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  • Writer's pictureLena Agree JD, PsyD

Help Your Nanny with Your Child "The Whole-Brain Child" Way ~ Big Feelings (Part 2 of 4)



Two Steps to Manage Big Emotions with Young Children


It can be unnerving for your nanny when your child is really upset. Teaching her the “Connect and Redirect” strategy from The Whole Brained Child, by Siegel and Bryson (pp. 23-25), can help both her and your child through these tough moments, while also encouraging your child’s optimal brain development.


Strategy #1: Connect and Redirect: ATTUNE, ATTUNE, ATTUNE and save the explanation for later. Here’s the 2-step process in a nutshell:


1. Attune to child’s emotions. When a child is very upset s/he is overcome with emotion, which is a right brain, non-rational response. No one can process logic in this state, including adults, so the first step is always to lower the emotion by attuning. Here’s how: Listen non-judgmentally, comfort, provide nurturing physical contact and empathic facial expressions. These are cues that the right brain picks up and processes. They send the message to the rest of the brain, “You are safe and cared for.” This will calm the child down.


2. Introduce logic, only after the child is fully calm (and this may take a bit). You can introduce a rational explanation (processed by the left brain) when the right brain is no longer screaming “danger!” It is only when the right brain feels safe that the left brain will absorb information. Now you can talk about what happened, why it happened, how it felt, and what to do about it. This way you have both sides of the child’s brain working together.


Check out Part 3 of this series for the second strategy to lower your child’s emotions: Using Words to Lower Emotions. You can always go back to Part 1 of this series on Concrete Strategies.


Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, P. H. D. T. P.(2012).The whole-brain child.Random House.


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