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Talk about feelings with children - to all adults!

This week you will find us at Seen-Days (Scandinavian Education Technology Transformation). So much fun and extremely rewarding to meet people and talk about what we do! We know for ourselves how important it is to teach children to talk about emotions early, but when I stand and talk about it for a whole day at a fair it strikes me again: it is more Even important! It can make all the difference.

Petra Krantz Lindgren - about teaching children talking about emotions


Read Petra Krantz Lindgren's incredibly wise text on the subject below!

“What if all the adults took this!

When I was a kid, I got help from my parents when I experienced strong, and scary, feelings. They lifted me up, rocked, patted and talked soothingly. - Oh! The doggie barked and then did you get scared? Do you want to hold me in your hand and then we gently pat it together? - You wanted to watch TV more and then I decided it was time to turn off and then you became really sad. - You had built a blockhouse and then Pierre ran on it so it collapsed and now you are both angry and sad. Do you want to sit here with me a little and hug or maybe you would rather be at peace?

Gradually, I began to understand what I experienced, I got words to express it and strategies to regulate the emotions and calm myself. But even today it happens that I end up in situations where the emotions take the upper hand and I instinctively react. When I see a viper on the path in front of me. When I learn that a dear person is seriously ill. When the fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night. Then my "ancient brain", amygdala, reacts with a fight or escape (or, if none of these opportunities exist, to "freeze to IS").

Not all children get the same help during their upbringing as I - and hopefully you - got. Some children's "important adults" have their own problems and simply cannot focus on the child. They may have difficult and unprocessed experiences from their own childhood, mental or physical illness, substance abuse problems, major financial difficulties or live in a violent relationship. When the adults do not help the child understand and regulate their own feelings, it becomes very difficult, not to say impossible, for the child to develop these abilities. Much of what the child experiences in the body (waves of fear, shame, anger, etc.) remains incomprehensible and scary and the child continues to react with his ancient brain: fight or escape. Go to attack or pull away. When adults meet such a child, in preschool and school, in leisure activities and care, they are often amazed and handcuffed to the child's strong reactions. She seems to react to the smallest thing! Gets crazy emotional outbursts, locks in, runs and hides, fight. Often, the child claims that no one cares, that "everyone hates me" or that "the others are idiots". How can she not understand that it is her own behavior that gives rise to social isolation?!

From this wonder of the adults, an ambition is born to explain. The child needs to understand what consequences her behaviors have for others! She obviously also needs help to understand how she should behave. Therefore, the adults talk to the child. Tells how the other children react when she gets angry, scream and fight or run away. Provides suggestions on how the child can do instead. And the child does not rarely agree. Every now and then she understands what the adults mean. Three minutes later, someone happens to bump into her in the corridor. Or she feels she sees a mocking smile from another child. Or she stumbles into the stairs and hits her knee, while she is flushed with shame when she notices that several other children who saw what happened. BAM !!! The signal "danger" is picked up. Amygdala takes over. A survival reaction is activated. The result: attack or defense. Screams, pushes, blows, verbal attacks. Or bang in doors, lock in to the toilet, climb into a tree. We adults can explain us blue and exhausted. It simply won't help! We talk to "the conscious brain", but it is not the one who has power when the child experiences a, for her, great threat. (Which she often does. Nobody has taught her - by repeatedly naming, explaining and calming - to differentiate between different threats, understanding their own reactions and regulating their feelings.) When something arouses, it is the ancient brain who answers. Other parts of the brain - the parts that the adult previously reasoned - are temporarily disconnected. We want the child to understand! Their reactions. What consequences her reactions have. How she can do instead. But we can't start there. By explaining. We must start by understanding ourselves! Understand the child. Her situation, conditions and needs. Then hopefully - with great patience, a lot of empathy, respect, honesty and trust - we can help her understand herself. Only then are there conditions for the child to understand others, to regulate their feelings and react differently.

Proper reprimands. Pure scolds. Threats and punishment. You understand, huh? The solutions that are not rarely called on when the kids are "unbearable" in the football team, "uneducated" in the dining room, "unmatural" in front of other people's feelings or destroy for other students in the classroom. Those solutions are often doomed to failure. A child simply cannot understand other people or regulate their feelings before she has been helped to understand herself.

*Edit*: I have understood that some readers interpret the text as that I mean that all forms of disturbing behaviors in children can be explained by problems in the relationship between the child and the parent. That's not what I'm saying. Children are different and of course there is more than one reason why children behave in ways that are perceived as disturbing or challenging by the surroundings. What I am saying is that when a child's "important adults" are unable to help the child understand and regulate their feelings, it has long -term negative consequences for the child that can appear in the form of "disturbing" behaviors. Barking, threatening and punishing those children is judged in advance to fail. (The same goes for all other children as well, but for partly other reasons.) "

Also read on a similar theme HERE.