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Managing anger & the new Reframing Your Thoughts Toolkit

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Managing anger. Children’s emotions. Helping my child to manage their emotions

✨Managing anger…✨

A lot of the gems in the new Reframing Your Thoughts toolkit are in the smallprint on the back of each card.  Here you will find a wealth of insight and practical support that children can use to help them to bring each reframe on the front of each card to life.  I’d like to share more about what is on the back of the anger card to give you an example.

The front of the anger card has the following reframe – ‘I’m feeling really angry and it’s all your fault’ vs ‘I’m feeling really angry right now. I’m going to calm myself down. Then I will think about what I can do’.  The back of the anger card starts off by letting children know that anger is actually a normal emotion that everybody feels and, when expressed in a healthy and positive way, it can provide opportunities for learning and change.  In other words, it’s not an emotion that we need to suppress or feel ashamed of.  It’s how we manage and react to it that is important.  The card then goes on to explain how different things can happen to our bodies when big emotions such as anger arise because our body is preparing itself to protect us (e.g. faster breathing to give us more oxygen and sweating to help keep the body cool).  A sense of understanding what is happening when big emotions arise can be such a big help.  With this in mind, this is also why the back of the anger card then goes on to talk about how lots of other emotions and feelings are often hidden beneath the surface of anger and how it’s worthwhile thinking about what underlying feelings might be causing the anger.  The card then explores different practical things that children can do to help them to manage their anger when it arises.  Finally, a couple of questions are then asked to help children to think about how they can apply the relevant reframe to situations that happen in their own lives, and think about how they can apply the learning.

One of the things I’m really delighted to be hearing from parents is how the toolkit is opening up lots of conversations and offering parents a valuable insight into their child’s mind. As well as helping children to think about and approach things in a different way.

Here’s to helping our wise little ones to open up and lay those all important foundations of social and emotional intelligence that they can benefit from for years to come. ✨🤸🏾‍♀️🌈✨

World Mental Health Day – emotions and feelings

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On World Mental Health Day I would like to talk about some things we can communicate with children about their emotions and feelings. I will touch on a small number of areas that are explored further in the Little Wise Box of Emotions for 3-6 year olds and the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkit for 6-12 year olds.

The activity sets highlight how validating children’s feelings by offering empathy can be powerful as feeling understood can help to calm big feelings and emotions.  As well as validating their feelings, as outlined in the Reframing toolkit, we can ask helpful questions to encourage children to see another viewpoint.  For example, rather than saying ‘You’ll do better next time’ or ‘It’s not a big deal’ (it probably is to them), we could say, ‘It can be disappointing when things don’t work out how you had hoped.  What do you think you might be able to do differently next time?’.

As a further example, the activity sets also talk about the importance of letting children know that it is absolutely OK to experience all sorts of different emotions and feelings (including more challenging ones).  They are not things that need to be suppressed.  Actually, trying to do this can even help challenging feelings to grow and become more overwhelming.  It is much better to learn to acknowledge big feelings and work with them to achieve a more helpful outcome.  We can also let children know that it is how they react to their feelings that is important.  For example, when children act out in a way that isn’t helpful or appropriate, instead of them feeling that they are somehow bad because of how they behaved, we can offer an empathetic and constructive approach, while also setting boundaries.  For example, ‘I understand it can be frustrating when…  But it’s not OK to…  Let’s look for a better way to respond to this situation’.

And, of course, a key thing we can do is to open the door to conversations with children about their emotions and feelings and, in turn, help them to see that it is absolutely OK for them to talk about their emotions and feelings too.

I hope this small selection of highlights above offer some useful food for thought. ✨🌈🤸🏾‍♀️✨

Home – schooling lesson about racism

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Racism homeschooling lesson

My nine year old daughter and I spent yesterday afternoon exploring racism as part of her homeschooling.  My mum is from Jamaica, my dad is from England and racism is an area that I have spoken about informally with my daughter a few times over the years.  We have talked about how things have evolved over time through sharing stories such as Rosa Parks and her role in ending segregation on public transport in America.  We have talked about the tragic case of George Floyd and how this is another example that has shone a torch on the fact that there is still much that we need to do to rid of racism in society today.  Yesterday we really delved in and explored this area in some depth.  We did a fair bit of research, had lots of discussions, and I thought that I would share our main findings in case they are of help to anyone else looking to explore this area with their children too.  Here’s what we discovered…

What is race?
Firstly, before looking at what racism is, I wanted us to understand what race is.  In short, this is ever so complex.  A race can be seen as the idea that the human species is divided into different groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioural differences (e.g. the African race, the European race and the Asian race).  Race is therefore often seen as something that is inherent in our biology, and is therefore inherited across generations through the genes.  However, modern scientific studies have shown that human physical variations tend to overlap between different racial groups and that genes cannot be used to identify distinct racial groups. In fact, DNA tests have shown that all humans have much more in common, genetically, than they have differences.

Many modern scientists argue that race is actually a social construct that is used to categorise and characterise seemingly distinct and different populations.  But the reality is far more complex than this.  Africa, for example, has been shown to be the most diverse continent on Earth.  As a further example, in America, people identified as African Americans do not share one common set of physical characteristics. Instead they have a great range of skin colours, hair colours and textures, facial features, body sizes, and other physical traits.

