Greer Kirshenbaum, PhD is an Author, Neuroscientist, Doula and Infant and Family Sleep Specialist. Greer wants families and perinatal practitioners to understand how early caregiving experience can boost mental wellness by shaping babies’ brains through simple intuitive enriching experiences in pregnancy, birth and infancy.

423: Essentials of Child Brain Development

Greer Kirshenbaum

What does a child’s developing brain need from us as parents? What can we do to support kids' emotional regulation and mental health? Neuroscientist and doula, Dr. Greer Kirshenbaum talks to us about what children need for their brain development. Spoiler alert: time outs and isolation do not help and can cause problems later!

Essentials of Child Brain Development - Greer Kirshenbaum Ph.D [423]

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*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Greer Kirshenbaum: And which eventually led me to learn about how emotional experience and relationships that we have in infancy shapes our brain areas for lifelong mental health.

[00:00:17] Hunter: You're listening to The Mindful Parenting Podcast, episode number 423. Today, we're talking about the essentials of child brain development with Greer Kirschenbaum.

Welcome to The Mindful Parenting Podcast. Here, it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Parenting, we know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you get calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clark Fields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years. I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course. And I'm the author of the bestselling book, Raising Good Humans, A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids, and now, Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 Simple Ways to Press Pause, Stay Present, and Connect with Your Kids.

Hey, welcome back to the Mindful Parenting podcast. As you can hear, of course, we changed the name a while back. Mindful Mama podcast, I always said. Mindful Mama referred to me as the Mindful Mama, but Mindful Parenting is what I teach. I teach the Mindful Parenting course. I teach the Mindful Parenting teacher training.

So it just makes more sense that this should be the Mindful Parenting podcast because that's what we talk about anyway. And that's what we're going to be talking about today. In just a minute, I'm going to be sitting down Greer Kirshenbaum, an author, neuroscientist, doula, and infant sleep specialist.

Greer wants families and perinatal practitioners to understand how early caregiving experience can boost mental wellness by shaping kids brains through simple, intuitive, enriching experiences in birth and infancy and childhood. So we're going to talk about what does a child's developing brain need from us as parents?

What can we do to support kids emotional regulation and mental health? And we're going to talk about the research on early care and mental health and what neuroscientists and people really, really know now. So this is a powerful episode chock full of awesome information that will help you support your child's emotional regulation.

And development. Before we dive in, I wanna let you know that you can listen to this episode ad free, which is so cool. Subscribing to Mindful Parenting Podcast plus is an easy way to support this podcast that you hopefully love and get ad free episodes and bonus content. You just go to mindful mama and click on the podcast link to join Podcast plus.

Alright, so now let's join me at the table as I talk to Greer Kirshenbaum.

Alright, well, Greer, thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Mama podcast, I'm so

[00:03:28] Greer Kirshenbaum: glad you're here. Thank you so much for having me, it's so nice to meet you today.

[00:03:32] Hunter: Well, I'm excited to talk to you and we're going to talk about infants and kids, brain development, which is so, so important. I feel like we're in like a moment, don't you feel that way, like we're in a moment where we're like, oh.

So, this brain development thing is really important. We're learning a lot more about it and just it's, and now we're seeing kind of the impacts of things. But speaking of those impacts, no one knew about these impacts back in the day. Things were different. So, I'd like to kind of start out with you and how were you raised and what was your childhood

[00:04:03] Greer Kirshenbaum: like?

Yeah. This is a really big part of... My work and my story. I was a very high needs baby. I needed constant contact. I had, you know, difficulty sleeping, especially by myself. And so my mom really was a rebel, you know, back then where a lot of people were, you know, still, you know, listening to some of these older voices of like, you can spoil a baby.

You can hold a baby too much. All this kind of stuff was sort of around us.

[00:04:34] Hunter: Dr. Spock, was that like the

[00:04:37] Greer Kirshenbaum: Spock, Ferber was big during those years as well. And my mom was kind of just a rebel. She was like, no, like my baby is asking me to hold her and take care of her. And so she did, I was breastfed until, um, like three or four years old, somewhere in between there.

Um, I bed shared with my parents, um, until I was like my choice to leave. So all very nurturing experiences during that time. And my parents, my mom especially, definitely did her best to support my emotions growing up, but it was a different time too, right? And so we know so much more now. I think I needed a lot more nurturing of my needs and emotions as a young baby and child.

I grew up, I was like really shy. I was always observing other people, aware of other people's emotions. I really studied people for like a long time. Time in my life. And now I kind of really, that's a huge part of what I do now. I really strongly advocate for the needs and emotions of babies and children based on, you know, my experience.

