The Rational Brain

When I was a little girl I can remember being very fascinated by the moon. If we were traveling home anytime at night, I believed the moon was following me home. I even recall telling my mom that once and although she kindly told me that it “just felt that way”, I can also distinctly remember thinking that she was wrong. 🙂

When we are children we have a lot of magical thinking; it is why we can tell our kids that a big, jolly man comes down the chimney at Christmas and leaves presents by the fireplace. Our four year old may, in fact, question how Santa comes down the chimney, but because the rational part of their brain (before the age of seven) is very underdeveloped, all we have to tell them is that “Santa uses reindeer dust” and they are wondrously back to believing in the magic of Christmas.

Our rational brain is found in the prefrontal cortex and is involved in planning complex cognitive behavior, decision making, and mitigating social behaviour. It is not fully formed until we are in our early twenties. This is important knowledge in helping to inform us when it comes to working with and understanding our teenage children. Interpreting reality is dependent on a fully functioning prefrontal cortex, as is feeling guilt or remorse. It is often why we, as parents, feel as though we need to be the rational voice to our teenagers ~because in many ways we are. The trick I suppose is being able to do so with an open mind to their own process, so as to allow enough freedom for their growing need to make decisions while conscious of having to protect them at times.

And although we need a fully formed rational brain, I am also quite happy that the magical part of our brain does not fully go away; it is what allows us to believe in the possibility of fairies and hobbits, of the imaginable world of the Velveteen Rabbit and the ability to walk into the gates of Disney World and still feel enchanted. 🙂

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