It's the time of year where we tend towards reflection on the past and looking to the future. Our children are not unaware of this too.
I have written pieces in the past about how the connection between our brain and our body is very much deeper than we might have imagined, and have counselled encouraging our children to consider themselves in a more holistic way.
But how do we do that?
Initially it can be worthwhile getting a little philosophical with them. It’s interesting to find out what and who they consider themselves to be. So why not try asking them? Where and what is their centre, their core? What do they think is the very essence of them? Where do their feelings come from? How do they feel about their bodies? About their minds? How do they think mind, body and emotion work together? What’s the difference, and how do they make up 'us'? What is their sense of self? What does it mean to be a living human being? Who are they?
If your child is very young, you may feel that this line of questioning is beyond their capabilities, but I would encourage you to give it a go - maybe just one simple question to give them an opportunity to try and express how they think of themselves, phrased in age appropriate language.
The ensuing discussion will give both of you a lot to chew over, and I would imagine that even if not much comes up initially, after a bit of processing time, subsequent questions may well surface.
As well as making the most of talking about your children’s ideas of themselves, engage them in physical challenges that have to do with co-ordination, where the brain-body connection is most apparent. Repeat these activities after a reasonable period of time and address the notion of muscle memory - the truth that we remember with our bodies as well as with our minds. Complex movements using the extremities are especially suited to this. When we are asking fingers and toes to obey our instructions, we are maintaining neural pathways that can easily seize up as we mature. When was the last time you tried to move your big toe whilst keeping the others still?! Give it a go, it gets easier after a few tries, not because of your muscular ability but because of your neural network.
Most important of all is you and your attitude to yourself, to your own body. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, your awareness of how important you are as a role model is critical. Your children will be deeply affected by how they see you behave, so you owe it to them as well as to yourself, to look after yourself, to nurture a positive body image and to respect your physicality as much as you do your mind.
Share this positive attitude with your children: in helping them to see that their bodies are not something that they have so much as something that they are, we are hopefully giving them, and ourselves, a healthier future.
We glibly talk about how the cycle of life brings us back to a childlike existence once we reach our dotage, but I had this brought home to me last week, through a very specific example.
I was on the phone to my elderly mother, and once we’d made arrangements to meet for lunch, she said, “Well, at least that’ll give me something to do.”
I asked her if she often found herself with nothing to do, or at a loose end, and she told me that these days she regularly got really bored.
Whether we like it or not, all grown-ups are some kind of role model to the children with whom they come into contact. We can never be certain when some throw-away thing we say or do will have a lasting impact on some little soul with a super absorbent brain.
It's Christmas! The time when we spend a little more time with our families, and when some long-lasting memories can be formed. It's my bet that we all have the memory of one or more seemingly trivial events from our childhood that nonetheless had a deep and lasting impact on our emotional landscape. It strikes me as strange then, that it’s so easy to forget this in our communications with our own children.