Welcome to the third installment in Different Dream’s series about special needs parenting from the inside out. The series is based upon what was learned while doing the research for Does My Child Have PTSD? What To Do When Your Child Is Hurting from the Inside Out.
Today’s post builds upon what you learned in the tour of brain basics in Part 2 of the series. and explains why kids can push their parents’ emotional buttons so that Dad and Mom act like crazy people. In Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive, Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell call that response “low road parenting.”
The Low Road
The diagram used in the brain basics post is a good place to begin exploring the special needs parenting low road, a road I too often followed while raising my kids.
As was explained in Part 2 of the inside out special needs parenting series, the hand can be used as a model to help us understand functions of the limbic region of the brain which regulates emotions and general motivational states. The hippocampus and amygdala process new memories, connect emotions and senses to memories, and cause fear reactions like sweaty palms and butterflies in the stomach. These parts of the limbic region do more reacting than thinking. Everything that comes into the brain goes through the hippocampus and amygdala before moving on to the thinking parts of the brain. Think of them as the brain’s low road.
The High Road
The anterior cingulate is the chief operating officer of the brain. It helps coordinate thoughts and bodily movements and determines what we pay attention to. The orbitofrontal cortex is the center for most evolved brain functions such as abstract thinking, reflection, and awareness. Think of it as the brain’s high road.
The High Road of Special Needs Parenting
When the brain is on the high road, it is like a closed fist.
The high road parts of the brain (anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortex) are in close contact with its low road parts (hippocampus and amygdala) so they talk to one another nicely. The high road easily processes the low road signals and puts them in proper perspective.
The Low Road of Special Needs Parenting
But when kids do something that triggers a traumatic memory from our past, our automatic response is to “flip our lids.”
When that happens, the connection between the reactionary low road and the thinking high road is broken. That’s when normally rational parents respond like crazy people.
Future posts in inside out special needs parenting series will explain what parents can do to keep from flipping their lids and taking the low road. But if you can’t wait, I encourage you to purchase a copy of Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive to learn more.
Your High Road/Low Road Special Needs parenting Questions?
Do you have questions about the high and low road? Leave a comment and I’ll try to answer.
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