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Too many tears? Brain Science to the Rescue!

By Deanna Lambson

Founder, White Ribbon Week

“Why is it so hard?” a mother asked recently. “My son likes school but I can’t get him to put his shoes on. He won’t get out of the car. When he comes home he picks fights with his sister and has a complete meltdown about everything! What’s going on?”

School is in full swing which can bring an extra dose of stress. You may have noticed a little more sadness, a few more tantrums or even some tears (from you and your child!) Although this may be normal for periods of transition, it certainly isn’t fun!

Brain Science can help!

Meeting a new teacher, worry about being smart enough or making friends can cause anxiety in a child. That means the limbic system, (the fight or flight portion of the brain) is activated. Extra screen time at school and at home doesn’t help. When a child becomes overstimulated by screens, his brain shifts into that same fight or flight mode. Experts call it ESS (electronic screen syndrome). It manifests itself in ADHD symptoms, depression and defiance. So, it’s no surprise that he may impulsively hit his sister or melt into tears at the smallest thing.

That’s a lot for a little brain to deal with!

Brain Science to the rescue!

Although we can’t promise our child a nice teacher or easy homework, there are ways we can help them deal with their daily stresses. These 4 simple strategies from White Ribbon Week’s new Brain Power program can help them feel calm, resilient and a little more cheerful:

Get moving— Any kind of exercise, whether dancing in the living room or throwing a frisbee in the park, produces endorphins in the brain. Endorphins reduce pain and provide anxiety relief. Exercise is possibly the most powerful way to improve mood and reduce stress. But don’t call it exercise! Just call it play! Dr. Sanjay Gupta says physical inactivity is the most significant factor in the development of dementia later in adulthood! Good to know!

Get outside— Did you know that being in a pleasant environment can have a big impact on your mood? Even looking at images of forests, trees, lakes or oceans can reduce depressive symptoms! Insist that your child get recess time at school. Open the blinds. Move your desk closer to the window. Even just a few minutes in the sunshine daily increases feel-good serotonin in the brain.

Get sleep—Alex Korb PhD, author of “The Upward Spiral” asserts that poor sleep is one of the biggest causes of getting and staying depressed! When you sleep, your brain produces norepinephrine which helps us manage stress. No wonder your child may burst into tears when he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep. Help them avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime. Make bedtime the same time each night. Make their bedroom as calming as possible. Think spa!

Get a hug—Physical touch feels good whether it’s a massage or hugging your dog. Why? It’s that dose of dopamine and oxytocin. Oxytocin is the chemical that helps you feel safe and secure and loved. Hug your child every day. If your child isn’t a hugger, try frequent high 5’s, back scratches, painting nails or even brushing her hair.

We’ve gathered 25 more brain-boosting activities in a free downloadable BRAIN Bingo! Reward your child for a bingo in any direction. Try for a blackout! We hope it helps your family step away from the screen and get a natural lift to your mood. Access your free download here:

Learn more about healthy pick-me-ups in our new Brain Power Program at

Deanna Lambson is the founder of White Ribbon Week, a nonprofit which provides simple DIY digital citizenship programs so that any volunteer can organize a successful week in their own neighborhood school. She is the author of Power UP for Families, a series of workbooks that help families have fun while making family media plans together. She has been a featured presenter for Utah Coalition Against Pornography, the

Togetherness Project and BYU Women’s conference. She is a presenter and contributor to Uplift Families.


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