Since March, it seems that many of us have been existing in a negative space. This space has been constructed by the places we can’t go, the people we can’t see, the things we can’t do, and answers we can’t find. Being in a state of “Can’t” is exhausting. It can seem as if nothing is ever enough or as if there is never a real sense of resolution. In this article, we hope to take you and your family from a place of “can’t” and “no” to a place of “Yes!”
When we hear the words “can’t, “no,” and other negatively connotated words, we tend to react, well, negatively! These words have a powerful effect on the human mind. Most notably, they tend to trigger our fight, flight, or freeze reactions in the brain. During the current health crisis, it can feel as if the whole word is saying “no” to you, and that can be hard to hear for months on end. Perhaps you or someone in your own family has been in a reactive state lately because of it and are hiding in their rooms more or seemingly more short-tempered. One way to combat all the “cant’s” is to move from a reactive state to a more receptive state.
Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson cover the idea of a receptive brain, or as they term it—a Yes Brain, in their book The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child. Under normal circumstances, as adults, we are often able to pull on our inner resources to help us deal with difficult emotions. As children are growing and learning how to handle their emotions, they may need more scaffolding and support from parents to move out of a reactive state. Individuals who are gifted or twice-exceptional may need additional scaffolding when experiencing asynchronous development. Right now, it may be hard for parents and children alike to navigate the big emotions they are feeling. This is normal. In emotionally charged moments, you may try to tune into what your child is struggling with and help them identify the under-lying feeling that is causing the reactive state. Keeping yourself calm and open provides a well of strength that your child can draw from when their own resources are low, which may help facilitate a more receptive state in the child.
We can apply the Yes Brain model to the larger context of our lives, particularly when there are prolonged periods of uncertainty and turmoil. When we are faced with “no” from all sides, we can help intentionally find opportunities to move from a No/Resistant Brain to a Yes/Receptive Brain. You might try some of these yes-opportunities for common obstacles found in the current pandemic:
Commons Nos and Can’ts
Possible Yes and Can Options
I can’t see my friends like I used to play games together
I can organize an online multi-player game night with lots of friends
I am not allowed to go on that trip I was looking forward to
I can still immerse myself in that culture by learning some of the language, cooking regional foods, and throwing one of the traditional celebrations for my family
Recess, school clubs, and extracurricular activities will not be the same
I can become a leader by finding creative solutions to socializing with my classmates virtually
I can’t get out to make spontaneous trips into town or walk around my usual hangout areas
I can get to know my neighborhood more by taking short daily walks, bird watching, or hiking nearby trails
I don’t know when, where, what, or how I will be learning at school
I can continue to learn about the things that interest me most at home by watching documentaries, reading books, listening to podcasts or exploring in other ways
I won’t be able to visit far-away friends or family in person for a while
I can let physically connect with them by sending a letter or care-box
I can’t celebrate important dates and moments the way I used to
I can create new traditions for the important days and celebrate small achievements more often
Sometimes, it is really hard to find the “YES!” This is ok. In times without a clear path to a positive opportunity, we can still say yes to our children by showing up for them. Help them acknowledge what it is they are feeling and direct these feelings into a constructive outlet such as free-writing, drawing, or physical movement. If your child is overwhelmed and having a hard time acknowledging their feelings, try opening them up by spending one-on-one time with them. This can be something small like playing a round of their favorite game while their sibling naps or taking the time to intentionally have an afternoon snack together. You can also help your child do something they’ve been looking forward to for a while, like redecorating their room or picking out a special weekend dinner. This may help your children feel like they have a voice in what is happening around them, and that voice is being heard.
Even though there is still a lot that is beyond our control, what we can control is saying “YES!” We may not be able to do exactly what we used to do the way we used to do it, but we can do things. Helping our families reframe and redirect when times are tough can promote feelings of stability and wellbeing. By approaching situations with an intention to actively look for an opportunity to say “YES!,” we are opening ourselves up to new ways of experiencing our everyday lives and activities.
Try these additional resources to bring out the Yes Brain in your family!
To support families through the
To support families through the o
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.