The brain model explained and why you should teach children about it blog header

The brain model explained and why you should teach children about it

In a recent webinar, we were joined by Marcelle Waldman, educator and founder of My FeelLinks! Marcelle is certified in youth mental health first aid and has extensive knowledge in child psychology and development. She shared deep insights into what exactly a child is experiencing in their brain when they are demonstrating big emotions and what co-regulation strategies educators can use to support a child in these moments. We gained actionable insights on how to strengthen children’s social-emotional development and increase their confidence. 

Watch the webinar that inspired this blog post here


Three-part model of the brain 

Did you know? Our brains are not fully developed until our mid to late 20s, some researchers say into our 30s! This means, as educators, we are working with children whose brains are not fully developed to take in and understand all the pieces of the vast world around them.

Our brain is a highly sophisticated organ, but when we discuss emotions, we can look at three main parts, as shown above. 

  1. Brain stem

This is the bottom of the brain, it is in charge of the things we do not have to think about such as going to the bathroom, breathing, or sweating.

  1. Limbic system

This is the middle of our brain where emotions sit. It is also in charge of our memories, which bring up feelings. 

  1.  Pre-frontal cortex

This is the top of the brain that covers the limbic system. It is responsible for logical thinking, language, attention, and self-control.

It is important to teach children about these three vital parts of their brain, empowering them to gain a better understanding of how things work, especially when tough emotions arise. 

How our brain navigates tough emotions 

When we are overwhelmed with big emotions, our brain goes “offline”, which makes it challenging to make thoughtful decisions. We need to bring our brains back “online” in stressful situations by centering ourselves and using coping skills.

Our amygdala (emotion center) becomes overwhelmed by big, intense emotions such as fear, stress, or anxiety. When this happens, the pre-frontal cortex (thinking brain) goes offline which makes it difficult to make decisions, listen and learn. 

Do not teach your children never to be angry, teach them how to be angry.”

When children are experiencing big emotions, focus on empathy, respond with intention, think before responding, and approach respectfully, calmly, and slowly. What we want to avoid is reacting quickly in the moment, without thinking first, as this often ends up fueling an already highly intense emotional situation.  

Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don’t get to have a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”

Dr. Susan David

Watch the webinar that inspired this blog post here

Want to learn more about important topics in early education such as socio-emotional learning? Sign up for the next webinar below, it is FREE! Even if you can’t join live, you will be emailed the recording and slides just for registering!

Marcelle Waldman

Marcelle Walman lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children. She is a certified K-5 elementary educator, having the incredible opportunity to teach some of our youngest learners in kindergarten and preschool, and also served as a preschool director. She is Youth Mental Health First Aid certified, has extensive coursework in psychology, and child development. She is also the owner and creator of FeelLinks; a small business strengthening children’s social-emotional connections and confidence. Marcelle is a parent and community educator - focused on children, brain development, behaviors, emotions, emotional intelligence, and overall emotional health and well-being. As an avid community volunteer, she has served on her school’s PTA board as vice president and president, contributed to many School District committees, currently sits on the Issaquah Schools Foundation programs committee, and volunteers for the Ladybug House, an end of life, hospice and palliative care program. Find out more at myfeellinks.com. Follow along @myfeellinks on Instagram and Facebook.

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