This episode looks at how we can support children develop resilience to overcome obstacles and frustration during home schooling by being light hearted and playful.
About our hosts:
A creative entrepreneur who focuses on ways to tackle the root of children’s mental health through play and secure relationships. Due to her own challenging experiences in childhood, Sophia went on to establish a thriving Play & Creative Arts Therapy charity to support other children who have experienced trauma. Her focus is on helping therapists, businesses and charities have more of an impact for children and families that they work with through coaching, strategy, fundraising and mentoring.
Nicole is a mum to two young boys, who also has over 20 years of brand marketing experience. She is a previous Chair Trustee at Clear Sky Charity and has past experience on the Ella’s Kitchen board. Her roles have included Marketing Director, Head of Ella’s-ness, Global Brand Director with responsibility of creating and building one brand inside and out – including the wellbeing and culture of the team. Nicole was instrumental in growing Ella’s into a multi-million pound international business, driven by the mission of creating healthy children.
About Treasure Time
Our vision is to drive connected, happy parent-child relationships, for the benefit of the whole family. Our mission and passion is to educate parents in how to become happy, mindful and confident in connecting with their own children through play.
Value bombs and tweetables:
1. “There’s been just so much change in our daily lives and let’s face it, we are parents and not trained teachers.” Nicole McDonnell
2. “The reality is that stressed children can’t learn, and stressed parents can’t teach” Sophia Giblin
3. “I tried out a ‘day of mistakes’ so the boys can see that I’m not perfect and sometimes need help too, which started with me wearing my glasses upside down and the boys were rolling around in hysterics. It helped to relieve the tension first thing in the morning, and we went on to have a brilliant day of home-schooling” Nicole McDonnell
4. “Resilience is such an important thing that we can all be teaching our children at this time, and we can do it in a fun, light-hearted and playful way” Sophia Giblin
Hey, it’s Sophia and Nicole. Welcome to the Treasure Time Podcast: growing up happy.
Today’s podcast is all about helping children cope with distance learning at home school, following school closures. So Nicole, how did this episode topic come about?
So our first week of homeschooling. Wow, what an emotional roller coaster!
There’s been just so much change in our daily lives and let’s face it parents and not trained teachers.
Our school in particular has been absolutely fantastic. The support has been incredible. However, even with this amazing support, my son described his history lesson (one of his favourite subjects) that I delivered to him as “the worst history lesson EVER”.
So that was really sad, because he was so enthusiastic at the beginning of the lesson. There was a great PowerPoint to follow that he was reading. Harrison, his younger brother was really engaged in it too. But at the end of the day, it didn’t live up to his expectations of how it was going to pan out clearly.
I really tried my best you know, we’d be we have been really positive in the beginning of the week or the beginning of that day. But the reality is, all the parents I’ve been speaking to myself included, we’re dealing with different issues and needs including our own different emotional needs.
Then they struggle with the whole distance learning. As the children are trying to figure it out, I’m trying to figure it out. The reality of what a timetable for the week might look like for a family is now so different because suddenly we’re cooking three meals a day for seven days a week, you know, 21 meals, that is not what normally happens in the average household.
These two meals need planning in, and figuring out and time to prepare, then you do the actual work, you’ve got to upload it to Google classrooms.
Plus, parents are also trying to do that on jobs from home which were full time jobs or part time jobs. And they’ve still got all the washing and ironing and the other household admin that goes on.
So ultimately, this is this little pressure cooker that’s happening and even if you’ve got a positive spin on approaching this learning and homeschooling, it’s not school, and it’s so far removed from the environment, children are used to it is really challenging because it’s like everything’s been thrown up in the air and we’re trying to catch it in the right way. Some of its lands the right way up and others it’s just like a bombsite in the corner.
Well, there’s so much pressure on parents right now. So I think that we have to look at how we could bring a playful perspective back to this whole scenario, just so that we can relieve some of that tension and some of that pressure and we can talk today about how we can actually use play to help children’s learning.
That sounds really, really great, because if it was possible to defuse the tension that we can feel sort of brewing under the surface that would be really good. So how important is it that we go through all the learning?
