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It is exciting when BrainWise instructors seek to interest parents in learning the 10 Wise Ways! Jon Livengood, a Mental Health Professional and a new BrainWise instructor, is working with children in grades K-8. He introduced BrainWise in a Therapeutic Summer Program in Warren, Pennsylvania, and sent an email requesting help so that he could better provide support to parents.

“I am writing to inform you of the successes we (our Therapeutic Summer Program) are having using the BrainWise curriculum.  The children have taken to it very well. 

I am working on a short presentation for the parents and guardians to introduce to them the concepts of BrainWise and how the information their children are learning will be weaved into our treatment.  In particular it will give a common language for them to use with their children forever for solving problems.”

This complements the long-term goal of BrainWise — to provide graduates with thinking skills that will help them live happy and productive lives.  The drawing below by a BrainWise graduate in China beautifully illustrates how this works.

Arrows Before

Arrows AfterYou will always have problems, but BrainWise skills help you deflect them.

 


 

Ways to Help Parents Reinforce BrainWise

Here are suggestions and teaching aids that will help you involve parents in teaching and reinforcing the 10 Wise Ways with their children at home.

Hold a BrainWise Parent Session.

Present an overview of the program using the 10 Wise Ways posters or contact BrainWise for a PowerPoint presentation of the 10 Wise Ways. As you present each poster, ask the parents what they think the concept means before you give a short explanation.

After you explain each concept, introduce a short activity for each Wise Way.   For example, for Wise Way #1, Wizard Brain over Lizard Brain, hand out brain worksheets in the curriculum, or a copy of the BrainWise CPR brain worksheet (contact info here to get BW CPR brain worksheet). Explain the five senses, the thalamus, the Lizard Brain and Wizard Brain. Have the parents draw a line connecting the thalamus to the Wizard Brain.

Here is an example that uses Wise Way #5, Ask Questions.  Use the riddle in the curriculum, “She turned, looked at him, and ran.”  This is an engaging activity and can be done quickly. Remember, if one of the parents asks the right question, say, “That’s a good question; we will get back to it.” Move on, and get more questions from the group before you reveal the answer.

As you review each wise way, have the parents draw a connection on their brain picture for each one.  At the end, remind them that the connections disappear if the skill is not practiced!

  • Distribute copies of the BrainWise problem-solving worksheets (in back of curriculum), BrainWise checklists (also in curriculum), or a copy of the BrainWise CPR problem- solving worksheet .
  • Suggest that parents work with their children and create customized text reminders that remind them to use the 10 Wise Ways.  The texts say things like “Use your Wizard Brain!”  “Exit your Emotions Elevator!” “Think about the Consequences,” etc. Parents can randomly send the text reminders to their children.
  • Encourage parents to integrate BrainWise into daily activities. Parents can use the BrainWise checklists (make copies from curriculum) to help their children analyze stories or movies. You can suggest that parents have their children identify and label Wizard Brain and Lizard Brain foods and that parents use the 10 Wise Ways to analyze their own problems, as well as help their children. Encourage the parents to apply the Wise Ways to current events as well as family behaviors. They can use BrainWise problem-solving worksheets to work through issues.
  • Have parents and children create individual Constellations of Support that contain viable resources including pertinent humans, online sources, spiritual support, pets, etc. Draw or cut out pictures that remind them of their support systems, and glue or tape them onto their Constellations.
  • Ask your PTO, the school, or parents to purchase the $15.00 companion book, How To Be BrainWise for each family.
  • Encourage parents to create their own adaptations of the 10 Wise Ways to address family dynamics. Practicing using mantras is one strategy for lowering your Emotions Elevator, and Newsletter readers will remember that a family used “popcorn” as a mantra when emotions started skyrocketing. The absurd, but “silly connotations” word spoken during duress helped defuse volatile situations. Another family encouraged members to use “I” messages during dinner discussions.

The March post shared examples of how BrainWise changes behaviors, and past newsletters presented data that show how BrainWise graduates have improved outcomes on measures of decision making and executive functions.

Dr. Judson Brewer

Dr. Judson Brewer

These successes would not surprise Dr. Judson Brewer.  Dr. Brewer’s research focuses on mindfulness training, a process he describes as teaching us how to focus on what is happening in our minds and bodies from moment to moment. He calls this experience “getting curious,” and says it helps us step out of “old, fear-based, reactive habits.”  His 2016 TED talk, “A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit,” has been viewed more than 6 million times.

