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Emotional literacy requires conscious parenting without rewards and punishment and uncomfortableness

Chrissie Davies is an adoptive and permanent carer who has worked with children and families as a teacher (of children with extreme behaviours) for over 20 years and as a consultant to trauma and other families (Chaos to Calm Consultancy).

00:00 - Start 00:35 - Introducing Chrissie Davies from Chaos to Calm 01:18 - Therapeutic parenting and the pace method (playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy) 05:00 - Avoiding rewards and focussing on the inner core work to find the intrinsic motivators 05:48 - Nature, creativity and art are important 07:10 - The model fits all children 08:30 - Relinquish control and be flexible. Avoid complacency and doing the same thing every day 10:54 - Connect before direct 12:50 - Playfulness 13:11 - Why labels like ADHD or ASD sometimes matter 16:15 - Emotions literacy comes from teaching at home, not from schools. Support children while also allowing them to sit in uncomfortableness. 21:55 - Our nervous system means our children absorb energy, feelings and behaviours from us, so remember you are their role model 23:12 - Teachable moments can be amazing if you draw children into understanding where they are already doing great things 24:48 - Power of positivity and finding conscious ways to say what needs to be said to children 26:08 - Look for a Berry Street trauma informed school that has a positive behaviour school wide strategy and share trauma content with educators 29:34 - Find the optimal learning time to expand on emotions learning. Parallel learning when doing an activity together and avoiding questions. 33:17 - Be the family that talks about your feelings 37:23 - Name the emotion, the physical response and knowing what to do with it 40:48 - Lean into emotions when it brings up your own trauma by just being there and breathing 43:00 - The work we do in trauma families in building relationships and advocating is exhausting. Get help, support and respite.

Emotional literacy and the traumatised child with Chrissie Davies - Transcript

This is Sonia Wagner, representing PCA Families in one of our recordings that capture lived experience and best practice research-based learning that assist kinship, permanent and adoptive parents/carers in supporting young people. PCA Families has a zero tolerance of child abuse. I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay respect to elders past and present and express our intention to move together to a place of justice and partnership.

Today we are discussing emotional literacy and the traumatised child with Chrissie Davies from Chaos to Calm.

0:35 Welcome Chrissie.

Chrissie has over 20 years experience working with children and families, as a teacher in the school classroom, and as a mother of two young children, Chrissie has a wealth of knowledge to share.

Chrissie what else do we need to know about you?

Well we're specifically talking about emotional intelligence and literacy today and that is my jam. It’s part of my philosophy, it's everything that I live and breathe and share with families and never more so important for our trauma kids, adoptive and permanent care kids because boy do they have some big emotions.

1:18 We have had conversations with other parents, carers and professionals about the value of therapeutic parenting. I know you are an advocate for this approach for all children.  What are the steps parents really need to learn or what do they need to know to take it up?

Absolutely it is really big part of my philosophy the therapeutic approach obviously, having worked with so many traumatised children throughout my career in education. It is a very specific understanding, first and foremost the philosophy, of really getting your head around why we use this approach. Because we really understand that kids who've been exposed to trauma of varying degrees display some very specific and challenging behaviours. Opposition aggression, lots of those things, and while most kids do display those things within the realm of normal development, a lot of our trauma kids sort of take that to the next level. We have got to have a really good philosophy based on empathy and understanding where those behaviours are coming from.

A really big part of the therapeutic approach is following what we call the pace method, or the analogy, p-a-c-e, standing for playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy. When we use those core values in our approach with our children, playfulness in particular, oh my goodness, that goes a long way. With my little guy in particular I can normally get him over the line with a little bit of humour. Acceptance, obviously we spoke about already of understanding what our kids have already been through and how their brains have been impacted, either through developmental trauma, generational trauma or lived experience themselves in separation from their birth families. Curiosity in always questioning and being curious about where that behaviour is coming from. And then empathy of course, really having solid empathy and understanding for why our children do the things they do. When you find that, when you have that empathy, you're a lot more patient. You need faith and you're a lot more understanding too.

So we follow the pace approach and I guess what sets therapeutic parenting apart from more traditional parenting methods is that we don't believe in using punishments or consequences specifically. I really err away from rewards as well, which I’ll explain a little bit more about, because we really want to help our kids who have got some challenges around identity and self-worth and self-belief. Being who they are, truly learning to love themselves and accept themselves is what they actually need to be successful in life. That doesn't come from giving them a lollipop every time to get them over the line. Right.

