The Developing Mind, Ours and Our Children

I have a deep fascination for children, particularly in how they develop and what can we do to help them reach their full potential.

Much of their development starts at the beginning in those foundational years. When survival needs are met through the responsiveness of a loving parent, or caregiver, the child is free to develop into their potential, and activate their capacity for learning. This becomes the origins on which their mind develops.

Through the intensity and demands of parenting, the parents identify the parts of themselves that also need to grow, along with the child. As they evolve their own minds, they discover limiting beliefs, or programmes, that no longer work for their life as a parent. This is a wonderful opportunity to upgrade their own minds.

Let me share one example of my personal experience. I once had a limiting belief that I am all alone and cannot rely on people to help me. This led me to trying my hardest to parent in isolation with no help from anybody. I felt I had to cope and do it myself and to ask for help was failing. After the birth of my third son this program was being tested to the limits of my capability. As a result, I went into a deep state of depression. Very few people were aware that I was experiencing these feelings of being alone and failure. Eventually it got so bad that I needed to reach out ask for help. I was able to get some help and support for the physical depletion of my body as well as working on the beliefs that these patterns were based on. I went back through time when I was a child and could see that the origins of these patterns began as an only child whose parents were struggling with life. Once I could appreciate the significance of these experiences and how they were no longer relevant to Tracey the mother, I could start to change those patterns. My children have been a wonderful catalyst for my own growth. Over the years I have experienced a ‘changing mind.’

What exactly is the mind?

Dan Siegal, a psychiatrist says – “the human mind is a relational and embodied process that regulates the flow of energy and information, primarily through the brain, nervous system and body function.” So how we think as a result of our experiences and environment, will influence how we feel and will translate in physiology and behaviour.

The mind is taking our experiences and translating them into physiological messaging for the body to respond accordingly, but it is also programming our subconscious mind into patterns – or habits of thought, feeling, behaviours – so we can respond to our environment and ensure our survival.

Most mental programs are created out of a basic survival instinct, or from an intrinsic motivation to move either toward pleasure or away from pain.

There are many different theories and philosophies around the mind, but for the purpose of our own learning, I’m going to keep it simple, and break it into three aspects.

  • The conscious mind – where you are focusing your awareness
    in any one moment.
  • The unconscious mind – processes the data from your life.
  • The subconscious mind – the storehouse of your learnings or
    programmes. It’s where our habits of thought, feeling and
    behaviour are wired.

How do we get programmed?

Experiences create subconscious programmes. Our original programs come as babies and young children, and the interactions we have with our primary caregivers and our environment. The mental programs we create as children are especially strong because children are so receptive to learning and downloading their environment, and they get repeatedly reinforced through the years. They are doing this through having brain waves that are slower and in a state of hypnosis – being very receptive to taking on the beliefs of their parents.

How do we support the development of our children’s minds?

  1. Be an empathic and responsive parent, so they sense their survival needs are met.
  2. Work on identifying your own limiting beliefs of patterns of behaviour that need to change and find the support necessary to do this.
  3. Remember your child is mimicking you and taking in more than what you say.
  4. Keep children in their bodies and using their hands. It is the full activation of the body, that leads to integrated learning experiences which will continue to develop their capacity as learners. When we plug in our children into screens, we rob them of full-bodied learning. It’s the difference between looking at a photo of a sunset and experiencing it.
  5. Tell your children stories, particularly the old-fashioned stories, where there is inherent wisdom built into the fabric of the story, and their subconscious takes in a lot more than just what happens. When you tell children stories, their little minds are free to bring the pictures and feelings to the experience. This is the seeds for imagination.
  6. Free time to play. Play is the work of childhood and the opportunity to learn, discover and create. When children are overscheduled, and continually needing to be responding to their environment, it leaves precious little time for their inner world.
  7. Time to themselves, create an opportunity to cultivate a rich inner life and get to know themselves.

Here are some other good resources to watch, in order to understand the needs of your children’s developing minds.

How a child’s brain develops through early experiences

Molly’s talk – Thrive by 5

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