In the last newsletter article, I summarised an article, “Emotions and Relationships shape the Brains of Children” about how experiences impact brain development, as well as how good relationships and the right emotions will hopefully produce a happy and engaged student.
It looked at how the brain works, but I want you to remember that the brain is one of God’s most amazing creations, especially because in our grey matter, God has mysteriously interwoven our souls and our flesh.
So what does the Bible say about emotions? We should begin by remembering that the Bible isn’t simply an encyclopedia of facts about emotions. What the Bible says on any subject is part of an ongoing story about God and his people and, therefore, should be understood in that context. In other words, the Bible doesn’t offer a technical answer to the question, ‘What are our emotions?’ We have to remember what the Bible can teach us about emotions through guiding us in our relationship with God and others.
One of the most important things the Bible tells us about our emotions, is that they are an expression of what we value or love. Take the example in John chapter 11, when Jesus wept at Lazarus’ temple with Mary. God created us to be relational and have both positive and negative emotions, but what’s important is to deal with them in a Godly way.
We must remember, that understanding the mechanics of the brain is not the same as understanding how to live rightly before the Lord. While it can help us to know what’s going on in our brain or glands, the deepest whys of your emotions are not the neural pathways they travel. Instead, the deepest whys are the things scripture is constantly pointing to, the love and worship of your heart and you’re bearing the image of the emotional God.
We were made to respond with love to what is good and with hatred to what is evil. Learning to connect with other people is indeed a skill worthwhile learning. While emotional connections are not the only way we build relationships, the sharing of hearts, values and communicating a deep depth of care for others, will be part of our delight for the rest of our lives, even in heaven.
Let’s now look at strategies for supporting the developing emotional brain.
In scientific literature there is now little, if any, argument that development is shaped for better or worse by relational and social contexts. It is now generally accepted that it is the dynamic interaction of nature and nurture, which facilitates changes in the child’s brain growth, function and capabilities. Environments and experiments mediate the potential with which children are born. Quality relations of a child to adults around them, form a positive and effectively developed child; in terms of emotions, well-being and overall neurology.
Children need to be loved and supported. From very early stages of life, adults ensure that attendance is given to the child, when they are in an apparent state of distress, not ignoring the crying as some form of training or character building exercise. When children are in a state of distress, it is important for adults to remain calm in order to maintain a positive relationship. Like adults, children often experience stress when situations are new, novel or unfamiliar.
That is one reason why routines are very important; creating a predictable world for children facilitates healthy emotional development. It is okay just to say no to a child, but that response must remain constant for similar situations. For example, giving a child a biscuit prior to dinner one evening, and then not doing the same for another evening, only sends mixed messages. This conflict in action only results in confusion for the child.
Emotional development involves learning and developing new skills, through a wide range of experiences. New and novel activities therefore need to be supported via warm and responsive relationships. This requires adults to be emotionally and physically available, whilst providing environments that are safe and secure.
Spending quality time with children and engaging them in conversation may include the following:
*Modelling positive and effective emotions and social skills
*Being predictable: tell children what is happening at the moment and in the future
*Being aware of children’s emotions and emotional signals. All children are unique and react differently to different situations, so they need to be understood and supported. It is natural to focus on the outcome of an angry outburst, but understanding the meaning of the anger is very important. Some children will act out due to anger or fear, while others may do so out of frustration or anxiety.
*Have fun. Sing, dance, play, tell and read stories and seek out as many ways possible to have fun. Having fun not only builds relationships and supports emotional development, but also releases powerful chemicals, engaging the brain’s neurochemistry in a positive fashion, reducing stress and anxiety.
*Provide whitespace time, where there’s no noise, where children are to be able to deal with boredom.
*Reading the Bible and praying together.
Relationships matter for children’s emotional development, the more warm, positive, loving and numerous, the better! As Urie Bronfenbrenner stated, “A child requires progressively more complex joint activities with one or more adults who model positive emotional relationships.”
As school community members, we have so much to be thankful for and must always try to imitate and model Christ in our interactions and experiences with others.
Yours in Christ
High School Deputy