Upstairs Downstairs - Part 2

This blog post is a continuation of the last one, Upstairs Downstairs (In Your Brain), and describes 6 more techniques to help you engage your child’s upstairs brain - encouraging them to manage their feelings and connect with others in ways that will serve them throughout their life. It is based on the work of Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD in their book The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.

7. Remember to Remember: Making Recollection a Part of Your Family’s Daily Life

                Remembering gives us a chance to integrate implicit memories (those we may not consciously remember) and explicit memories (those we remember on a conscious level). Practicing remembering is a good way to increase a child’s skill in this area. Remembering important events is valuable, as well as allowing kids to be descriptive of everyday occurrences. As children get older we can ask more detailed or nuanced questions to invite reflection.

8. Let the Clouds of Emotion Roll By: Teaching that Feelings Come and Go

                While we may feel like rushing our kids through unhappy emotions, it’s important to let them fully experience them. We can allow them to talk about their feelings, and acknowledge that they may feel different later. Using phrases like “sometimes” and “right now” can help them understand that things will shift. When things are calm, pointing to things that change, like clouds moving across the sky, or leaves travelling down a stream, can be a useful tool for teaching kids about feelings.

9. SIFT: Paying Attention to What’s Going On Inside

Sensations – invite kids to notice what they feel in their bodies when they are happy, angry, or sad for example. Most of us can point to places in our body where big feelings play out.

Images – children can become frightened of certain images that get stuck in their heads. Offering them the chance to change the image allows them to feel a sense of mastery.

Feelings – Fine-tune emotions so that kids have a sense of control. Many of us get in the habit of using words like fine, good, or okay – so take time to develop your emotional vocabulary as well. A list of feeling words can be helpful in choosing just the right feeling. There are also feelings charts that have pictures of feelings – these can be used with young children.

Thoughts – Teach children how to pay attention to the thoughts they have. The old adage says – you don’t have to believe everything you think! Showing kids how to look at their thoughts, rather than from  their thoughts is one way to help them realize this. Lynne Namka, psychologist and author, says “Thoughts are just thoughts,” and encourages us to name them.

10: Exercise Mindsight: Getting Back to the Hub

Imagine a wheel – the hub is the centre, where we can feel aware, open, peaceful and calm. The outer rim is where sensations, thoughts, feelings, dreams, perceptions, and memories reside. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up on certain points on the rim.  If we can return to the hub, we can regain our sense of calmness, and then turn our attention to different points on the rim.

11. Increase the Family Fun Factor: Making a Point to Enjoy Each Other

Games, fun activities, and silly-play help you form bonds with your children. It can also enhance sibling relationships.

12. Connect Through Conflict: Teach Kids to Argue with a “We” in Mind

Teach kids to think about others’ feelings – developing empathy for others is a “we” game. Help your children clue into non-verbal cues like facial expressions and body language. Let them know that it’s important to quickly repair any damage after a conflict – emotional damage or otherwise. Making it right teaches a lot about empathy.



Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson have written a valuable book! I didn’t have these skills when I was a parent – at least not all of them – but I can learn them and use them with my grandchildren and great nieces and nephews. Buy the book and share it with others in your family! It’s easy to read, has wonderful diagrams and examples, and contains gems of wisdom.