Our Brain

Developing children’s emotional intelligence and teaching them to recognise their emotions can help children to overcome stress, manage aggression and express their feelings. It has an impact on their overall well-being, behaviour and relationships with others. One way to do this is to help children understand and recognise the different parts of the brain and their functions.

Daniel Siegal is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA.

Siegal uses a simple visual tool when talking about the brain with children which is called ‘The Hand Model of the Brain’.  The video below explains this in detail, but to briefly sum it up, the closed fist in the hand model represents the regulated brain – when we are calm and make our most effective decisions – with the amygdala (thumb), prefrontal cortex (fingers) and brain stem (wrist) connected. When we are e.g. angry, fearful, anxious or upset– we ‘Flip Our Lids’, the fingers in the hand model raise and our prefrontal cortex and amygdala disconnect which makes it hard to make thoughtful, rational decisions. When our brains are overwhelmed like this, they need to use strategies to become calm, reflect and reconnect. The hand model is a useful tool when parents and educators want to help children identify different parts of the brain and explain how they impact our emotions and behaviour – as Siegal says, ‘name it to tame it’

A hand model of the brain – Dr Daniel Siegel

Further Reading

Dan Siegal Official Website

Siegal, D. & Bryson, T. (2012), The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind Robinson

Siegal, D. & Bryson, T. (2018), The Yes Brain Child Simon & Schuster

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