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  • Ariel Sánchez Rojas

Instead of command and demand, try to connect and redirect: working left with left, and right with right (horizontal integration to solve conflicts; Strategy 2)

Sometimes younglings might be sad, moody, tired, freak out, or disobedient when arriving at school. And it's common actually, schools can be a scary place at times and separation anxiety can be very normal for young children.

Probably when those days appear, they might face trouble and it is proper that we teach them how to grow from it. When in conflict, emotions will appear and denying them will leave us without a sense of perspective where we miss the meaning that comes from putting things in context. 

For instance, two best friends get into a fight. One of them, who is really mad, says: “I don’t care if we end up as enemies and we never talk again”. He or she might look angry and cold; but lips, eyelids or gestures might show us their real feelings. 

Left brain loves and desires order. It is logical, literal, linguistic and linear (rational, it puts things in a sequence or order). On the other hand, the right brain is holistic and nonverbal; it allows us to communicate through facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, posture and gestures. It cares about the meaning of the feeling in an experience. Each side has a mind of its own because they can be, literally, two different hemispheres. 

In terms of development, very young children are right-hemisphere dominant. They have not mastered the ability to use logic and words to express their feelings, and they live their lives completely in the moment. Their relationship with logic, responsibilities and time is different from ours as adults. 

So, what do we do as counselors when a conflict arises? 

  1. First, notice how the right brain (the “emotional one”) is working; acknowledge that it is more directly connected to our bodily sensations and emotions. 

  2. Second, attune or emotionally relate to connect deeply with the other person's feelings. Allow them to “feel felt”.

  3. Third, integrate. I.e. when the raw emotions in their right brain are not combined with the logic of the left, then we will be floating into chaos (too much emotion = chaos; denying your emotions = rigidity). Therefore, we need to help them bring in the left brain to get some perspective and handle their emotions in a positive way.

  4. Fourth, know that when a child or teenager is upset, logic will not work as we must work with the right brain’s emotional needs. This “attunement” or emotional connection is how we will connect deeply with the other person and allow them to feel felt. 

Remember that instead of command and demand, you try to connect and redirect and it will help you with your daily counselor tasks. 

…. And let’s remember the last strategy: retell the story of the frightening or painful experience so you integrate the left and right hemisphere and start healing.


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