Understanding Your Child’s Hijacked Brain
Use a jar to show what is happening in the brain
The Amygdala is one of the smallest parts of the brain, but can be very powerful and “hijack” your child’s emotions. It processes emotions such as anger, fear and anxiety. It responds to stress by either telling your child’s brain to fight (panic attack or temper tantrum), flee (run) or freeze (shut down).
You can help your child learn to control their Amygdala and keep them from being “hijacked”. When hijacked, the rest of their brain that helps them make good choices, shuts down.
This activity can help you and your child understand what is going on
To make your own jar
- Find a clear plastic or glass jar
- Fill it half full with water and half full of clear dish soap
- Add food colouring of your child’s choice
- Add stones or pebbles, then add sparkles (you can purchase at any dollar store)
- To ensure the jar does not open and spill, glue around the lid
Demonstrate to your child that the Jar works like their Amygdala. It gets upset when turned upset down and shaken (the way their Amygdala feels when it is upset). However, it calms down when they use some of these strategies:
- Take deep breaths
- Count to ten
- Use a fidget toy
- Count your fingers or tap two fingers together
- Distract yourself by thinking of a favourite place or memory
- Talk to a friend or adult
Practice with the jar and see how quickly it becomes upset but how long it takes to settle. While the Amygdala is settling, just let the child breathe and tell them they are okay. Once they are calm, you can then talk about what got them upset and help them problem-solve.
If you and/or your child are struggling to manage your emotions, it may be time to talk to a professional for additional support. Click here to learn more about our services.