So I guess it’s hard for me to say as not as a teacher, I can talk to you about it from a play therapists perspective. And definitely from a children’s emotional or mental health perspective.
The first thing to acknowledge is that children will be really confused at the moment about what’s going on. So trying to teach them anything, it’s going to be like, trying to do homework, times 100. And even doing homework with children can be challenging at times. But then you’ve got to do it five days a week, all day, to a timetable and complete lots of different thing – it’s, it’s just a lot.
If we think about where children are coming from as well, they might be finding it more of a challenge.
They’ll be stressed out by this whole thing because you have gone from being their parent to also their teacher. So you’re adding another hat, when you’re also all these other different people to the children. Particularly if they need you to be their comfort their home, their security right now, and you’re stressed and trying to teach them, it’s going to be challenging.
The reality is that stressed children can’t learn and stressed parents can’t teach. So, at this time, it’s really likely that you might see some relationship challenges appearing, because children aren’t reacting to you in the same way that they would react to their teacher. They’re reacting to you as their parent.
I’ve experienced that myself. When you say the challenges in the relationship and behaviour what are good examples of what that may look like?
If you imagine that your relationship with your child is not that of a teacher and child, you’re related, you’re their parent so you automatically are closer.
Obviously, the child has different needs from you than the needs they have from their teacher. The child will behave in ways that trigger you, of course, because you installed their buttons, and they know how to push the buttons.
It’s just the nature of the parent child relationship is a complex one. So, in times like this, when you are trying to get children to do schoolwork, and children or maybe thinking, “this is home, this is the place where I play. This is a place where I feel safe, and I feel happy, why are you trying to make me do this stuff that I don’t want to do?”
There will naturally be challenges and tensions that come up, because children can behave in certain ways at home that they aren’t allowed to behave in school. They’re naturally more expressive at home generally, and are more happy to tell you what they think of your history lesson than they would actually tell their teacher. They’re not going to say to the teacher, “that’s a boring history lesson” or “that was the worst history lesson ever”. They’ll be a bit probably be a bit more polite than that.
You might be starting to think as a parent, how is it my child’s teacher so good at this, and I’m so not? The reality is that it’s a totally different relationship.
You have to acknowledge that children will naturally be more open with their real feelings with you. In this time, children don’t have very much control. Children generally don’t have much control in life anyway, because they are under our watch. And we take care of them and we make sure that they’re safe. So sometimes, they want to do things that they’re not allowed to do because it’s not safe or it’s not the right time or for their own good. We keep them boundaries, and safe. And so in that sense, children don’t have a lot of control, but now even more so they have even less control because they can’t see their friends. They can’t go to the clubs after school. They can’t even go outside really.
I was interested at the end of the first week of homeschooling, Callum and I chatted about “how did he think it went, what would you like to do differently?” And he was sort of subdued in his response, but he just said “it went good. But it was much more difficult than I thought it would be Mummy.”
Yeah, it’s tough, right? It’s tough for everybody. It’s tough for you and them because they see you differently. You’re not their teacher, you’re the parent. So going back to that feeling of children being out of control, you’re likely to see more control struggles between parents and children at this time. Where we’re trying to get children to do things they’ll start to possibly rebel, or they might be quite rude, or they might struggle with their resilience at this time and actually getting the work done and feeling good enough because it’s a completely different environment.
Do you think in this new environment will children’s learning be impacted? How do you think it will be impacted?
I suppose in terms of advancing through the curriculum, potentially, they’re not going to cover everything that they would cover in school. The important thing to remember is that children are learning all the time, and they learn naturally through play anyway.
If you can allow your children at this time to be curious, and creative, and use their imagination and maybe learn in different ways, they will continue to learn, their brains will continue to develop, they’ll just learn things slightly differently.
I actually think it’s a brilliant opportunity to give your children more experiences at home with play and with creativity to see their imaginations flourish.
So actually, this is a good time for nurturing their imagination and creativity by allowing them to play and create things and try things out and go outside more maybe, or there’s all sorts of things you can do to play that will teach them different skills.