In BrainWise terms, he is talking about recognizing our Red Flag Warnings and then using Wizard Brain thinking to lower whatever emotions our problems trigger, including craving, anxiety, anger, excitement, and fear.  This awareness, which he calls a “step into being,” helps us manage our urges from moment to moment.  By breaking problems down and making them more manageable, they become easier to change.

He admits that this “might sound too simplistic to affect behavior,” but his lab research shows that “mindfulness training was twice as good as gold standard therapy at helping people quit smoking.” He has gone on to successfully apply the approach to a wide range of problem behaviors.

The reception to his work and presentation is exciting!  Likewise, BrainWise users learn how to replace Lizard Brain emotions and reactions with Wizard Brain responses, a similar technique that alters problem behaviors. By using BrainWise CPR (Marty put link to summary of BW CPR here), program graduates learn that Red Flag Warnings prepare them to access their Emotions Elevator.  This process helps them control the impulse to react because it makes them aware that what’s happening in their bodies is connected with their minds and how they react.

Emotions Elevator

Emotions Elevator

In addition, BrainWise graduates learn to make further connections with the prefrontal cortex when they use their support systems, apply strategies that help them lower their emotions elevators, separate facts from opinions, ask the right questions, identify all their choices and the consequences of their choices, and communicate effectively. These additional skills not only provide a simple way to break a bad habit, they also are easy techniques that help us make lasting changes to improve our lives.

So the next time your Red Flag Warnings fly and your emotions shoot up your Emotions Elevator, recognize what is happening, and step back.  Assess the situation by using the 10 Wise Ways.  And as was discussed last month, use BrainWise CPR problem-solving worksheets to practice applying your skills.  It won’t be long before you are making better choices.

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disseminationMatt Sena is a BrainWise champion, and a member of the BrainWise Board of Directors. He is inspired in his work by thinking about the following formula, given to him by a former professor:

●Think about how many new people you impact in a year when you teach a BrainWise class, hold a BrainWise workshop, or counsel individuals and families.

●Next, think about the impact they will have on at least one other person — perhaps it’s the person with whom they have their primary interactions, or a friend or family member in need of support.

●Multiply that person by one or more, because there could be a generational effect, where children teach other siblings, or parents teach their children, spouse, or other family members. Then you will have an estimate of how many people you can impact in a year.

●Then times that estimated number by the years you teach or provide counseling – and then think about your impact on others.

This formula is guaranteed to jump start any bad day!

BrainWise instructors have a wide array of popular games that offer exciting ways to help students and clients practice using The 10 Wise Ways.  At a BrainWise site in Denver, high school students are used to reinforce BrainWise at a nearby elementary school.  In order to make the learning more fun, the high school students played BrainWise Jeopardy with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who had been taught BrainWise in their classrooms.

For this project, with the help of the BrainWise instructors, the mentors created their own materials and inserted customized BrainWise questions into the Jeopardy format.

First, they identified five topics for the headings.  Because the game was part of an after school program, they included a fitness heading – “GET PHYSICAL”.    Other headings were “JUST GETTING STARTED,” KNOW YOUR BRAINWISE,” FACT OR OPINION,” AND “COMMUNICATION.”

Then the high school mentors divided the elementary school students into two teams of fifteen students each.  Each team picked a student to represent their team on different questions. The chosen students selected a heading, picked a question, and used others on the team for support.  Each heading had questions under four monetary categories ranging from $100 to $400 and the instructors inserted increasingly difficult questions behind each of the monetary signs.  It was an exciting and fun way to reinforce what they had learned.

BrainWise Jeopardy is a powerful teaching tool.  The headings and statements can be changed, and can be created to be as easy or as difficult as needed.  Competitions between classes can be held, with winning teams answering more difficult questions.  Templates for a wide range of games can be found on the Internet or teachers can create their own.  Either way, students have fun while learning to make decisions using the wise ways.

Please let us know how you use games to teach BrainWise, and we will share them on www.brainwise-plc.org.

 

Prefrontal Cortex HighlightBefore starting a private practice, veteran BrainWise instructor Pat Austin, LCSW, taught the program to high school students with special needs. The students attended a public high school, but their classes were held in a contained classroom. They shared the hallways, lunchroom and other facilities with the general student population. David, the son of schizophrenic parents, had been in Ms. Austin’s class for years. She often wondered how much he was able to retain, and she found out after David had an incident in the hallway when he thought flying clocks were coming to steal his brain. Frightened, he started shouting about the clocks. His classmate guided him through the crowded hallway to Mrs. Austin’s office, where David fell on the floor in fetal position, hitting his forehead with his fist and saying, “I need to find the green, I need to find the green.” When she said she did not know what he meant, his classmate said, “Yes you do! He wants to find his wizard brain!” In class, students colored the prefrontal cortex/wizard brain green, and David wanted to use his Wizard Brain to get rid of the flying clocks. Mrs. Austin called his therapist. Like his parents, David was diagnosed with schizophrenia and put on medication.

