Scene from my morning walk: Two little girls, sitting at the bottom of a slide in the park. A mom tries to soothe one of the little girls, crying hysterically, while the other child calmly tries to explain what happened.
Girl #1, the very upset little girl, struggles to catch her breath while her friend says,
“ Well it was just bad luck, someone came up the slide while she was coming down”.
Girl #2 exhibited “top down” thinking, or what Tina Bryson and Dan Siegel call the “upstairs brain”, when thought and words help to manage stress, while girl #1 was operating in the bottom or “downstairs” brain, in an emotionally reactive state, without access to her words.
Top down thinking comes with many benefits. When children can talk about what is bothering them, a whole new world opens up yielding lifelong benefits. I will be writing more about “top down” and “bottom up” functioning and how you can help your child calm in body first in order to access language and adaptive problem solving in future posts.