That’s also a kind of our judgment of them.

For sure. I’m certainly not saying I haven't given my kids a snake, maybe on public transport when you can’t get off, but we don't want that to be our central focus.

So a lot of the traditional methods come back to control and shaping behaviour through using external methods, like stickers and prizes and rewards and removing our love when our children do something that we don't like.

Absolutely it's a little bit like that argument around pocket money and should it be tied to jobs or not.

05:00 Inner core work to find intrinsic motivators

Absolutely so interconnected. I actually run a whole workshop on intrinsic motivation as well if anyone's interested. It is about doing that deep inner core work with our kids. We know with our trauma kids it takes a lot of time, a lot of practice, a lot of stuff-ups, a lot of reparation. Accepting that they're making mistakes and that's okay we still love you anyway and it’s about what you do next time. It's not the most efficient parenting, it takes time, it takes a lot of leaning in and curiosity and empathy.

05:48 Nature, creativity and art

The other really big part of the philosophy that I teach centres around using music, creativity and art, so art therapy and  making a really big commitment to spend time in nature with your children. Nature is so calming, amazing, so incredible. It was so interesting you know being explorers and getting out and being curious and all those sorts of things how much I mean all children respond. I’m in the business now teaching everybody how to use the therapeutic approach. Not just trauma families, you know the challenging behaviours, because the truth is all children respond so incredibly well to this approach.

So true I remember once being told by a paediatrician that I needed to put a little plastic toy in my child's pram. But my approach was to give him pieces of nature as we walked. So he didn't know I was actually giving them leaves and other things to kind of explore. I’m pretty passionate about the whole nature aspect, fresh air and all of that.

7:10 Is therapeutic parenting good for all children and particularly for children with trauma? Is therapeutic parenting simply emotions coaching for kids?

Well it's particularly relevant for children with trauma. But I’ll never a really clear example about how it works for all children, because I predominantly spent most of my career in special education where there was major blow ups daily and you know lots of really intense challenging behaviours. I remember moving back to a mainstream school and I had this beautiful little prep one class and oh my goodness, my heart, honestly, I remember feeling for the first time, oh my goodness, this is what it's actually like to teach, not just crowd control. Because it was really challenging obviously in those special settings. But I use my whole therapeutic approach and circle time growth mindset and oh my goodness it was phenomenal to see those children without the neurological disruption thrive under that approach. Wow it was truly phenomenal. This was part of my real understanding about how this really works so it's so beneficial to all children. Our kids and autistic kids and our beautiful little ADHD kids they've got a lot of interference that we've got to work through. For our neurotypical kids who are just plodding along through life you know just with the usual ups and downs, they just eat this philosophy up. Honestly it is incredible.

08:30 Perhaps you could comment on some scenarios and how one might take a therapeutic parenting approach for some common situations that our families find challenging. Some of those things would be refusal to go to bed or shower, nightmares, emotional upsets and salty moods such as losing the battle for the TV remote, problems forming attachment and self regulation challenges.

A really big part of my philosophy I teach Sonia is to always connect before you direct, so making sure that, if we come back to that really big understanding, that we're not in it to control our children. We're here to guide them and teach them and come alongside them rather than control them. Any of those situations, like most families have challenges with their kids getting them into the shower or getting them into bed, and all those sorts of things. I often say to families it's not actually about that task. It's actually about them following the instruction, or the internal motivation to do the job that we're asking them to do. So one of the things I really recommend to families is thinking about, for example, with the having a shower, like groundhog day for kids. They don't like doing the same thing all the time. Be relaxed about it. So sometimes my daughter will say I don't feel like a shower tonight. Yeah okay no problem, don’t sweat it, how about you have one in the morning. Flexibility, relinquish control. Not everything has to be done the same way every single day. The number one thing I see with families and children in particular is patterns in behaviour forming when we get stuck in doing the same thing every single day. Our children become complacent, they become comfortable. Then we start to see a little bit more pushback. So trying to change things up and be a bit more flexible in our approach goes a really long way.

