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The impact of positive parenting on adult mental health

I recently attended Sue Welby’s course, as an observer of, “Toddlers Throwing Wobblers”. She owns a private online and face to face company delivering courses for parents with children, covering topics such as potty training, sleep issues and behaviour. Being a counsellor, it was the behaviour course that particularly interested me.

The course encompassed the various different behavioural and emotional issues that all parents will experience when raising their children; strategies and techniques for parents to use to help their little ones with those very big emotions that they experience and don’t know how to process. I’m a mental health counsellor and mindfulness-based stress management practitioner: historically I worked for many years with families as a family support worker for a charitable organisation. I was so highly impressed with how Sue delivered the course, the advice and techniques and information she delivered. As a mental health practitioner, I work with adults age 17 and above. The crucial link between how a child is parented in the early years has a vital and huge significance on how they will develop emotionally and behaviourally into adolescence and adulthood.

The techniques and strategies I use with my clients can be adapted to use with children of any age. Sue’s course teaches you some really effective and easy exercises. It needs to start with the parents as we are our children’s role models and we create the template for their lives. Our emotional triggers often become theirs as they grow and develop. We’re all human and have our limits, it’s recognising those limits before we become over-reactive and unable to regulate our emotions, but as adults we’ve had years and years of managing our emotions.

Step into your little one’s shoes and those emotions that you experience, they are also experiencing BUT they become so much bigger in children, they can overwhelm a child and they act out the emotion because it feels too big to fit into their little bodies. They need to get the energy from the emotion out! That’s what emotion means - energy in motion. So, us adults need to help them to regulate their feelings. If you learn how to mange yours in the main, there’s a better chance you can help your children to do so effectively. It’s called emotional regulation. It’s not going to happen all of the time, as we are all human and we are certainly not perfect. What you can do is empower yourself with knowledge about how children behave, how their little brains and bodies process information and emotions, educate yourself – become aware of your child’s behaviour and personality, know their limits, know when they are overwhelmed, or if they are overly-sensitive and this you can do by attending Sue’s course!

The mindfulness practises that Sue teaches and what I teach with my clients can be done together with your child – remember we lead by example, children copy. It’s ok to feel every emotion – MAD, BAD, GLAD, SAD, SCARED – it’s about, in the main, keeping those feelings in the “window of tolerance”. As adults our brains have fully developed, and we have a much better chance of regulating our emotions. Children’s brains are not fully developed until they are around age 25. They are physically and emotionally not matured enough to control and regulate theirs’, so parents need to help them to self-regulate and feel safe with their feelings. No feeling is a bad or negative, they are just feelings, it’s what we do with feelings that is far more important. Children can often be disciplined for acting out emotions of which could eventuate into suppressing them and is not conducive to emotional regulation, it will make the feeling feel worse for them and quite scary too. Help them to recognise when they feel overwhelmed, use mindfulness and think of it like a superpower that your child can use to feel empowered and safe within themselves – doit together as a family and build your own toolkit.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is as important, if not more important, in my opinion, than formal education.

If there were more Sue’s around and more parents attending courses like hers’, I don’t think my very busy counselling practise would be as busy as it is!

Joanne Freeman, Accredited, Registered Counsellor

Please visit Sue’s website for further information. Little Life Steps

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