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Parenting With Brains In Mind; Why ‘New Day’ Matters More Than New Year!

It’s a new year, but difficult to get into the mindset of a ‘new start’ because the ‘news’ is anything but new.
However, my 8 year old gave me an important reminder about beginnings this morning.

Like plenty of others I’m sure, we are struggling to get back into the routine of bedtime on a school night, which inevitably means getting up in the morning is a challenge too.

Unfortunately, the beginning of the day has this effect on many families, causing stress for everyone that then gets the days off to a less-than-ideal start.

And so with Cass refusing to get out of bed, that’s just where this morning was heading.
Until he said ‘I think the Tickle Monster is going to have to come and get me up’.

The Tickle Monster, having been much more fun when Cass was a toddler, is a rarity these days, but somehow – for a change – he knew what would help, and after two minutes of squealing and laughter and he was ready to get up.

It was only a brief incident but it was enough to sort his brain chemistry out. Instead of us descending into an argument, which would have fired up both our bodies’ stress response, and flooded our brains with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, we both started the day in an unusually optimistically frame of mind.

And this is the wonder of adjusting brain chemistry at the beginning of the day; healthy hormones, such as dopamine, speed up neural connectivity, making sure brains are learning-ready… Hence why it’s a real frustration of mine that so many schools offer fun and rewards at the end of the day.

But as parents, knowing how to adjust our kids’ biochemistry means that; despite the challenges that the start of the day can bring; there’s plenty we can still do to set them up for a good, or a better day.

With that in mind, here’s an overview of three super-healthy hormones , and some practical ways you can pump them into your kids’ brains, first thing!

Connect With Oxytocin
Or whatever age they are, the moment our kids wake up in the morning is the opportunity to meaningfully connect. Oxytocin is our bonding hormone, and so a sense of love and belonging creates it, in buckets!

So spare a few minutes before the rush begins. If they’re not into morning cuddles, ask about the dreams they had or tell them about yours. Read a book. Share some of your hopes for the day.

Turbocharge Dopamine
Finding time for a bit of fun, a playful moment, to eat breakfast together (wildly unrealistic for most of us, I know), or to get your kids moving around will all turbocharge this feel-good hormone.

Walking, cycling or scooting to school shouldn’t just be an agenda for weight management; they all give the brain a dopamine boost, getting young brains learning-ready before they even get to school.

A bit of time to connect and chatter along the ways adds a supplementary dose of oxytocin too!    

Go Slow With Serotonin
If your children benefit more from calm, or need a reset before leaving the house, a serotonin-boost can work wonders.
A few grounding moments are never wasted! Help them to connect; with themselves or their surroundings… Take a few moments outside or take a slower or longer walk to school.

Especially if school or separations are anxiety-inducing for your kids, share a few minutes together to notice where the greens, the blues or the yellows are. Or the circles squares and straight lines.
Or tune into the sounds; what can they hear, closest to them and furthest away…

Work on breathing intentionally for just a couple of minutes; the 4-7-8 technique; breathing in for 4 counts, holding it for 7 and releasing it for 8; is proven to reset the whole nervous system.

The most important thing to hold in mind about changing brain chemistry, is that it neither complicated or time consuming.
And it’s especially powerful when we create the conditions to make that happen from the very beginning of the day!  
So don’t just make New Year count. Every day is new and they are all full of golden opportunities to set our kids’ days up to start, and continue, well.  

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