10:54 Connect before direct

One of my favourite strategies is connect before you direct. So for example if you know you're asking your kids to set the table and they're like no it's not my turn I did it yesterday, what my go-to strategy is, is to give them a big hug, then a snuggle, tell them something amazing about themselves and then just say you know what it'd be really great if you could help me out with the table. Nine times out of ten that gets my kids over the line because we're drawing them into the family, we're drawing them into the connection. It's not just about doing things. I use this philosophy in our family. We help each other out. Our love doesn't come with conditions. When you're part of a team everybody contributes. So I feel like that philosophy is really important as well as listening to our children. Obviously if they're not gonna shower for a week, it's becoming a problem. But I often say to families you know give it a go and I bet you they don't. Because so much about what our children want from us is to be heard. To be valued and respected and listened to. Especially with a lot of kids from a trauma background where control is a really big thing for them, because that's how they create that sense of safety for themselves. How can we allow our children to have that control or some sort of control over their own life within our own personal boundaries?

And as you say if you feel heard you're a lot calmer as a person. So sometimes it is about handing over control. I think even with my own older children sometimes when I get that kind of saltiness I’ll just go you need a mummy hug. Playful. They're bigger than me now right.

12:50 Playfulness

Just wait till they start doing your own strategies back at you. My daughter goes blow out the candles mum, which I obviously taught her. That's one of my strategies that I’ve taught. It's so cute and it just diffuses the moment move on you know yeah playfulness that I was talking about playfulness is so important

13:11 So I guess it is also a really long journey and it happens a lot and sometimes parents are wondering when is this ever going to stop? When am I ever going to get off this kind of treadmill with these ups and downs all the time? As you've said they can be quite extreme and you know quite exhausting. Is there a time frame and I guess the other aspect to that is do these labels matter around ADHD and ASD?

I think the short answer is no.  I think it is one of the things that we need to talk more about for prospective adoptive and permanent care families. It's almost like we don't want to scare them off, but I’m telling you now, you think the process is the challenging part, I’m here to tell you it's not. It's the lifelong commitment to these kids and whatever that brings into your life. There is such a misconception out there in the community. People say this to me all the time. But your children were babies when you adopted them and they've been with you in a loving safe home all their life. How can they have challenges? People don't understand generational trauma and the impacts of trauma in utero and fetal alcohol syndrome and all those sorts of things that we then go on to support our children through for many years. And all families have challenges. You know often people would say well you know some families with biological children have kids with depression or autism and you know so it's about understanding that all these sorts of things happen to all kinds of families. It's not just trauma families.

I think the difference is we go into it knowing that there could be complexities right. I feel like  in a way permanent care families and adoptive families are not given enough education and training around some of the challenges. I feel like most people would know that lived experience is the best training you can have. when you're living it. But you know we're really given three days of training for permanent care and then we get these kids with all these complex needs and you're left basically on your own to navigate. Which is why this incredible resource that permanent care and adoptive families is creating is so helpful for families.

Because you don't always hear things when you're in that training moment. I certainly didn't.

That's exactly right. It's even like you know anxiety to other people looking in. Anxiety just looks like challenging behaviour or aggression. I feel like a big part of our role as adoptive and permanent care parents is accepting that we have to educate either our very close family, you know people we're spending time with and our friends, so that they can understand as well. Because they just don't see the behaviour in the same way as us.

16:15 I think that relates to the schools as well. We can do more around the emotions literacy. We do so much on needs literacy for children, but very little on their emotions literacy.  We have seen some attempts recently to report on children’s personal and social skills, but I believe we need to do more. 

And maybe I could talk to a personal example to illustrate a little more.  One of my kids was slammed on the front page of their Grade 5 school report when the school was “rating” them on their self-management: he was considered to have poor resilience and was finding difficulty expressing emotions appropriately (cursing or tears).  Now this child had lost a grandparent, a foster sibling (immediately and unexpected), had moved schools, had the wrong eye muscle cut and had been in an ambulance twice for convulsions where CPR was administered all in the space of a year. So it’s fair to say it was coming out in challenges in entering the school space. his emotions and coping abilities were at an all-time low.  I’d suggest most adults would be challenged to appropriately self- manage given these multiple traumas.  Yet here he was turning up to school every day and then receives a report that says he is doing terribly at it.  Consequently, I removed that page from his report when discussing it with him.

My coping mechanism is that I haven’t read a school report since as they don’t take account of and reflect the emotional and real-world perspective of the child and what they are going through. What are your thoughts on how we can bring emotions into the school environment a bit more?  How do you appropriately assess the emotional needs of a child? 

