Name It To Tame It: Teach your kids to calm their emotional responses
“Name it to tame it” is a phrase coined by psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel. As Dr. Siegel explains, when you’re experiencing a high intense emotional response, such as feeling scared or angry, your brain pumps stress hormones, lighting up the right side of the brain, our emotions center of the brain. Once this happens, if you are able to use your left side of the brain, the thinking part of your brain, to accurately name the feeling, the brain calms down. In a brain scan you can literally see the brain “squirting soothing neurotransmitters” (words straight from Dr. Siegel, the science guru's mouth) calming down the emotional part of the brain. Are you mind blown? This is the real deal, it’s all backed by science.
Merely naming our emotions can helps to allow our thinking and reasoning brain to take over and decrease activity in our emotional brain. When we can put this action to work, our emotions can inform us instead of overwhelm us. Naming our emotions, calming down our brains, enables us to make better decisions in problem solving.
We must teach our children emotional vocabulary and connect it to how our bodies look and feel when we are experiencing different feelings. Help your child to name their feelings by saying things like “I wonder if you are feeling scared?” This is one way to help your child become more accurate at labeling their feelings. Also, you are their best model. Be sure you are speaking aloud about how you feel. The broader their emotional vocabulary, the better they are able to specifically label their feelings, in turn, the better we are able to support them and meet their needs.
Practice, practice, practice (that’s a reminder for you and your child). Have patience (that’s another reminder for you and your child). This takes lots of time and tons practice. The outcome will help to support healthier reactions to heightened emotions – which in turn will bring a positive bond between you and your child, especially during the most difficult emotional moments.
FeelLinks is a tangible, unique, fun resource targeting growth in emotional intelligence skills for children. BONUS! FeelLinks will also help you, as a parent or caretaker, reflect on your own “name it to tame it” skills. Get started today!