Last week we took a look at integrating implicit and explicit memories with Whole-Brain Strategy #6: Use the Remote of the Mind: Replaying Memories. The next strategy related to memory is Whole-Brain Strategy #7: Remember to Remember: Making Recollection a Part of Your Family’s Daily Life, and it gives us another way to help our children integrate implicit and explicit memories:
“Memory is like so many functions of the brain: the more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. That means that when you give your children lots of practice—remembering by having them tell and retell their own stories—you improve their ability to integrate implicit and explicit memories. So our second suggestion is simply that you remember to remember.”
To help your children remember you can:
We assume you talk to your children, so practicing remembering is not just conversation. Asking questions and playing guessing games will help our children become aware of recent events and connect them to their present feelings. The goal is help your children understand their experiences because sometimes the past effects the present even though we may not be aware. That’s why we want to integrate our children’s implicit and explicit memories, so they can become aware of what they are remembering.
We practice “Remember to Remember” when we run into a case of the “I wants” or the “I can’ts.” When we were at family camp in Colorado, Elise had the opportunity to choose how she wanted to spend the day. If we noticed she was getting tired from her constant playing and planned a rest time, there was much whining from Elise about we never let her do anything. She was focusing on the one time we set a limit, said no instead of remembering all the fun she had been having. Instead of arguing, we took the time to remember the fun activities we had gotten to do each day. We continued to take time to remember the fun activities we were doing the rest of week, and Elise was able to handle the transitions between fun and rest better. She needed help learning what to focus on.
I think this exercise is as important for parents as it is our children. At the end of each chapter in The Whole-Brain Child is a section for parents. The end of chapter 4 addresses, “Integrating Ourselves: Moving Our Own Memories from Implicit to Explicit:”
“Unexamined (or dis-integrated) memories cause all kinds of problems for any adult trying to live a healthy, relational life…Implicit memories can trigger responses from us that cause us to act in ways we don’t want to… So the next time you find yourself reacting a bit too strongly when you’re upset with your kids, ask yourself, ‘Is my response here making sense?’ … By integrating your implicit and explicit memories and shining the light of awareness on difficult moments from your past, you can gain insight into how your past is impacting your relationship with your children … Then you can bring your former experiences into the present and weave them into the larger story of your life…You can make sense of our own life, which will help your kids do the same with theirs.”
I’m not sure you can play a guessing game with yourself, but you can learn to be more reflective and pay attention to your feelings. I have identified moments where I feel at odds with the situation, but I am still sorting out the source. Even if I may not like what I find out about myself or my past feelings, I want to keep working on myself, so I can teach what I learn to my children and improve our relationship. I want to develop and nurture our relationship, and I hope you can do the same with your children.