It's really interesting. I’m in a very fortunate position aren't I in terms of my brain you know that I’ve got the educated brain, all that knowledge, and then I’ve also got the lived experience of being a parent, you know such an incredibly unique skill set. A really big part of the work that we have to do in education is educating our teachers about trauma. What that looks, sounds and feels like for our kids. And talking about emotional intelligence is such an incredible skill for our children that can be taught through so many different things in education in the way that we communicate and foster that growth mindset and resilience. Like you look at school values you know they all have their school values that they focus on. Those sorts of things. A lot of schools are doing a good job at looking at how they are investing in children long term, rather than just coping day to day with the behaviours and getting through the day. Do you know what I mean, because at the end of the day I talk to teachers all the time so I know about this. It's like you are growing a human brain outside of the family unit. The next most trusted adult, apart from you know grandparents, is an educator. You can not take that responsibility lightly. It's a huge responsibility and part of the challenge that we have, and I’ve seen this very commonly through the work that I do, is that you know whose responsibility is it?  I very strongly advocate to families that you are your child's first and most important educator and that will never stop. Even when they start school. So don't then start thinking that you can just start outsourcing this emotional intelligence, growth mindset, resilience, bouncing back. Alll of that, the core values for our children comes from the family home doesn't it. It's absolutely part of their being they're living and breathing human beings. It's what they learn from the people that they live with that role model to them in the family home. Teachers absolutely should build on and extend what our children are already bringing to the classroom.

I passionately, strongly believe that it is not a teacher's job to teach your child resilience. That comes from the family home and yes there will be situations at school where your child will need to show resilience and might need support from an educator. But a really big part of that will come home and I’ve seen this with my own daughter you know when she comes home with challenges at school. I feel like a really big part of our job as parents is not to problem solve for our children. Seeing them sit in the uncomfortableness, and this is something that people find really hard. Children need to feel to learn. They've got to feel it. We are there to hold space and support them through it without problem solving and without making it disappear. Trying to get them to come up with solutions, absolutely support the conversation. It breaks my heart to hear. I’ve done so much work with my daughter on empowering her in situations at school. You know ask a teacher for help or tell the teacher what's going on and then she finally does that and then the teacher says oh just go and work it out girls and they just dismiss you. This is what I mean. Then she comes home saying mum I did all the things you asked me to do and no one listened to me. So this is where we really need that teamwork don't we, of the educators, who understand that our children are bringing these values and school is a massive social experiment for our children. Let's not forget that part of that responsibility comes from teachers, you know building on those skills for our children, building on those emotions.

21:55 An example I always like to talk to is you know as parents like when we're out in a restaurant we get the wrong meal delivered right it's how we respond to that is teaching our children so much about you know resilience and how you speak with other people or how you manage situations that you're in so you can fall apart and you know and demand you know that you want your right food and everything else or you can take it as a teaching moment.

And doesn't that comes back to that whole discussion that we had another time about our nervous system. So when we display those behaviours to our children, it's the feeling that our children get, it's the energy that we give off that our children absorb and feel themselves. Say for example being kind, you know when you do something kind for somebody, the brain releases a chemical called oxytocin which makes you feel amazing. So  when you do that you feed off that and it give off that energy and your children see that and they feel that and then they start to do it as well because it's being role modelled to them. And that's just the way you live your life. So if you go around yelling and screaming at kids all day, what do they project back to you?

23:12 One of my favourite things is to watch the children with our animals you see how caring they are. So they're learning how to be caring and it comes back to you when you see that in that moment.

I think using those examples as teachable moments are incredibly important. We went through a really very physical stage with our little guy. He's six now so we are sort of coming out of it. But very aggressive towards his sibling. The same thing. He's very kind with animals and very nurturing and kind to younger children. So I would often say things to him like you know I noticed, here's the curious part of it, I noticed that when you were out today at that barbecue, you were so kind and caring to our friend Gracie, who's one. That's a really amazing thing that you were able to do. Do you think maybe you could show some of that kindness to your sister? Drawing children in to them understanding that they are actually already doing it in a different environment. Now could you just please be kind to your sister . But it's a really beautiful way of using examples of what your children are actually already doing really well. I think it's really important to reflect and acknowledge those times when they're getting things really right because that does build up their knowledge and awareness and their getting feedback,

24:48 It also reminds me of a time in a childcare centre where I was working and doing some placement time and one of the other educators came up to me and said what are you doing with this particular girl. She's just completely different. The only thing I was doing was acknowledging her when she was behaving really well. So she was a “troubled” child right. So I just concentrated on when she was doing things right. Amazing how you can see a major turn around.