So, yeah, my early childhood was like a mix of, you know, very, very high nurture, but also, you know, some emotional support that, you know, I really did need. At the same time.

[00:05:55] Hunter: Um, so yeah, I was, I was gonna say, I bet your mom like made her own yogurt and stuff like that. Was she very sort of crunchy granolas

No, I, no,

[00:06:03] Greer Kirshenbaum: she wasn't. She wasn't. She just not? No, no, she was not. She was really just, yeah, like, just fiercely nurturing of me and my brother too. He was very similar as well. Uh, but yeah, that was, it didn't, yeah, it wasn't like the whole, uh, kind of granola thing. No, not

[00:06:20] Hunter: a hippie. She wasn't a hippie. Yeah,

[00:06:22] Greer Kirshenbaum: she probably wouldn't say she was, but like more when she was younger.

Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

[00:06:27] Hunter: Uh, yeah. Cause I guess my mom, my mom made our own granola or our own yogurt, but she also was like, hi, baby Hunter, when I was like six weeks old and when I'm like, oh. Three week vacation or something too. Right. It was like less than grandma. So it was like a whole, whole different time.

Um, so you, so that sounds fascinating. So like you, how did you end up then getting involved in looking into neuroscience and things like that and wanting to pursue that as a career?

[00:06:57] Greer Kirshenbaum: Yeah. So I think, you know, my experience as a baby and how my mom talked to me about it really did have a big impact. My mom always had an interest in how early life experience influences development, and that really led me towards that and my studies.

Um, I started studying neuroscience, um, in a gap year after high school. Uh, at that point, I was thinking about being a medical doctor. And so I was immersing myself in, in science and that, and those kinds of fields. Fell in love with neuroscience. I was working in a neuroscience lab and had a wonderful mentor.

So I continued that, um, in undergraduate degree, um, really focusing on how early life experience shapes the brain in all kinds of ways. Like, uh, visual input was the first one I, I learned about. There's this really amazing critical period of visual development. So a baby's brain needs to experience visual input from their eye in order.

for their brain areas to develop the ability to recite. And so if they don't have that visual experience in that critical period of infancy, they develop lifelong visual impairments. Um, so I was just amazed at learning that and, and the idea of this critical period or sensitive period. And it, it really translates to so many other systems.

So I studied it in the auditory system as well. There's a critical period there. And which eventually led me to learn about how emotional experience and relationships. that we have in infancy shapes our brain areas for

[00:08:28] Hunter: lifelong mental health. So just back to that idea of the visual system. So you're saying there's this critical period, sensitive period for developing the visual system, even if the eyes ultimately are fine and everything's fine.

If you miss that You didn't get the proper visual stimuli, or you maybe you were blindfolded as a baby. Like how does that happen? That Yeah. Her brain doesn't develop the, the way

[00:08:55] Greer Kirshenbaum: that it works in babies is sometimes they have like a strabismus, like they're like have a wandering eye or something like that.

And so that needs to be, uh, addressed and corrected like in those, in that window. in order for them, their brain to, to develop. Right. So, um, so that, so yeah, some of the like more. You know, the bigger impact experiments, um, are to, you know, study when people do have like deprivation and whatnot and

[00:09:25] Hunter: things like that.

Okay. But yeah, I mean, so this sounds a lot like, um, you know, I studied to some degree a little bit of Montessori learning, uh, in my master's in education and, you know, my kids were very involved in Montessori and I was, uh, a founding member of a, a public Montessori school in my area. And in Montessori, they're very interested in these like critical periods and like this idea that children have critical periods for learning different things and they're different for every kid that, you know, one child's critical time for learning language and reading may be, you know, like when my daughter was like, four and a half, and other kids, it may be close to six and a half.

Like it's really very varied. And this idea of like following the child and having things available and open for these times, like there's a story in Montessori that's told. I'd like some kid who is like in her critical period for learning. I don't know. It was like math and long division or something.

And so they just kept, like, she kept dividing some number again and again, and they kept adding papers on to the bottom of her paper. So this long division problem could keep going and going and going. And they eventually taped it to the ceiling and had it go down to the floor. But like the idea of like, let's just like go with.

What is needed at that moment is, so that's kind of what you're talking about, right? Like with this idea of a critical period, that there are certain things that are developing. and they're different for everyone and that we should be paying attention to these, right? Is that kind of what you're saying?


