How storytelling connects both sides of the brain

Psychiatrist Dan Siegel, MD, shares advice for parents on how encouraging your child to tell stories can help to improve the connection between both sides of their brain
How Storytelling Connects Both Sides Of The Brain In Children
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How storytelling connects both sides of the brain

One way we use brain science to really help our children is in making stories that help us make sense and calm our children down. Let’s say your daughter falls down and scrapes her knee. One way you can understand what happens there is inside of her, the pain from her knee is going to come up and register itself in the right side of her brain. The feeling of shock, and surprise, and humiliation will be in the right side of her brain. And yet, for her to make sense of what happened, she’s got to use the left and link it to the right. So here is a way you can do that. You say to your daughter, “Wow. I really see what happened. That was really scary, because you were running along, you were so excited to see your grandma, you didn’t know there was a broom in your way, because you were looking at her. And then you tripped. And that was really a shock. And you felt really, really bad and now your knee really hurts.” Those moments are ways of teaching her to name the inner experience that she’s having – of shock, of pain – and when you do that, the brain uses the process called ‘name it to tame it’. When the left hemisphere names what’s going on to the right, the whole system calms down. So at this moment, when you’ve identified what your daughter is experiencing, teaching her how to make sense of what happened, then she feels better and you’re teaching her the exact tool she needs, so when she goes out into life, she’ll be able to approach life with gas on resilience, because you’ve taught her how to name it to tame it for anything she encounters in her life ahead.

Psychiatrist Dan Siegel, MD, shares advice for parents on how encouraging your child to tell stories can help to improve the connection between both sides of their brain


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Daniel J. Siegel, MD

Neuropsychiatrist, New York Times Bestselling Author, and Mindsight Educator

Daniel J. Siegel received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry. He served as a National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellow at UCLA, studying family interactions with an emphasis on how attachment experiences influence emotions, behavior, autobiographical memory and narrative.

Dr. Siegel is currently a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine where he is on the faculty of the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and the Co-Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center. An award-winning educator, he is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of several honorary fellowships. Dr. Siegel is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational organization, which offers online learning and in-person lectures that focus on how the development of mindsight in individuals, families and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. His psychotherapy practice includes children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. He serves as the Medical Director of the LifeSpan Learning Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Blue School in New York City, which has built its curriculum around Dr. Siegel’s Mindsight approach.

Dr. Siegel has published extensively for the professional audience. He is the co-editor of the Handbook of Psychiatry and the author of numerous articles, chapters, and the internationally acclaimed text, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are.  This book introduces the field of interpersonal neurobiology, and has been utilized by a number of clinical and research organizations worldwide, including the U.S. Department of Justice, The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, Microsoft and Google. The Developing Mind, Second Edition: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are was published in March 2012. Dr. Siegel serves as the Founding Editor for the Norton Professional Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology which contains over 12 textbooks. The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being  explores the nature of mindful awareness as a process that harnesses the social circuitry of the brain as it promotes mental, physical, and relational health. The Mindful Therapist: A Clinician's Guide to Mindsight and Neural Integration explores the application of focusing techniques for the clinician’s own development, as well as their clients' development of mindsight and neural integration. Norton released Dr. Siegel’s the Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology: An Integrative Handbook of the Mind in April 2012.

Dr. Siegel’s book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, offers the general reader an in-depth exploration of the power of the mind to integrate the brain and promote well-being. He has written two parenting books, Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive with Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. and The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind  with Tina Payne Bryson, PhD., both of which explore the application of the mindsight approach to parenting. Dr. Siegel's latest release is The New York Times bestseller Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain (Tarcher, 2013), which explains how brain development impacts teenagers' behavior and relationships. His next book with Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. is No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind.

Dr. Siegel’s unique ability to make complicated scientific concepts easy to understand and exciting has led him to be invited to address diverse local, national and international groups of mental health professionals, neuroscientists, corporate leaders, educators, parents, public administrators, healthcare providers, policy-makers, and clergy. He has been invited to lecture for the King of Thailand, Pope John Paul II, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Google University, and TEDx. For 2010-2011, Dan is serving as the National Speaker for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Mindfulness and Integrative Medicine Lectures. He lives in Southern California with his family.

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