As human beings, we are born to engage and connect with ourself, others, and the world around us. The ability to engage socially is integral not only for survival and safety, but also for feeling connected, bonded and fulfilled. Babies brains have around 2500 connections between each of their billion neurons at birth, and this grows, through synaptogenesis to around 15,000 per neuron. In addition to movement and other sensory stimulation, social engagement is crucial in this growth. In a calm and safe environment, the parasympathetic system, through the vagus nerve is active, and this helps wire for calmness, bonding and connectedness. When stress is perceived, the activation of the sympathetic nervous system occurs through the HPA Axis (Hypothalmic Pituitary Adrenal), and the desire to fight or flee is activated. It is commonly accepted that a large majority of people (adults and children alike) run on the sympathetic nervous system in daily living – busy schedules, lots of commitments, computer games, homework, projects etc, and not enough down time and active outdoor play or relaxation.
Connection occurs best in a relaxed, engaged, calm, safe environment, so this holiday season, turn down your sympathetics and turn up your parasympathetics, relax and have some fun.
Some tips for creating connection
- Be calm in yourself. Calmness helps facilitate connection and helps a child (or indeed anyone) to feel safe. Do this through your own daily practice of meditation, deep breathing, silent time or inspirational reading
- Listen, really listen. Feeling heard generates positive feelings about self and others, and stimulates connection
- Make eye contact, ask questions and actively respond
- Play, sing, clap, play games and have fun
- Help kids develop resilience, and understand challenging situation
- Encourage curiosity and safe exploration
- Discover the joy
- Balance creative expression and boundary exploration
- Help them understand themselves and their world
- Love and appreciate them for who they truly are