That's what I call the power of positivity yes and that we have to constantly tell our children the things they are doing right to get them to do more and what inadvertently happens within negative cycles in families is that we start to all get really caught up in negativity. We as the adults obviously have to work really hard to be looking, and almost like flipping the script on that, and yes looking for the positive things. That's what I mean about therapeutic parenting being a very specific way of thinking. When I’ve done work with families they often say to me it almost like takes a conscious thought for them to stop and think okay how am I going to change the way that I say this. But the more you do it, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes obviously.

26:08 Is some of this also about simply finding better ways to share information between schools and homes so that there is a true 3 way partnership between school, caregivers and children? Do you have any advice?

I’m a really big believer in being open and transparent. There's a bit of debate in the adoption and permanent care community about whether you disclose information about your children's background and how much and all that sort of stuff. I would definitely say, as my children are getting older, I’m becoming a lot more conscious of that it's their story to tell yeah in terms of you know the really personal information that we deliver to them incrementally as they grow. But in terms of with education, I can't stress enough for anyone watching this who is early on in their adoptive and permanent care journey, as someone who has lived through this in a really negative way, please look for a school that is trauma informed, either in Australia trained in the Berry Street model (Richard Rose) or look at their behaviour/ positive behaviour school-wide strategy that they. Look at their values and how they teach their children or their students those life skills, because those are the foundations that the school will be basing everything to do with behaviour around. And trust me, you know as much as we all want to wave a magic wand and think our child's not going to go into education and not have challenges, my research and obviously experience tells me that many of our adoptive and permanent care children struggle once they hit formal learning because our system is so rigid. That's another podcast! But you know we think we've come a long way in education in terms of being more inclusive with classroom practices and understanding of neurodiversity. But you know I’m here to tell you we've still got a long way to go. So the more open we can be in terms of sharing what we know about our kids and especially about trauma, really, they don't need to know the ins and outs of our kids birth stories, they just need to know what trauma looks like in a classroom. And know that there are different schools that approach it differently. Remember that our educators who are on the front line with our kids are only as good as the school leaders. So the challenge that we often have in schools is that one year we might get a teacher who really connects and understands and our children thrive with. The next year it all falls apart because they're not getting the same support or the same empathy or the same approach or sense of humour or whatever it might be. Right. So I think if I had my time again, it is absolutely imperative that you choose a school that is trained in trauma approaches and has it embedded as their philosophy and they have been practicing it for a while. It will go a long way if and when your child does start to display some challenging behaviours about how they approach that.

Absolutely 100%.

29:34 I guess the other thing is for a lot of families, a lot of these children who have experienced trauma do find it very challenging to sort of maybe lean into their emotions and identify what's going on for them. Perhaps talking about it is hard, certainly there is evidence in terms of what's going on with their body. So do you have any advice for parents and carers in that area?

I certainly do. It’s what I call optimal learning time or finding the teachable moment. The number one thing we know, and I’ve seen this with my own little guy, and you know because I do this stuff all the time. He's so smart too he's like are you trying to talk to me about this because of x y and z. A lot of therapist parents say their kids are the same because we do the talk kind of thing.

The way that we bring up things or approach things with our children is incredibly important. So picking the right moment. A couple of my really all-time winners are in the car, when they don't have to look at you and they can look out the window and have a really beautiful conversation. One of the challenges and one of the things I really want people to think about is you know children aren't like adults. Their brains are not fully functioning. They don't want to sit down and workshop it. They don't want to sit down and look at me, talk to me, look me in the eye, you know all that sort of language that would just put that wall shut down. So we want to come in and have the teaching and the words to get in I suppose is what I’m saying. We have to make sure that we're picking the time when their brains are open to hearing. Defences are down. Because one of the biggest things about trauma kids is they protect.  I’m going to put my wall up. I’m going to lock you out. I’m going to shut you out because you're going to break my heart just like what happened to me before. Why are you different to anyone else. That's what we've got to keep just chipping away at, that little wall that they put up. The other really useful thing is playing with them. Kicking the footy, going on a bike ride, where you're side by side. I find anything parallel where we don't have to actually look at them is really great. When you're doing an activity together. Storytelling is another one of my all-time favourites. There's so many books with incredible messages in them that can lead to really great conversations. I can't stress enough. Then and there in the behaviour, or after an incident, is never the right time to bring it up, to workshop it.