[00:11:05] Greer Kirshenbaum: absolutely. And every baby, it has so much variance for like nearly every quality. Um, so it's so important. I'm glad you mentioned that, but the, you know, the sensitive period of the emotional brain development lasts. from like throughout conception up to age three. And so I always talk about for, you know, in my world, infancy is three whole years where the emotional brain is incredibly plastic and highly shaped by experiences and specifically the experiences of like being in relationships, specific types of like nurturing relationships with.

At least one caregiver.

[00:11:49] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

So specifically the emotional brain, like in our emotions, this is 0 to 3. So this is as soon as kids are born, this is the, the job of the, their system is the kind of emotional. Brain Development. Can you tell us more about, like, kind of why it is that time, uh, specifically? I don't know. Do you know?

[00:12:17] Greer Kirshenbaum: Yeah, there's, there's definitely lots of theories about it.

I think what the biggest reason is humans are extremely adaptable, right? We're, we live in every the

things we need everywhere. And a lot of that is because of this really, really flexible brain that we're born with. And so, our brains adapt to the environment and really, really are shaped by our specific environment as sort of a means of like adapting and surviving.

[00:12:52] Hunter: And then emotionally. So, let's talk about that then.

And developmentally. Emotionally, like, this is, we're talking about the very beginning of mental health, basically, right? When we're talking about nurturing the emotional health of an infant. So what are the needs of humans? We want to raise good humans, right? Like, so what are the needs of humans as soon as they are coming out that we, that are It's important for us to be really, really paying attention to.

[00:13:21] Greer Kirshenbaum: Yeah. So, so important. When we really can shine the light on this for parents, parenting, and especially parenting a baby becomes a lot easier and a lot more freeing, right? We're not anxious. We all kind of know these, these years really

[00:13:35] Hunter: matter. You know, I was always like petrified that I'm going to mess up my child before the age of three.

Yeah. So important, you know?

[00:13:44] Greer Kirshenbaum: Exactly. It's so important. But. The reasons why often aren't communicated, right? And that's, that's, you know, where I do a lot of work. So, so essentially the infant brain grows from the bottom up. There's some pretty amazing facts about it. Um, infant brains grow up to 1 million connections per second from zero to three, just astounding, a number of connections.

And they're great, their brain grows so rapidly at that rate and also dramatically in size, right? So. When babies are born, it's about 25 percent the size of an adult brain. Then by age one, it's about 50 percent of an adult brain. So it doubles in size in one year, in the first year of life. Um, and then by age three, which is sort of, we say the end of infancy, it's about 80 percent the size of an adult brain.

So like a massive amount of growth is happening. Um, and so the growth happens from the bottom. And so the bottom of the infant brain, um, we can largely call us like the brainstem. I call it the survival brain. Um, because it does all the functions that babies, um, can do, right, when they're born and, and help them survive, right?

And so, all the physiological functions they need, breathing, pumping blood, eating and digesting, all those wonderful things, and then surviving emotionally, which is, You know, equally important. And so, these, this is the place where parents can start to look, right? Babies, um, have the ability to orient to the face of their parents.

They will, you know, put, focus their gaze on faces of parents and caregivers. They look into our eyes. They can go back and forth with us, um, creating facial expressions. So if you like stick out your tongue, your little newborn baby will also mirror that and copy you or open your mouth wide, um, to give them a few minutes, they'll do the same.

They're really, really focused on that. Which also builds their relationship. They seek out the smell, uh, the touch of their parents, uh, the sounds of their parents. And they can communicate, right? With facial expressions, body movements, and noises. So many parents are so surprised that just, you know, an hours old baby can start to do this.

But, um, even like as we go up to like six months, seven months, eight months, sometimes parents come across this information then. They can start to have these, like, beautiful conversations with their baby during that time, and they also communicate by crying when they need us, right? So, so the survival brain kind of instructs us.

to build the next part of the brain that develops, which is the emotional brain. And so the emotional brain is developing through all of those three years of infancy. And it kind of says like, it sends up, you know, the signals of like, hold me, keep me close, talk to me, help me when I cry, support my sleep.

And when we can listen to, you know, things that the survival brain tells us, we're building that emotional brain to be incredibly resilient for life. And it's not like, um, an abstract concept. It's like... Changing D n a protein expression and brain connectivity in a measurable way, um, in that emotional brain, which is, which is really incredible.


[00:16:59] Hunter: So, you know, their infants are communicating with us and their needs are, you know, and I, I think about this, this idea that survival brain being like the, that's really the mo thing that's fully developed, right? That's like our limbic system. Fight, flight, or freeze. Like that's the one. piece that's fully developed, right?

