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Socially Connecting While Physically Distancing

Caring young single father help cute kid son play on warm floor together, happy dad and little child boy having fun building constructor tower from colorful wooden blocks. IStock# 1158481694.

Dr. Sandi Chapman

Dear friends,All of our lives continue to change in ways we never imagined. At the Center for BrainHealth, we are committed to offering each of you support, information and strategies to guide you and your families in finding new ways to thrive during this unprecedented time. Last week I wrote to you about the resiliency of the brain and its capacity to be strengthened through mindfulness and healthy lifestyle habits (here). I encourage you to try—or keep up—those practices in the coming weeks. As we navigate the reality of physical separation confined to our homes, we face new challenges: separated from friends and colleagues yet hunkered down in very close quarters with family members. We know from the research that social connection is critical to improving brain performance and health. Our experience delivering brain training to children, college students and parents over two decades has borne that out and given us practical strategies that anyone can use. This week, I want to share some suggestions from Maria Johnson, MA, CCC/SLP, our Director of Youth and Family Innovations, on how to encourage brain-healthy interactions with your children:
  • Strategize Together: Checking in has never been more important. Discuss what is working, what isn’t, and create solutions together. Have these discussions when calm and collected.
  • Set Assumptions Aside: Nobody likes to feel judged. In challenging situations, ask your child open-ended questions that begin with “Why” and “How.” Be cautious not to dismiss their explanations but instead to clearly accept their perspectives. Ask them to imagine it from your perspective. This will stimulate the frontal lobe. Getting family members to see if they can put themselves in another family member’s shoes is a great mental activity and brain builder.
  • We & Me Time: It’s not just when, but where. Have each family member designate a “safe space” to re-energize, a place where they feel most relaxed and are not interrupted or distracted.
  • Create a Positive Vision: Is the glass half empty or half full? Come together as a family to talk about what you are looking forward to. How has this change led to something good in unexpected ways? What are some not-fun hurdles? Consider how you can help each other achieve new goals, keeping them simple and doable; success breeds success.
Next week, we’ll continue to help you navigate other challenges to your wellbeing that you may face in our “new normal.” Please stay safe and well. We are grateful to have you as part of our BrainHealth community.
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Published March 27, 2020See more messages from our Chief Director, Sandra Chapman, PhD here.

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Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD

Chief Director Dee Wyly Distinguished Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Co-Leader, The BrainHealth Project

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