When my son faces a stressful or frustrating situation, he uses his self-titled snivy-power. Yes, just like a lot kids his age (well all ages actually), he loves Pokémon. His favourite is a green grass snake Pokémon named Snivy. Snivy has a calm, collected demeanor and is very intelligent.
So when stressed, my son uses his snivy-power to work through his frustrations and calm his brain.
Snivy-power is his take on what adults call self-regulation. Self-regulation is talked about a lot in parenting circles these days. So what exactly is it? Dr. Stuart Shanker describes it as responding to life’s stressors, returning to a calm and alert state, ready to deal with new circumstances.
The downstairs (or feeling) part of the brain is responsible for our basic body functions, like breathing and blinking as well as basic emotions like anger and fear. It is important because it can keep us safe when there is real danger.
The upstairs (or thinking) part of the brain is responsible for things like planning, problem-solving, imagining, and making good decisions. It helps us think before we act, helps us consider other people’s feelings, it regulates our own emotions and helps calm ourselves down.
It is important is for both parts of our brain to work together, especially in situations that are stressful or frustrating so that we don’t get “stuck” with just the downstairs brain being in charge.
So, back to my son’s Pokémon descriptor – Snivy clearly lives upstairs. My son uses his snivy-power to remind himself to consult with that calm, rational, intelligent “thinking” brain upstairs.
To him, using snivy-power means
- Starting off with some good calm breathing
- Using mindfulness and self-calming strategies that my son made his own. (Just like my collegue Andrea did for her daughter!)
It is also important for me to recognize that his upstairs brain is still developing. I can’t always expect him to access his calm thinking brain at a moment’s notice because big feelings can be blocking the way.
Also, the idea of “name it to tame it” comes in handy. When my son is experiencing powerful emotions, I ask him if he is feeling frustrated. Helping him name his feelings will help release important chemicals in the brain and help him access his snivy-power upstairs.
I would encourage you to talk about our amazing minds with your kids and come up with your own strategies when the downstairs brain is taking over. And don’t forget to make use of them yourself. As a parent, I too need a healthy dose of snivy-power on a regular basis.
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For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.
About this guest blogger:
Kajsa Klassen – I am a public health nurse with the School Years Program. I love working alongside students, school staff and parents to create positive environments where all can thrive. As a mom of 3 I greatly enjoy sharing in the parenting journey with other Halton parents and all the adventures that come with it. Our family likes to explore the outdoors in our Halton Hills community.