And, or more or less, right? They, they have, so I mean, they can't, uh, they're not good at flight at that point, obviously. Yeah,

[00:17:25] Greer Kirshenbaum: no, that, that's actually part of, those, those functions are part of the emotional brain. Yeah, so the survival brain is very well formed at birth. Um, it, it's, It becomes more regulated when we nurture, when we keep babies close and are responsive.

So their breathing's more regular, their heart rate's more regular, they gain weight and, and, you know, absorb food better, you know, all those basic things are helped by nurture. Um, but yes, then, then the limbic system, fight or flight, all that is part of the emotional brain. And so a lot of that can function, um, in infants, but it's incomplete.

The system is incomplete and being built. And we facilitate it being built in a resilient way with, with nurture in those years.

[00:18:09] Hunter: Okay, so the name of the game for parents when our infants are little is nurture. And not just for parents, like, I mean, ideally, this is for all the caregivers, right, of the, in that child's life.

Ideally, We would not be alone in a house or an apartment with one or two people with this small baby so that you can keep your sanity intact. Ideally, it would be a number of different caregivers that this child would bond to. Um, but what, so what does, what does this nurturing look like? Like let's just like be really super clear about what are the needs.

[00:18:49] Greer Kirshenbaum: Yeah. So, I mean, the broad definition. That I have for Nurture is to be in like a really intentional relationship with your baby, right? Spending deliberate time in a physical relationship and an emotional relationship where you're really listening to your baby, trusting their cues and communication. Um, you're like supportive, reliable, and a safe person.

And you're really intending to meet your baby's needs and be aware of their emotions. Um, you're acting as a source of calm and regulation when needed. And we're providing repair, right? When we don't get it right. Cause that, that always happens. We can't always get it right. We're never seeking perfection.

Repair is a huge part, um, of this process too. So, I mean, the big categories I talk about, um, and it's all outlined in my book, are having a nurturing presence, which is to learn to be fully accepting of. The whole range of your baby's emotions, the whole range of, you know, where their stress system can be and, and, you know, understand that we can accept them and love them in all of the states.

And then the other big topics are connection. So really spending deliberate time in those like beautiful conversations we can have with babies, you know, interacting with toys or really just, you know, us a lot of the time. Um, Or being out in the world interacting. The other big category is nurturing stress, which is like a big topic that, you know, there's still so many myths around that.

Really providing co regulation for our baby's stress and knowing that their emotional system is extremely immature and not able to, to regulate stress on their own. And, and the last part is nurturing sleep. So supporting baby's sleep. Um, Yeah, in a way that, um, that, that they're needing

[00:20:49] Hunter: to. All right. Cool.

So there's a couple of things there I'd love to talk about, like the idea of the idea of co regulation and accepting all emotions. This can be really hard for us, like, but let's talk about accepting all emotions because when you know, babies cries cause parents distress, right? Like we know that, right?

Like that. Yeah. Okay. It's kind of how it works. They're symbiotic in that way, right? So they cause parent stress, so it can be really hard. Incredibly hard for parents to accept all emotions. If you have a fussy baby, if you have a colicky baby in there, that can be A, incredibly hard, and B, we were, a lot of us were not taught to accept all our emotions.

We were taught, you know, don't cry, go to your room. We don't, It's incredibly hard for adults, full grown adults with full grown adult developed brains to accept their emotions. That's hard work for many of us because we weren't taught that, we have no practice in doing that. So, do you have any advice for how people can do that with...

Children with infants, maybe the age up to the age of three, end of infancy. I love that. But also really, I mean, cause a lot of this advice I'm seeing could apply to every single, you know, like many ages kind of beyond that, but, but yeah, talk to me about accepting the emotions.

[00:22:15] Greer Kirshenbaum: Yeah, absolutely. And it is such a big thing to ask.

of parents, especially with the experience most of us had, right? We're, we're like, um, often in silence or rejected for having big emotions. Um, that was my experience. Um, and it's taken me a long time to. figure that out as an adult myself. And so we're kind of learning alongside our, our babies, right? And so when they experience a big emotion, feeling lots of stress in their body, that is normal for us to also have a similar physiological reaction and have heightened stress, right?

And so there are lots of tools that we can do as parents to get to a regulated place. So that we can be there for our babies in a meaningful way. And so I have a few different techniques that I like to work with with parents. One of the big ones is to right away narrate what's going on. Um, because we can get into, you know, our fight or flight freeze.

