Why Dr. Tye Cried…
This winter my wife bought me a brand new pair of Mukluk’s for Christmas. They made me think of a story of winter boots when I was a kid.
One winter, I remember a very cold stretch where I lived in northern Wisconsin. There was one day in particular that was extra cold, and my mom insisted I wear my winter boots on the bus to school.
I was sooo worried about what the other kids would think about me wearing winter boots and not regular shoes, that I decided there was no way I was going to do it. I threw a fit, I cried, and I yelled with my mom while we were preparing for the bus. It was one of the biggest melt-downs I had ever had.
Even though I argued and argued, there was nothing that was going to change her mind. And if you knew how my mom parented, she was going to get her way. So I ended up on the bus, with red eyes, puffy face, fowl mood…and a pair of winter boots on my feet.
Why did this happen?
What does it have to do with you and your kids?
First, think back to a time when you’ve faced uncertainty or worry. Or a time when your child has feared a situation like this, whether it be going to school or to any new place…
This happens because part of your brain (the amygdala) is designed to tell you when there is potential danger. When you imagine something in the future that you’re unsure of (e.g. how the kids will look at you when you get on the bus), the amygdala kicks in to help you avoid this potential dangerous situation.
While avoiding risk is great if you are entering a truly dangerous situation…a robber approaching you in an alley, or an actual boogey man under your bed…many times you end up perceiving more danger than there actually is.
When I look back to wearing my boots to school, no one made fun of me, no one looked at me with a weird face, and my day was pretty much as normal as all the others.
What can we do about it?
The good news is there is another portion of your brain that acts a counterbalance to the amygdala. This portion is called the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is activated when we imagine greatness for ourselves. It is responsible for helping us create a more positive future.
Now here’s the easy tip – the PFC is also activated when we look out over open vistas. So an easy way to get out of fear, uncertainty, or worry is to find a place with a wide open view – on top of a hill, by an open field, or along a river. Any of these areas will activate the PFC of your brain.
In fact, an easy way to do it here in Highland Park is to go along the Mississippi river (I like walking along the Ford Pkwy bridge) and you’ll find a lovely open view.
When you give yourself (or your child) an open view, you’ll automatically put your brain into a calmer state.
So the next time you and your child are worried about what’s next, remember this simple tip. It might save you from the giant melt-down like I had when I was a kid!
If you go with your child, that is a perfect time to also talk about what you’re looking forward to for the day. While the PFC is activated, it is a great opportunity to paint a brighter picture for your future!