As one scientist argues, human genetic variation is real.  However, we would be best placed to continue to study human genetic variation free of the constraining idea of race.  This is because genetic variation is an incredibly complex result of evolution which should not be reduced to race.  Similarly, he argues, race is real, it just isn’t genetic. It is a culturally created phenomenon. Because of the inability of scientists to group people into different racial packages, many modern researchers have concluded that the concept of race has no biological validity.

The study of race is of course worthy of a book, rather than the short few paragraphs here.  Although hopefully these short few paragraphs offer lots of food for thought.

What is racism?
Next we explored what racism means.  After our research, here’s the definition that we both came up with… “Racism is where someone thinks that they are better than people of a different ‘race’ (e.g. a white person thinking that they are better than a black person).  Racism is not good and it should 100% be stopped.”

What is ethnicity?
Next I thought, OK, now we know what race and racism is, but what is ethnicity and where does this fit in?  Again, this is another hugely complex area, but after our research, here’s a starting point definition that we came up with… “Ethnicity often refers to the way in which someone identifies with learned aspects of themselves (e.g. nationality, language and culture).”  As with race, ethnicity is also said to be socially constructed.  It is also something that can change over time in the course of one’s life.

The impact of race and ethnicity
While modern scientists argue that race and ethnicity have no genetic basis, the social concept of both of these can still have a significant impact on shaping human experiences.  Racial bias can fuel social exclusion, discrimination and even violence against people from certain social groups.  There are many historical examples of this such as the Apartheid in South Africa where people were forced to live separately based on race and their skin colour; and segregation in America where people were also segregated because of race and skin colour.  In both cases, black people were seen to be inferior.  The tragic recent killing of George Floyd highlights the very important ongoing need to tackle racism in society still today.

Another historical example of racism, where race was used to create political power and dominance, is the Holocaust.  Germany’s Nazi party was led by a man named Adolf Hitler and he wanted to create what he thought was ‘the best and strongest’ race.  To the Nazi party this meant getting rid of many different groups of people – most notably the Jews, but also other groups such as Gypsies, gay people, black people and those with physical disabilities.  Millions were killed during the Holocaust in the most horrific way.

Every year on 27th January, it is Holocaust Memorial Day.  This event is an important reminder of how important it is to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and differences and not to exclude people or spread hate within society.

What is white privilege?
Something else I wanted to explore with my daughter is what we mean by the sometimes confusing term, white privilege.  I found a good quote about what white privilege is by JT Flowers who is a 26 year old American rapper, student and activist living in the UK.  He feels that some people get defensive about this term because it is misunderstood and people can think of it as a term implying that people have basic rights and benefits simply because they are white.  This is what he had to say… “You might be a white person and still be poor with a lack of access to education or face a language barrier in the workplace.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be disadvantaged in other ways.  It just means that with respect to that one particular thing – your race and skin colour – you do have the luxury of not being able to think about it.  It means having the luxury of being able to step outside without fearing that you’re going to be discriminated against or oppressed in any way because of the colour of your skin.”

We then went on to discuss a personal experience to explore this further.  The other day, on Instagram, I saw an image of a little black girl aged about eight holding a poster which said… “We said that black lives matter.  We never said that ONLY black lives matter.  We know that ALL lives matter.  We just need YOUR HELP with #BlackLivesMatter for black lives are in danger.”

A white person commented on this post saying “Shouldn’t this girl be out playing with her princess dolls?  Why is she being dragged into this debate?”  I thought ‘Wow’ on so many different levels when I read this comment.  I thought about whether to reply.  Then I decided that I must, as uncomfortable as it might be.

I replied saying:  “When I was this girls age I was the only non-white person in my year at school and I was bullied by a minority of children in my class because of the colour of my skin (I won’t include some of the words here as they are pretty offensive to repeat).  When I was a bit older, about 12, I remember walking in my local very white high street with two of my 12 year old white friends, and a grown man shouted out to me… ‘Go back to Brixton where you come from you black *#+*.’  Whether I liked it or not, racism was something very real when I was the same age as the girl in the photo because it was a part of my life.  Just as it is probably a part of the girl’s life that is holding up the poster in the image.  Please think carefully before you write such comments.”  I checked back the next day and, interestingly, her comment had disappeared.

I had never shared these experiences with my daughter before yesterday (it is not something I tend to talk about very often generally really) and she was pretty wide eyed.  This led us to the final part of our learning lesson where we explored what people can do to help stop racism.

What can we do to help stop racism?
We started off this section by looking at the following quote by Edmund Burke…

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We used this quote, the personal experience I shared above, and also some examples of heroic figures involved in the fight against racism over the years to help us to think through what things we could all do to help stamp it out.  Here’s the list we came up with…

1 Don’t accept abuse.

2 Stand up for others being abused.

3 Ask a grown up for help.

4 Read, learn and take the time to properly understand racism.

5 Be kind.

I would like to finish off by sharing two quotes by Martin Luther King.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and I really hope that there is some useful material in here that can form part of your conversations with your children about racism.