Stress response is that we're programmed into us as infants because this is where this all happens, right? So the first thing we can do is get behind their eyes and say, first describe their behavior. Like, you are crying so hard right now. Just observe what you're seeing, then name their emotion. You're feeling sad, like so sad, or you're feeling so angry or frustrated right now.

And the last bit is to just tell them that you're there, right? I'm here for you. Like, I'm here for you while you're feeling this big thing. And, you know, I'll be here until it's over. This really helps us get regulated, just naming what's happening. And so that will connect it to our own emotional brain, which is in itself regulated.

Right? So, um, you know, another, like, often said, um, kind of phrase is like, our baby is not giving us a hard time. They're having a hard time. So that's one of the big strategies I like to help parents, um, in those moments.

[00:24:26] Hunter: You know, I think that makes sense. Like, and this idea that I'll stay with you until this big emotion, um, is done, it's, it's really interesting.

And I think this is really important. And, and you're going to, we're going to talk in a second about how, why this is so important, right? Because of co regulation. And I want to say to parents, like, You may be, this may be so hard that you're in a place where you're really about to flip your lid because of XYZ stressors in your life, or this has been happening for XYZ hours, and it's too much.

I'm of the mindset that it's better if you need to to remove yourself than it is to scream at your child. You know, cause I've been in those moments where I've been like, Oh my God, I'm holding her arms so tightly right now. This is how people hurt their children. I need to take a break right now. And if you're, you know, that's happens to all parents like this happens cause it's Incredibly hard.

If you're in that moment, you may say, Greer told me, Hunter told me to stay with my child. They need me for co regulation. We're going to talk about that. But, You, I may also be in a moment where you can't use your whole brain. You're about to just like scream bloody murder or whatever, then it's okay. I give you permission to go take a break and remove yourself.

Put that child safely in their crib or whatever and just take a break. It's okay. You're allowed to do that. Your child is resilient and will survive because if you're listening to this, I know you're, you're intentional and, and want to, you know, are intentionally working towards. 80 percent skillful stuff, as best you

[00:26:06] Greer Kirshenbaum: can.

Yeah, for sure. I completely agree. And the self awareness piece there is so important too, right? If you can talk your way out of it, great. You're right. If you're, if you're so dysregulated that you're going to snap, say something or do something that is not, um, you know, what you would aim to do, um, you often do need to say, Oh, I'm aware that my stress has gotten to a certain level right now.

I. I need to take a minute to myself. And I think the best way to communicate that to a baby is to say, I need to go take care of myself right now, I'll be right back and to step out instead of like, you know, anything to, to shame that child in them, right. Just to say like, I can't handle these emotions right now because they're like, I'm having big feelings right now.

I need a second to take care of myself. Um, very important. Yeah. Starting from birth.

[00:27:00] Hunter: Yeah. I love that skillful language to just own it, right? It's like, because it's not that your child made you feel anything, you know, like, yes, it may be the catalyst of feelings that are in you, but, you know, it also has to do with all kinds of factors that are happening in your context that day and in your physiology and in your whatever, you know, all kinds of things.

So, um, I love that. Like I need a break. I need to take care of myself. That's great, great language. Okay, so let's talk about co regulation. This is something that our parents didn't know about, right? Like, this is, they, and, and it's still pretty common that people don't know about this. Like, I still see a lot of, you need to go and time out, you need a, they need a minute to, for them, to themselves to work this out, that kind of thing, and we know that that's That's not actually what two year olds or whatever age need now, right?

[00:27:59] Greer Kirshenbaum: Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. So there really is like, you know, a lot of neuroscience research to support this to really inform, you know, this approach. Um, there's essentially three steps of a stress system and babies only have the first two steps. So the first step is... Your amygdala detecting that there's a threat, right?

So I call this kind of the alarm part of your stress system. It's saying, Hey, something's happening. There's a threat either outside or inside, and we need to respond. The second part is kind of the mobilization of the stress response. It's in the hypothalamus. It sends out stress signals to the brain and body saying, Hey, get ready.

We gotta, you know, be ready for this threat. And then the third part is a stop signal, sort of like a brake pedal on the system that says, okay, the threat is gone, you know, we can resume, we can go back to a calmer

[00:28:56] Hunter: state. Would that be like the prefrontal cortex? Like, is that the brake system? Okay.

[00:29:01] Greer Kirshenbaum: Great.

It's both, um, the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. Okay. And so for us adults, we can use our prefrontal cortex to do like a. A technique like I just mentioned, right? To be like, okay, I'm going to like name this behavior, name this emotion and tell them, you know, tell us both that we're okay. Right?

