Relational Health. A father spins his smiling daughter on the beach.

Relational Health

Ever wonder what sort of biology drives so much of what we experience while parenting our children?  In this episode of ParentTalk, we pull back the curtain on how it all really works with one of the world’s experts on the subject, developmental neuroscientist and practicing pediatrician, Dr. Andrew Garner.

Dr. Garner describes himself as pediatrician who cares for families during the week, but his work stretches beyond that.  As a researcher, he applies his experiences in the field to his exhaustive research on relational health, where he zeroes in on complex and symbiotic connection between children’s’ relationships and their brain development.

Listeners of ParentTalk know that in every approach to advising parents we base our perspective on the notion that conflicts that the child creates are best solved by the child, with the support of the parent.  It turns out the biology of how the brain works explains this approach in great detail.

In this episode you’ll hear how brain biology in all humans requires safe, secure, nurturing relationships to fully flourish.  We discuss the broader meaning of safe, of secure, and of nurturing in ways that will enrich all who listen.

Together, Arthur, Susan, and Dr. Garner present one of the great sequences that parents can put into practice around any disruptions or upsetting situations with their children: regulate, repair.   All relationships will slip out of sync in ways that cause both sides pain.  But if a parent can manage these upsets, they can help their child to repair the hurt.  It is this process that, more than any other, builds resilience in children, and gives them the skills to manage all of the challenges their lives will present.

This process of regulating and repairing is exactly in line with all approaches to resolving conflicts we recommend.

Those interested in learning more about Dr. Garner’s work are encouraged to read his fascinating book, Thinking Developmentally: Nurturing Wellness in Childhood to Promote Lifelong Health.

“I’ve always had this interest in understanding what elements of the environment, the milieu that children grow up in, promote brain growth, and elements hinder it.  I tend to see child development and child behavior as the manifestation of what the brain is doing.

“The simplest way to think about it is: the brain is like a muscle.  The parts that you use get stronger over time.  So, if we are always strengthening fear, fear, fear, then the brain is prepared for fear.  It’s not prepared for learning and interacting with others.  But just as adversity can become biologically embedded, so can nurturing relationships and positive childhood experiences.”

– Dr. Andrew Garner

Episode Highlights:

– What is relational health, and how does it impact brain development?

–  How toxic stress hinders brain development, and how positive experiences enhance it.

– Relational health and resilience.

– Building distress tolerance.  Teaching children how to handle adversity through safe, stable, and nurturing relationships.

– The biological and neurological effects of emotional connections.

– How to create synchronous relationships with your children.

– The inevitability of relational ruptures, and the biological benefits of repairing them.