What will you be doing with your kids?

boys playing computer gameWith families requiring to self-isolate in coming weeks and months, we will have the task of providing interesting ways of occupying our children. Whilst there are many good sites on the internet, we need to be aware that too much reliance on these sources may come at a cost. A recently published study* investigated the effect of screen-based media use on the brains of young children.

It looked at the white matter tracts in the brains of pre-kindergarten children. These white matter tracts are found deeper in the brain, and consist of bundles of nerves coated with a substance called myelin which gives them a whitish hue. White matter has been described as the  “neural information highway” . It is involved in a range of conditions and diseases . Previous studies have found that lower microstructural integrity in white matter is associated with cognitive decline. These studies have usually been done with older people, and have focused on conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia. White matter tracts have been shown to play vital roles in brain function, learning, and integrating information from large-scale networks in the brain.

This study with pre-kindergarten children found that more screen time was associated with lower integrity of white matter at a microscopic level. It has been known for some time that increased screen use in young people is associated with language delay; poor sleep; impaired executive functions (e.g. decision making and planning) and general cognition (e.g. memory and learning); and decreased parent-child engagement, including reading together. The study found that increasing screen time was associated with lower scores on language and literacy measures and that this was connected with physical changes in the brain. This is not to say that all screen use should be banned, but it does mean that we parents need to stick to Australian guidelines for screen use as much as possible. So the question ‘What will you be doing with your kids?’

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Brain Music

adorable boy child 2234143 2Last week,  a participant in a Pain Management Group I run bounded into the room looking and feeling so much better. Asked why, he said, "Last week's session! The music is so helpful." He was referring to music which aims to restore rhythms in the brain's Default Mode Network (DMN) to normal. This music is freely available on YouTube.

The Default Mode Network (DMN) consists of several different regions of the brain. The DMN is a resting state network and is most active when the person is relaxed, awake and not task oriented. It is responsible for introspection, creativity and self-identity. For these reasons, it is worth introducing children to the soothing sounds that capture the brain's activity and harmonize it to the resting state of slow, rhythmic electrical waves. DMN music can help with stress, sleep problems and pain. A great deal of music is helpful for these conditions - a headache can be relieved by listening to any music you find relaxing and pleasurable. DMN music takes things a step further in entraining the brain's rhythms through specific frequencies which capture and reset the brain’s natural rhythms.

Letting Children be Children

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In his book  Parenting for Everyone Vijayadev Yogendra says, “A child needs time to be a child; he or she should not be made into a small adult. A child  must have time to lose the immaturities of childhood.” We know that there are many pressures on families that can push the child into premature independence, but an interesting factor is what has been termed the ‘parent expectation gap’. This comes about when we over-estimate what children are capable of at a particular age. Research from the USA found:

  • 43% of parents think children can share and take turns with other children before the age of 3, but this ability only develops between the ages 3 and 4.
  • 36% think children under the age of 2 have enough control to resist the impulse to do something forbidden and 56% say this happens before the age of 3 whereas most children are not able to do this until they are 3 ½ or 4 years old.
  • 23% think children under the age of 1 can control their emotions and not have a tantrum when frustrated and another 18% expect this to happen before 2, whereas this control is not developed until 3 ½ or 4 years of age.

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How to Help Children Become Adaptable


pexels photo 1416736Recently  concerns have been expressed about some unintended consequences of the idea of resilience.  Many people who have  poor self-esteem and/or alternatively high expectations of themselves might needlessly suffer because they see themselves as not having the necessary resilience to cope and will try to just 'tough it out' . Adaptability gives more scope for alternatives. In a situation of bullying at work for example, options include reporting the offender or even leaving the job if no action is taken. This might mean accepting a number of changes in  circumstances. Being able to accept the need to change and the ability to adapt  is going to make that a lot easier.

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