Babies only have those first two steps. They can detect a threat, they can mount a stress response, but they do not have a functioning prefrontal cortex or hippocampus to shut off the stress. They are unable to do this on their own. So I teach parents, they, they, they have to borrow our brain. in order for their stress to end.

They rely on us to be kind of like an extern like call an external brain. You know, an external brain part, we need to sub in for that part that just babies just do not have. So when people do really understand this, it can change things, right? Because the other side is an opinion. This is, this is something we've observed,

[00:30:05] Hunter: right?

Yeah, this is, this is the science of what's happening in your child's brain. So people may say your child needs to just cry for a little while. They need to be by themselves. But you're saying that the, literally, they just don't have an off switch, they, they need us to be their external regulation. And so this requires us to, it always comes back to us, always comes back to us, right?

Like learning how to regulate our own feelings. And then we can help our kids learn how to regulate their feelings, right? Like, they need to borrow your calm. Um, so first we have to, step one of this is like, we have to be able to calm ourselves in a tricky moment, I guess. But basically, you're saying like, infants need soothing, one year olds need soothing.

I mean, you would call them infants, but I would say two year olds, three year olds, right? Toddlers who are in that infancy stage. Uh, they are needing soothing,

[00:31:07] Greer Kirshenbaum: right? Yes, absolutely. And so, by three, three is when, you know, we talked about that bottom up survival brain, emotional brain. The top part is, you know, the thinking brain that includes the prefrontal cortex.

By three years old, that part just begins to function, right? So, babies, you know, children are still needing co regulation. you know, throughout, but they begin to be able to do some, right? And that doesn't mean that we need to put them in positions and isolate them and say, all right, practice it now. Um, when they can do it, they do it.

Um, we, they don't need, they don't need us to be, um, pushing that. And I will say the other thing is, is, you know, there is some, this question of urgency of like, okay, when can I stop supporting my baby's stress? Like, when's this going to end? But I just want to remind people like I don't want any human on earth to ever think when they're stressed or, you know, feeling these like big challenging emotions that they have to go isolate themselves and deal with it on their own.

Like we're a social species. I would wish for like children, adolescents, adults, all humans to be able to be comfortable seeking out. co regulation for their whole life. It's not some kind of place we need to get to where we hand, always handle all our stress alone. And so we're teaching babies that right from the beginning.

[00:32:34] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

That's such a beautiful thought. And it's true. It's like, we feel each other's emotions, you know, if I'm feeling stressed and you're feeling mad or upset at me, it's going to escalate my stress. It's like, if I'm feeling stressed and you're feeling stressed, it's going to escalate my stress. If I'm feeling stressed, but you're in a good place, I'm gonna feel that.

I mean, even through, like, literally even on Zoom talking to you, where you are in Canada and I am in. Delaware, right? Like, I will feel that. Like, I definitely get that sense from every guest I talk to, right? And, you know, we inter are. All humans inter are. Like, we feel each other's feelings. And it's so interesting now I think about that, like, you know, I think about that probably might be similar to your...

experience. Like when I was, I was like a highly sensitive kid, sensitive baby, you know, my parents were a little overwhelmed probably by my emotions and the world. And I was told to go to my room. I was told to, you know, stop crying, all that stuff. And it's interesting when the, when things get really bad for me, that's what I want.

That's my response is to isolate myself and to go to my room And have a cry by myself, on my bed, by myself. And I, my children, it's interesting because if the, like on the rare moments that this has happened like, like I'll have a child, like one of my daughters will want to like give me a hug cause that's what she experiences as like a nurturing.

regulating thing. And for me, I'm like, I just want it in that moment when it gets to that point, because I want to isolate myself. It's so fascinating. Like it gets to like a real extreme, I guess. But you're, you telling me that like somehow is like, Oh, I, now I see that's this, it's a habit from my childhood.

[00:34:36] Greer Kirshenbaum: For sure. For sure. I have very similar as well. And I think a lot of like my healing has been to like, Rewire that experience to and try to seek out, you know, more social support as a sort of a healthier kind of way to, to deal with stress, but baby steps, it happens more slowly.

[00:34:55] Hunter: Yeah, I guess that makes sense.

Like, but I, I mean, I guess I feel, I feel like in a moment like that, I feel ashamed. Like, I feel shame. Yes. Or having the feelings. Oh my god. Like, it's so, like, Pavlovian, or not Pavlovian, but it's like this, it's so, it's such, it's just such a, one of those small T traumas that you just learn this as a child and then it comes back.