We’ve definitely seen our boys light up with dressing up and role play and playing football in the garden.
That’s when we’ve definitely been our happiest this week.
One thing that’s been a real struggle this week and in the contrast is the frustration of not getting it right first time or not, they almost want to just finish the work and get that done. And if it’s not done the way they want to, one of them my youngest son Harrison, he’s really struggling with that.
And how do we best deal with the children when they’re not happy with their work at home? They think it’s rubbish and they just want to keep starting it again and, a new piece of paper and it’s not something that I normally see in him to this great extent. It’s quite upsetting to see it’s troubling him, and it’s his older brothers suggesting things like “why don’t you just rub it out and start again?” Or “it’s okay. It doesn’t matter.”
Harrison quite articulately was able to say “it may not matter to you, you might think it looks good. I don’t. And it matters, what I think is important, and I don’t think it’s good.” And it’s like, “wow, you’ve managed to articulate that really clearly for somebody’s so young”, but it’s been really upsetting when we try to do three or four things in a row and he’s not happy with anything that he’s doing.
Especially when it’s pretty good stuff. He’s really actually very capable. So it’s very difficult and I find it very hard to handle it. And I don’t think I’ll be alone in this.
Yeah, it’s a tough one, isn’t it? It’s going to be a challenge for everybody.
I think Harrison’s hit the nail on the head, his feelings matter and his feelings count and it’s it really only matters to him if he thinks it’s good. So he’s got it right.
It really is the same for us. As adults, if somebody else tells us something that we do is really good, but we don’t like it, we don’t tend to believe it unless we believe it for for ourselves, that comes from a real internal sense of feeling good enough or being satisfied with with what it is that we’ve got.
There is something tied in there potentially with self esteem and how he feels about himself, but also with resilience, and the ability to not be perfect, as well. I think it’s important to acknowledge for for any child that’s struggling with their work not being good enough, that this is a different environment. They may feel like they need to impress you, maybe more than they would need to impress their teacher. First of all, they might be trying extra hard for you to get your praise or for you to give them some kind of compliment for what they’re doing.
But also for Harrison, it sounds like that’s not the case. He wants to feel good enough for himself. I think you can reflect back to your child “it’s really important to you that you get it right” or “it’s really important to you that you like it and it doesn’t matter what I think, it’s all about how you feel”.
Something that I recommended to Nicole this week, because she mentioned this to me earlier in the week about Harrison, children need to see that we’re not perfect as well as parents. They know that we might be feeling at this time that we need to be perfect.
We need to be the best teachers we can be. We need to be good at the cooking and the cleaning and doing our jobs and doing everything that you mentioned earlier in this episode, but actually allowing ourselves to make mistakes at this time too, and just recognise that we’re doing the absolute best that we can.
So what I recommended to Nicole was that actually she has a day of mistakes, where she lets the boys see her making mistakes, so that they can learn that it’s okay and and adults make mistakes too and everyone makes mistakes and it and it’s okay. Why don’t you tell us how that went Nicole.
It was it was really good actually because it was a it was a bad day.
I thought the idea of a ‘day of mistakes’, it was just so playful. And I thought I’m going to “yeah, I’m going to give this a go and tomorrow is going to be a really good day”.
I knew it was brilliant because the first mistake was that the children didn’t want to come from breakfast into the room where we’ve got the desk set up for learning in the morning. They’ve all kind of been a bit like Kevin, the teenager, and I just popped my glasses on upside down and then I started being really silly and was saying,
“Oh, I don’t know what’s happened. I can’t see everything properly. Where were your books? What’s going on? Oh can you help me I don’t know what’s going on!”
They just rolled about hysterical laughing. They were pointing and I pretended I didn’t know what they were saying and an eventually after loads of hysteria and fun, we got together and I was like
“My glasses! Oh, I can’t believe I made such a silly mistake. Oh, thank you so much. Oh, I must I was all wonky this morning”
It just helped chill us all out and the atmosphere from breakfast going into a room where we were going to suddenly do homeschooling, suddenly we were happy and jokey. And there was no tension it was it was brilliant.
And the boys don’t really like doing their work separately. They’re not old enough for me to explain and then they crack on and they need a bit more support.