Braille Brain

Braille Brain

10 wise ways in Braille

10 wise ways in Braille

Aurora Central High school in Colorado serves a high needs population, including refugees from all over the world.  The school has 300 IEP (Individualized Education Programs) students, and a small number are blind or have visual impairments. School psychologist Karyn Singley Blair is a veteran BrainWise instructor, and serves on the district’s Crisis Team and Brain Injury Response Team. She shared teaching tools they are using with the visually impaired students, including a Braille brain, a Braille Constellation of Support, and a Braille Emotions Elevator.

Braille emotions elevator

Braille emotions elevator

 

Vashi workshop 5After a Rotarian gave Dr. Marguerite (Marga) Theophil  a copy of How To Be BrainWise, Marga immediately saw how teaching the  program’s 10 Wise Ways  would enhance the work she and other educators were doing with children and families across a wide spectrum of populations in India.  She raised funds, purchased course materials, and held training workshops for them.  Attached are pictures taken at a recent workshop she held in Vashi.
Marguerite Theophil, PhD, is training educators in India to teach BrainWise CPR to children, youth, and adults in urban and rural communities. She reports that the teachers love the BrainWise approach and find it complements the Mindful Practices sessions they teach. Teachers find that adding the 10 Wise Ways gives them a powerful and effective teaching tool that helps them, as well as their students.
Dr. Theophil is the founder of WEAVE, an organization that helps individuals by teaching, learning, and connecting. Here is what she says about why she started teaching BrainWise:
I work as a Personal Growth Coach with clients in one-on-one sessions and also teach Mindfulness Practice to groups. I learned that so many of them do not use any form of thinking skills in their decision making! I found that BrainWise it helps them realize they could be more in control of events and strong emotions, rather than let those things control them. I found the two ways really did feed into, nourish & support each other.
Vashi workshop 1 Vashi workshop 8Vashi workshop 4

Dr Li

chinese girls

Xiaoliang Li, M.D., translated the BrainWise curriculum to Mandarin in 2000, and today is teaching  the 10 Wise Ways as part of a tobacco prevention/cessation program for youth funded by the Bloomberg Foundation.   Dr. Li uses Wechat, a mobile text and communications service popular in China.  She will be using WeChat  to connect  with BrainWise.  Prior to founding Pioneers in Health, Dr. Li was a professor of public health at Kunming Medical College, where she trained instructors and taught BrainWise in Kunming and rural areas to youth and adults, including girls targeted by sex traffickers.  She presented her work at a Chinese Women’s Leadership Conference in Hong Kong.

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jennifer dealJennifer Deal is a research scientist and author of What Millennials Want from Work. Research collected by her for the Center for Creative Leadership contradicts popular opinion that categorizes young people as entitled, arrogant and unwilling to learn. She reports the good news that young people recognize their deficits and identify areas where they need to improve, including:

Her suggestions for closing the performance gap are two-fold: students need to take responsibility to work on work skills inside and outside the classroom, and schools need to provide students with the tools and support they need to achieve proficiency in the workplace. BrainWise instructors recognize that a more specific answer would be to teach students the 10 Wise Ways and have them apply them to a wide range of workplace problems. Employers agree that improvement in these areas, as well as others, are needed. (www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/11/12.)
BrainWise instructors recognize that individuals who master the 10 Wise Ways know how to perform and be successful not only at work, but outside work as well. BrainWise helps close the gaps identified by both millennials and employers.

I taught BrainWise to students the school identified as high risks for staying in school.  Gangs were a serious problem in the community, and I invited some former students who were now in high school, to talk with my class.  The news had reported the recent murder of a man who had been shot and killed because he parked his car in a space that his assailant and friends had claimed belonged to them.  Shouting erupted, and the assailant and his friends attacked him and shot him.  I was shocked when one of my former students told the class that the shooter and his friends were his former “homies.”  He said that he would have been with them if he had not learned BrainWise, how to get off his emotions elevator, and to think about the consequences of his choices. He told the class, “They are in jail, and I am in school and going to graduate.”  Brenda B., Middle School Teacher and BrainWise Instructor

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