Yeah. And it, it resurfaces. Until you heal it. Yeah, absolutely. So this is what we don't want. Poor sad answer. Sorry, dear listener. I don't mean to be like a burdening you with my, my sad

[00:35:32] Greer Kirshenbaum: story. No, it's a great, it's a great learning experience. I mean, I, I am very, very similar as well. And I think, yeah, through my journey of like learning, you know, throughout research and, and out and outside of it too, I can see all of these patterns.

You know, that I do that, I'm like, okay, like, let's see if we can, you know, make a change. I do feel so much healthier now, getting rid of the shame of it. Like I am the same. I was like, oh, I'm having emotions like nobody can know, nobody can see, um, I need to deal with this on my own. Um, and that's very, a very lonely experience, right?

And so when we can kind of start relying on other people, it's very, very healing.

[00:36:17] Hunter: Yeah, yeah, or just like, I think for me, like, just the being able to tolerate the discomfort of the feelings, all the, like, less extreme ends of the emotional scale, like being able to tolerate that has, like, been hugely healing for me, cause then I can tolerate it with my kids, like, I, I'm not intolerant of their feelings, I can accept their feelings.

[00:36:45] Greer Kirshenbaum: Yeah, we really do learn a lot in parallel with our kids about this emotional experience. I felt that too, right? And even just Being in that really secure relationship with my son has been so healing for me because it's, it's one of the most secure, you know, I, I show him all my emotions. He shows me all his emotions.

We're so expressive with each other and that, you know, is so healing too. I should mention the, when we become parents, our neuroplasticity.

So there's three. So infancy is the biggest one.

[00:37:26] Hunter: And this is for men too. I just want to underscore this because some people think like, it's just women, but please don't know.

[00:37:31] Greer Kirshenbaum: Right. Yeah. All parents and caregivers, all parents. So the infancy is the big one. Adolescence is another time where our emotional system becomes really plastic again.

And so it can be changed again. And then when we become parents. is another time. And so the same areas are our amygdala, our hypothalamus, our prefrontal cortex. Oh, sorry, not hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, a prefrontal cortex. These areas that were formed in our infancy. They become highly flexible again, and so when we are engaged in these nurturing relationships with our babies, also relearning all this emotional processing and tolerance and all these beautiful things, we're, we're, we really are healing ourselves because we've got this window.

where we can really change our emotional systems again and build on that. That's so

[00:38:23] Hunter: cool. I love that. I mean, I really do think it. Yeah, I, I agree completely. Not that there's anything to agree with. It's science, but I agree completely. But you said a minute ago that you said, uh, my son, we have all these emotional experiences and I know a lot of people, a lot of people come to me and, and worry that they can't.

You know, I teach things in Mindful Parenting, like how to communicate more skillfully, including things like iMessages and stuff like that. And an iMessage includes, like, I'm feeling this way. And people feel like they're worried about, they call it dumping their feelings onto their kids. And You just said that you share your feelings with your son.

He's four, four now. Talk to me a little bit about that.

[00:39:09] Greer Kirshenbaum: Yeah, absolutely. So I think the distinction between sharing your emotions, like I, you know, recently had a really sad experience happen and I was crying and upset and I explained that to my son. Like, I'm feeling. Credible Sadness right now, and that's okay, I'm gonna feel this, and I'm gonna cry about it, and like, and I can, I can handle this, this feeling, and, and, you know, this is a normal part of, of, of being a person.

Um, uh, the distinction is explaining it versus, like, trying to have your child Be the one to be co-regulating you. Mm. Right. Yeah. Yeah. Um, instead of being like, oh, I'm so sad, like, gimme a hug, take care of me. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm. , you know, like, you, it's your job, you know, to, to handle my feelings. Right.

I, you know, very clear about like, I'm feeling this, and I, you know, I'm o I'm okay to do that. Right? Yeah. And that's okay. So, yeah, does that, that's, that's sort of the distinction that, that's important to remember.

[00:40:14] Hunter: Yeah, I think so. I like that. And I think that's a great way to explain it. Cause like when, when people ask me that question, I'm like, well, the kids know what you're feeling anyway.

They're not, they feel it, right? If you were upset about something and you're like, you know, like whatever, you try to like be safe, calm. Yeah. Sometimes we try to do that. We want to, like, fake it until we make it, and sometimes that can be a nice thing. But a lot of times when it talks to, when we're talking about feelings, our kids know anyway.

And then if we tell them we're not feeling what we're feeling, then they, it's like a sense of distrust because they're lying, we're lying to them essentially. But I love the way you're, you know, distinguishing and dumping is like. You make me feel better and having a feeling as a mature adult, you know, working on practicing as best we can that emotional maturity is, and it's safe for me to have this feeling.