When people are heated they don’t respond well.

It reminds me of doing lots of cooking and conversations when plaiting hair, when the child is  in front maybe watching TV you know braiding hair or that type of thing. That's when you have these great conversations when you're not kind of necessarily eye to eye.

And I think trying to avoid questions. I say to families too when children are dysregulated, why did you do that? Why are you angry? What's going on? A lot of the time our kids actually can't articulate that they're just flooded, they flip their lids, their brain is dysregulated. They actually don't even know why they've done it. And asking questions is not really helpful because it just creates more tension and angst and sometimes keeps our kids stuck there in the emotion when our job is to you know put the fire out and not make the fire spread.

33:17 So how do you balance between various aspects of one's emotions so for example effect in terms of overall disposition of the child, whether they're disinterested or clingy, the family dynamic, so you've got relationships with parents, siblings and maybe others perceiving or interpreting emotions, expressing and integrating emotions, understanding emotions and managing emotions, and personal growth. How do you kind of balance between all those dynamics going on?

There's a lot of layers there and questions. I’ll try and do a broad answer I suppose. I think it really comes back to being a family that talks about your feelings. Being a family that accepts and expresses and displays a range of emotions. Even being angry as an adult is a very real emotion so I think it's incredibly important that our children see us expressing a range of emotions in a safe contained way obviously. My kids have been using the word frustrated, are you frustrated Mummy, yes I am. I think that this is this really big part of my philosophy that life is not perfect. Families are noisy. Families are loud. Families make mistakes. Families argue. Families make up. Families have fun. That is all part of being a part of a family and I think it's incredibly important that our children feel that as well. That comes back to that acceptance doesn't it, that we're all different, we all have good days, we all have bad days. I tucked my kids into bed the other night. I’d been a bit of a grump I think on that day and I am the first person to own up when I’ve been angry, or when I’ve got shouty or you know lost control, and I will always apologise to my children every time. I’m so sorry I got angry, I’m going to try better tomorrow. They always say that's okay mummy. So beautiful, my daughter said back to me, she goes that's okay mummy, I get angry at you sometimes but we still love each other. Because it is that, isn't it, as much as we wish we couldn't ever get to that point, we do reach our threshold. Trauma families in particular have a lot more going on than neurotypical families and we do deal with a lot more. It's a really big part of our approach and teaching our children that we all still love each other unconditionally even when we get angry and talking about our feelings and sharing our emotions. I can think of a really beautiful example when we lost my husband's nana and he was crying. She was 88 so she you know she was pretty old but we had this really beautiful teaching moment with our children where dad and I were crying and expressing sadness. A lot of dads, in particular, say to me I walk away so I don't get angry. I feel like there's a real strength in modelling controlled anger to your children because we deal with a lot of aggression don't we with trauma kids. There's a part of that that's really unhealthy and really negative because we don't ever want our children to be physical. That is one of my big missions is to teach our children that it's okay for you to feel angry but it is never okay for you to physically hurt somebody. Part of my job is to keep you safe and to keep our family safe and you're allowed to be angry but I will never let you hurt me. I feel like this is something that a lot of trauma families really struggle with, when they're really in that heated behaviour and the physical stuff of knowing how to support their children through that. It's okay to cry as well.

37:23 How do you make that a richer environment at home with a fuller emotional literacy? What can parents and carers can do to raise up the emotional literacy of their child. I think we all kind of understand happy, sad, frustrated, angry. How do you extend that to other emotions? 

Well for children in particular, it comes back to facial expressions. Really detailed work around the eyes, the eyebrows, the mouth, the teeth, the colour of your face. Like we used to do a lot of mirror work with kids where we'd all have a mirror and if you haven't got a mirror in your kid's room I highly recommend going out and doing that immediately. Looking at themselves is a really big part of them understanding their identity. The three steps of really teaching emotional regulation and emotional literacy is first of all naming the emotion, which as you said a lot of kids can do happy, mad, sad.

