Your seven-year-old spots a package of gum and quickly starts a tirade about how she NEEDS that gum. (What is it about gum!?) You attempt to explain to her that no, she does not need that gum and you do not need that gum stuck to the seat in the car, in her hair, or on the dog. But the unravelling has already begun and soon you find yourself with a crying, dysregulated child.

As a counsellor, I often work with parents and families looking for strategies to navigate these types of challenges. And because family life is busy with work, commitments and activities, I thought it would be helpful to review some of the books that I often recommend to parents and caregivers.

The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Tara Payne Bryson, Ph.D. is a simple and concise book that accomplishes a couple of key points in teaching this thing called “self regulation.”

As Siegel and Bryson write, self regulation begins with integration. In its simplest form, integration is the ability to use both the right and left hemispheres of the brain; the logical left side with the emotional right side. As you may have witnessed in your children (or even yourself!), when we get stuck in our rule-bound, logical left side we miss out on the felt sense of the experience. And vice versa.

One of my favorite metaphors in this book is the idea of integration as a river. The authors describe this concept as the river having two banks; one bank encompassing rigid patterns of thinking and behaving and the other bank encompassing chaotic patterns of thinking and behaving. As you can imagine, being drawn into one of these “banks” produces a dysregulated youngster. Hence the goal of integration is the ability to float down the river, navigating both banks. The child’s age, temperament, developmental stage, and level of maturity will of course influence both the width of the river as well as the nuances of navigation.

And how might we as parents and caregivers help our youngsters navigate the stream of integration? The Whole-Brain Child presents some great strategies that I will review in the next edition of this blog. Stay tuned!

At CFS, we don’t manage people or prescribe solutions. We listen – with compassion. When people feel accepted, safe and understood, that’s when things start to change – for the better. We believe that everyone, regardless of financial capacity, should have access to professional, effective and efficient clinical treatment. Our Engagement Team ensures that anyone who reaches out to us will receive support either in person or over the phone – within one business day – guaranteed. Read about our Affordable Counselling Program.