Mr H, being a communicator by trade, is always reading books about human behaviour. He recently read out this sentence to me from a book by Jonathan Haidt called The Righteous Mind (the fun we have in our house!):
“We are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our strategic reasoning.”
It really connected with me because, as someone who has struggled with my mental health all my life, I know how true this is. On any day, my feelings can have a deep and profound effect on what I say and do. A huge part of my therapy over the course of my two decades living with depression has been learning the art of recognising my feelings, naming them and doing something about them.
My First Emotions: The Parent’s Guide
We All Have Feelings
It’s especially important for me to do this because of my condition. But it’s also true for everyone. We all have feelings. And many of our day-to-day decisions are built on those feelings. And they don’t ever really pass through the bit of our brain that does logic and reasoning. So why don’t we put the same kind of effort into managing our feelings that we do into managing our thinking? And how can we encourage this as early as possible in our children?
As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, I’m currently working in partnership with Skylark Learning to promote My First Emotions. I’m doing this because I agree passionately with them that, as parents, we have a duty to help our children understand and manage their feelings. With Skylark Learning’s help, I’m going on this journey with Little Mister H.
Today, I’d like to focus in on the parent’s role in all of this – set out in The Parent’s Guide that comes inside the box. The Parent’s Guide is a great resource. It takes the parent through how to understand your child’s emotions, how to talk about emotions, how to validate their emotions (I’ve already written a bit about this), helping your child regulate their emotions, and setting boundaries.
5 Things I Love About The Parent’s Guide
1. It’s Information You Can Trust
The Parent’s Guide is written by Dr John Lambie from Anglia Ruskin University who has worked as a psychologist for 20 years with a special interest in emotions. It’s also based on 47 books and research papers on the subject. So it’s the sum total of a lot of smart people’s work and that is why it feels as though it’s information you can trust!
2. It’s Really Accessible And Practical
The Parent’s Guide is written in simple language and it takes you, step-by-step, through how to use the hand puppet, emotion toys, story cards and other components to communicate with your children about their emotions.
3. The Parenting Style Quiz
The parenting style quiz helps you to understand when you might be coaching, dismissive or laissez-faire in your parenting approach. And it’s great for challenging yourself on how you respond to your child’s emotions. Mr H and I both did this, and we realised that we often have quite different reactions to Little Mister H’s emotions when they surface – and that there were situations where either of us could do things a bit differently and better.
4. Hints And Tips
I’ve talked about the importance of emotional validation. The Parent’s Guide offers some great tips on doing this. In particular, it encourages you to reflect the child’s emotion back to them, label the emotion (‘I can see you’re angry’) and describe the point of view behind these emotions. Mr H and I often find ourselves saying things like: ‘It’s hard when your brother doesn’t share his toys’ to Little Miss H. It’s amazing how much this can take the sting out of every-day squabbles. The guide also explains when you might be invalidating your child’s emotions – perhaps by saying things like: ‘don’t be sad’. It’s so easy to do this. I know I still do sometimes. But it’s far better to validate, and with The Parent’s Guide to help us we are really learning how.
5. Setting Boundaries And Rules
The guide is really clear that, while it’s always good to communicate about and validate emotions, we still need to set boundaries and rules. The guide gives some great tips on how to do both things at once (‘I can see you’re having fun and want to keep playing. But it is bedtime now.’) And it has some reassuring thoughts on how to deal with any subsequent tantrums (Little Mister H has his fair share of these at the moment!) In essence, the guide says that, after the initial validation and boundary setting, the most positive thing you can do is ignore the negative behaviour and give warm attention to any positive behaviour (when your child stops screaming for instance).
A Foundation For Emotional Wellbeing
I’ve personal reasons for wanting my children to be able to manage their emotions in positive ways. But as The Parent’s Guide says:
“Emotions drive learning, decision-making, creativity, relationships and health.”
As Little Miss H and Little Mister H grow older, I want them to be able to understand the relationships between the world they live in (and the people they live around), the emotions this can trigger and the power they have to name, process and respond to these emotions. In many ways, I’ve had to learn to do this myself as a way of managing my condition. I’m learning it all over again now as I try to help my children with their emotions. And I hope (and believe) that by doing so, I’ll help to set them on the path to a fulfilling and healthy emotional life.
Over the next six months, I will be working in partnership with Skylark Learning to promote My First Emotions. However, as always, all words, opinions and images will be 100% my own and 100% honest. I’m hugely passionate about this resource. And I’m proud to be able to bring you our journey with My First Emotions.