The next step is have the physical response, how it makes you behave. So when you're embarrassed, your cheeks might go red, or when you're nervous, you get that really icky feeling in your tummy. If my little guy has anxiety I would put his hand on his heart and say oh my goodness your heart your heartbeat is racing, you must be feeling nervous right now and that's okay. You're linking children into the physical response. Like I said earlier, a lot of behaviour is inferred, it's a feeling, it's a knott in your stomach. I think that over exaggerating some of those things for our kids, like I’m a very animated kind of person, people always say that to me, you know you're very engaging because you're very emotive when you speak and that sort of stuff. But like almost like going over the top with it I think helps with the young, helps them understand.

Then the third step is knowing what to do with the emotion. So it's really complicated isn't it. It's any wonder our kids struggle with it. Adults struggle with it. And doesn't so much of it come back to our ability to have self-awareness.

But also maybe it is that it's that role modelling, what we do when we're in those moments. So I’m going out for a walk because I’m just in that you know I’m getting into a fog, I’m just going to go for a walk.

I’ve said things like you know what, I can feel myself getting really frustrated right now I’m going to move away so that I don't get angry. Those sorts of things. Explicitly saying out loud. I think that's a big thing that a lot of parents don't do when it comes to explicit teaching. Like you know if you're talking about that with the brain care stuff I will say out loud oh gee I’m thirsty my brain needs some water. Rather than just going to get a drink. So that modelling to our children. Or that ability to check back in. I was like oh gee I’m getting a bit grumpy I know what I think I havent eaten, I think I need some food. Who is hungry. Let's feed our brains. Connecting that back to self so that your children then start to make those connections too.

40:48 I think sometimes it's really challenging to also sit in with the child and lean into their emotions. Certainly I’ve had that experience particularly if it brings up really strong emotions. I think it's also why psychologists you know have that supervision built into their role. They get time out from the workspace to reflect on how their work is affecting them. And we don't always have that opportunity as carers and parents to have that sort of self-care. So how do you lean in and sit with a traumatized child when you might be feeling that?

That's a really good point because I lived through this with my little guy,especially in that really peak challenging tantrum meltdown phase I was talking about earlier. I feel like sometimes in that moment, just being there is enough. You don't have to talk, you don't have to say anything. I remember sometimes when we were having meltdown after meltdown after meltdown and I just had nothing Sonia, like I was so emotionally depleted. I could just rationally say to myself, prefrontal cortex, prefrontal cortex. I would literally just sit with him and just allow my breath to do the work. I feel like that's really what our children need in that moment is they need to feel that safety, they need to feel that connection, even though that's the last place we feel like being right then and there when you're so depleted yourself. Sometimes just being there rocking, humming, not actually you know doing much. Just to try and regulate that brain to move on, to get ready for the next one.

And so important that we try and get those breaks as well. I feel like a lot of this does sometimes come back to the mums as well, because our children are really looking for that maternal connection. I would find sometimes in our relationship my hubby was amazing. He'd try but it just wouldn't have the same effect. So yes making sure we get breaks from our children is incredibly important for adoptive and permanent care families to be able to be that emotionally present parent that they need.

43:00 Is there anything else you wanted to comment on today?

I feel like it's that when we're told before we go into this process that it's going to be hard and it's challenging, but I don't think you can really understand that until you're living it. I really want to implore to any families that are struggling to reach out for help to access support. Try and get some respite if you can. We've just linked up with someone who's going to come and take our little guy out for a few hours every week. None of that is a sign of weakness. None of that is a sign of you not being good enough. It's actually about you understanding what your kids need, so it's actually a strength. So much of this journey that we're on is constantly learning and evolving and changing, like all kids, but more so with our kids as they grow and develop.

And advocating. Because that's an exhausting, a really exhausting part of our role.

For sure. It's well documented that you know our parents and carers spend, I think it's six hours a week more in parenting because of all those aspects.

So looking for ways that we can make our life easier. I think it's really important to remember that our kids don't need fixing. It's just about being understanding and giving the things that we can to them in that moment. I still truly passionately believe everything comes back to our relationship. Back to that trust and safety and acceptance of the situation, rather than constantly trying to fix it or make it better.

I’m a big believer one relationship can make an awesome difference in someone's life. Thank you. It's a really good message for me to take back to work on some of those emotions with my family and continue to lean in, so I think some really good messages there for every single family.Thank you.

And to anyone making the time to listen to this recording thank you for giving up your valuable time for the benefit of the young people in your life.

Until next time have an amazing week.


Chrissie Davies – Chaos to Calm Consultancy