It's okay. Psychotic and normal. I'm not human. You know, if whatever feeling you're having, it's normal because you're a human

[00:41:11] Greer Kirshenbaum: having that feeling. Even if it's out of control, right? Like, let's say something's... makes you extremely angry or dysregulated. Like telling your, your child that is important too.

You're modeling for them how to handle emotions for their life, right? So, I mean, if you are really, really, you know, dysregulated, angry, something you can say like, I'm so angry right now. Like I'm going to like move my body like this because that's how angry I feel. And I'm going to, you know, I need to go for a walk outside and these are the things I'm doing.

Like to experience this emotion that's not harming myself and not harming other people. So it's safe to have them and feel them and express them in a way that's, you know, feels safe for them. And yeah, you're completely right. Like we, we have biobehavioral synchrony with, with our babies and children.

Like our brain states do mirror one another. So if you're feeling a strong emotion, they know, um, they absolutely know. And lying about it's, um, scary for them. Because they don't know what to expect. They don't know what you're going to do. And if we're lying, they also often think something could be worse, right?

It's like, what are they lying about? Like, what could this be? Right? Um, so definitely advocate for being really, really honest and knowing that like, You're on a journey. You're figuring it out. You're playing around with ways of, you know, expressing and feeling emotion and they're there to see it and, and to learn more, um, than you learned from anyone probably.


[00:42:43] Hunter: Yeah. This is so fascinating. I love this conversation. Greer, um, tell us what the title of your book is and where they can, people can find you.

[00:42:53] Greer Kirshenbaum: Yeah, absolutely. My book is called, uh, The Nurture Revolution. Uh, grow your baby's brain and transform their mental health. Through the Art of Nurtured Parenting.

Uh, it can be found in all bookstores. Ask your local bookstore. I love, that's my favorite place to get books. Otherwise, it is available online. And you can find me on my Instagram account, which is Nurture Neuroscience Parenting, or my website, which is Nurture neuroscience.

[00:43:22] Hunter: com. This has been lovely. I've really, really enjoyed talking to you.

I think this is such an important conversation for us to have, like, just to normalize this, like to normalize this nurturing, to normalize these emotions, like, and to look at, you know, the science that is behind it is so, so valuable. Thank you so much for sharing your time. Thank you for, for doing this work and, and I really, really appreciate you coming on podcast.

[00:43:51] Greer Kirshenbaum: Thank you so much for having me. It's been such a pleasure.

[00:44:01] Hunter: Hey, I hope you loved this episode. I think it was so valuable to know this is like a big shift in how we've been thinking about little kids and brain development. So, you know, since a long time before. So this is a super important episode. Hey, if you like the Mindful Mama podcast, I would be so, so thrilled, so feeling it from my heart.

If you could leave a quick review on Apple Podcasts, it is super easy to leave an Apple Podcasts review. And this is how you do it. You just open up your Purple Podcasts app. If you're listening on Apple Podcasts, go to the Mindful Parenting podcast. And just scroll down until you see Ratings and Reviews, and you're going to see a place where there's a purple link that says Write a Review, and you just click on that and you get to enter your stars and write a title and a quick review.

It literally does take 30 seconds, and I hugely Appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. In fact, can I give a shout out? I'm going to give a shout out. Giving a shout out to Kriste1988 who left a five star review. Thank you. Who said, new Mindful Mama. I'm so excited to have found the podcast and her book.

I am ready to be the best mom slash parent that I can be. I share this with all my parent friends. Yay! Thank you, Kriste. So appreciate it. Again, thank you so much for listening. Thank you for being here. I hope this has watered some good seeds in you today that will help you throughout your week and I'm wishing you the best this week.

Have a great week, my friend. Namaste.

[00:45:53] Greer Kirshenbaum: I'd say definitely

[00:45:54] Hunter: do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better. And just, I'd say communicate better

[00:46:02] Greer Kirshenbaum: as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So definitely do it. I'd say definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you Connecting more with them and not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like, why isn't this working? I would say definitely do it. It's so so worth it.

It'll change you no matter what age someone's child is It's a great opportunity

[00:46:36] Hunter: for personal growth and it's great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful. I have

[00:46:40] Greer Kirshenbaum: this you can continue in your old habits that aren't working or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective. Shift everything in your parenting.

[00:46:57] Hunter: Are you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You will be Joining hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an opportunity to really discover your unique, lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to mindful parenting. MindfulParentingCourse. com to add your name to the waitlist so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment.

I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse. com

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