So we’ve been doing Harrison’s work and then we’ve been doing Callum stuff together as a group of three and it’s worked really well. Then and it was it was a really good morning we got through a lot.
So we did Maths and English, we we had fun with it because we were all in a much better mood, quite frankly, we were light hearted. There was no big, drama or tension we’d experienced the day before where I almost had to beg them and drag them through doing it. It was it was totally different experience.
Then we stopped for a little break and we went outside to play football, which they’re loving and the sun was shining and, and I was like
“oh no, I don’t know how to kick the ball!”
and I basically I put my shoes on the wrong feet. And I was like,
“it really hurts. I can’t do it. The balls not going in the right direction!”
And again, they just kind of came up to me and they saw and they were giggling away, and they they were hugging me and we were joking and then I put my shoes on the right way.
Basically it set the tone for the day and there was loads of other silly things I did. And we just felt all we felt really happy on Wednesday. It was just it was lovely.
And when they came to a mistake, which I think is this was not an intentional mistake, but basically, I wasn’t paying attention. I’ve not actually done this before in the six years that I’ve used this oven to cook. I’ve never burnt myself, but I burnt my arm quite badly. And it really, really hurt and I needed a nice pack for like two three hours before it stopped burning and it blistered a bit.
It was it was pretty horrible. If I hadn’t done that oven burn on the day of mistakes, I would have reacted much grumpier much more sorry for myself. I know we’d have treated it a bit more seriously. But because I was so focused on being fun and playful and light hearted. I was like,
“Oh my goodness. I can’t believe I’ve made this mistake. This one really hurts. This is not a good mistake”
and the kids comforted me they were like “are you OK?”
But it wasn’t a drama and it was just something we got through together. We all kind of felt comforted, comforting each other and we helped each other. It was funny when I was trying to brush my teeth and I couldn’t wrap them in a towel after the shower, but we muddled through and I think that muddling through was not only just a brilliant day and message for the children.
We spoke about it at bedtime about what they liked, and what they thought was the funniest and what mistakes they thought they may end up making this week.
It gave us permission to to make mistakes and be okay and be playful with it and it was brilliant. So I thank Sophia so much.
I can encourage you more so have a day of mistakes it was it was really helpful especially the tension that we’re we’ve all got going on in our households right now. I’d love to hear other people’s days of mistakes.
Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s important that we just acknowledge that if our children are going to copy us and make mistakes that we contain it quite well.
So we don’t allow them to make mistakes when they’re going to hurt themselves, for example, but it’s more an opportunity for them to see you making making some silly mistakes that we all make and just not being hard on ourselves.
Because children will often copy our reaction to ourselves making mistakes and they will internalise those for themselves too.
So if we really hard on ourselves, it’s likely that children will be hard on themselves.
Yeah, it’s so so true. And it was really nice that bed tailing we said,
“Harrison, what are you going to do differently tomorrow? What would be really nice?”
We talked during the day it would be really nice If you could believe that it’s okay to make mistakes. And at bedtime, he remembered that conversation. He had a fun day. And he said,
“tomorrow, I’m going to believe it’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes don’t matter.”
And I thought, Oh, that’s great, if at the end of this really challenging period for us all as a community, if we can come through and children like Harrison come through more resilient then that that would be the biggest lesson. And the only lesson he needs to have really.
Because even if he learns that one thing, and yet he’s behind on maybe some of his curriculum learning, that resilience will see him through to catch back up with it.
He won’t just give up at the first hurdle or the first opportunity when he finds it hard. So resilience is such an important thing. So I think we can all be teaching our children resilience through play at this time learning through play, giving them some control through play times. So there’s lots of things that we’re going to be peppering through this podcast series that you can actually implement and use that will help to develop children’s resilience at this time.
Thank you, Sophia.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast.
You could always post on there your day of mistakes (with your children’s permission) and tag us @treasuretimeuk and you’ll be entered into draw to win the Treasure Time course and a year’s worth of membership to our exclusive Facebook community where you can access lots of advice and weekly live Q&A’s with Sophia.
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