When things in the outside world cause us to become aroused, our brain perceives a threat or danger. This activates the survival functions in our brain stem. For our ancestors it may have been a charging sabre-tooth tiger; for us today it may be a very sick or unhappy, screaming baby. Parenting is a demanding role and all parents experience stress at times. To take care of their child, parents need to take care of themselves too.
- Understand how stress and the brain are linked.
- Identify stressors and their possible causes.
- Develop strategies for keeping calm during parenting challenges.
Our brain’s job is to keep us in balance — not just physically, but also emotionally. It helps us self-regulate, which is our ability to tolerate or control our stressors.
In a newborn, only the brain stem is fully wired. It only has two ‘zone of arousal’ levels — either ‘overwhelmed’, or ‘content’. When parents respond quickly to baby’s distress and help bring them back to calm, they’re helping to start the process of learning to self-regulate.
Adult brains have a wider range of arousal states. We can be happy, sad, angry, glad, scared, excited, frustrated and upset. Most of us can self-regulate — our more developed brain systems can work through these states.
We shouldn’t need to have a tantrum because we’re hungry, thirsty or tired. We also have the skills and knowledge to meet our own needs, for example:
- ‘I’m hungry — I’ll eat something.’
- ‘I’m worried — I’ll ring my sister and talk about my worries.’
- ‘I’m uncomfortable — I’ll investigate the cause.’
When things in the outside world cause us to become aroused, our brain perceives a threat or danger. This activates the survival functions in our brain stem. For our ancestors it may have been a charging sabre-tooth tiger; for us today it may be a very sick or unhappy, screaming baby.
- Early days DVD
- Well Child/Tamariki Ora My health book
- Looking after yourself (p. 172)
- Partners are needed too (p. 178)
- Hitting behaviour (handout)
YouTube clips and websites
- Help for anxiety and depression
- Help for young people with anxiety and depression
- Mothers’ mental health website