In this episode we look at the next principle of Treasure Time, which is reflecting the child’s feelings back to them, but how do we do that if we are not very in tune with our own feelings? We take a look at what it means to develop emotional literacy in children, but also in us as parents!
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.
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Value bombs and tweetables:
1. “If our feelings were dismissed when we were children, we might not be in touch with how we really feel. We might get triggered and shout and that doesn’t make anyone feel good, sometimes we don’t know why we are shouting and makes us feel out of control.” Sophia Giblin
2. “When I reflect my children’s feelings back to them it helps them to move through the tricky feelings quicker.” Nicole McDonnell
3. “Reflecting feelings back to your child can be hard to get it right first time but the act of trying is just as important!” Sophia Giblin
4. “Seeing my boys recognising their feelings and my feelings too is pretty amazing.” Nicole McDonnell
Welcome to the Treasure Time podcast, which is all about growing up happy. You’re here with podcast hosts Sophia Giblin and Nicole McDonnell, the Founders of Treasure Time, and they’re here to offer advice on building your children’s resilience during difficult times. Make sure to tune in every Tuesday and Thursday, but bite size playful tips and activities that can easily be implemented straightaway to help support your family’s mental and emotional health and well being.
Hey, it’s Sophia. And hey, it’s Nicole. Welcome to the Treasure Time podcast, growing up happy.
Today’s episode is all about the third principle of Treasure Time which is reflecting back the child’s feelings and that’s all feelings good and bad.
This episode comes in two parts is about recognising our own feelings in order to be able to recognise our children’s. So before we are able to reflect their feelings back to them, we have to be quite good at recognising how it is that we’re feeling we need to be in touch with feelings and emotions basically.
So when we listen to this episode, it might make you reflect on how it is that you relate to emotions and feelings for yourself. Nicole, how did you find it when you first learned this principle in Treasure Time?
Well, before getting into the nitty gritty of that, I’d love if I could share something a bit of scene setting if you like, bit of backstory.
So those of you who listen to our podcast on accepting the child’s feelings will have heard that I find it really hard not to paper over with this massive sticky plaster covered in “you’re okay” messages when things went a bit wonky in our family.
And in my journey with Sophia over the past four years, I discovered pretty early on in the game, that I didn’t really have good emotional literacy at all.
I wasn’t really able to distinguish between feelings and emotions that well or at all to be honest. I’m gonna totally fess up that I actually had to Google, what is a feeling? Or an emotion? Seriously had to! And then it made me think, gosh, if I didn’t even have the vocabulary to describe those things, it made me just glance back at life and think, gosh, I haven’t paused long enough in life to reflect and give myself a chance to realise what I was feeling in any given moment. Except fleetingly. Especially to push down anything uncomfortable really, really quick, like that game at the funfair where you’ve got this massive hammer and the little things pop up and you have to squash them really fast. You can imagine I am absolutely winning that game!
So when the challenge of reflecting back the child’s feelings cropped up in my Treasure Time journey, I realised pretty fast that I was going to have to start with accepting my own feelings, and then the boys feelings. So I gave it a go. And with kind of this degree of neutrality or acceptance, I pretended it was just something that I was observing. And I made it a bit of a game because I was a bit afraid of what was going to crop up to be honest, because I’d never stayed still long enough.
Yeah, it’s really common thing that we can do when we don’t want to, or when it feels uncomfortable to acknowledge our feelings is that we just busy and distract ourselves. And it sounds like maybe that’s what you were doing. We all do it. I do it as well all the time!
Yeah, I’m really good at that!
If you find it really difficult to identify your own feelings and emotions, therapy can be incredibly helpful, because sometimes we’re just operating on this automatic level all the time of parenting the way that we were parented. So just copying patterns from our past, and then parenting in exactly the same way.
So that might look like just copying how your parents dealt with your feelings when you were a child. And also, therapy is for anyone and everyone.
I have therapy all the time, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I love going in and out of therapy, especially when there’s something difficult going on in my life, it just helps me understand myself better. So that’s just something to think about as well. If this is a real struggle for any of our listeners, maybe thinking about how you can access support is actually very beneficial, not just for you, but for your whole family and for your children as well.
Yeah, I completely agree.
I think the best place to start for me was just start acknowledging, getting curious, what’s my feelings, and in talking to a few close friends about it. That was definitely the start of my journey and in those early days.
A friend of mine, Monique, who I love dearly we’ve been friends since we’ve been about 11, she recommended this great little technique to me and she said it’s just three simple things to do. And there is me with my pen and paper and I’m going to write these down. Number one, smile. Number two, smile. Number three, smile again.
I know it’s like okay, as a smiler I thought I got that nailed already.
But I had to think a little bit about the first smile, what’s going on outside so what is the situation happen and are my hands clammy? What’s going on in the external environment?
And the second smile, what’s going on in your heart? How do you feel? Are you thinking a lot?
Again, what’s going on in front of me and laugh. So she was like, just laugh at the hilarity of this situation.
It seems really simple but smile, smile, smile, it really helps me because it gave me the chance to pause and react to whatever chaos children were up to. And it was really valuable. And it also changed my mindset, because smiling actually will give me those feel good chemicals. And I realised oh, right. This isn’t actually the crisis I thought it was.
Yeah. And I think sometimes, like we discussed in our last episode, if our feelings were dismissed when we were children, we might not really be in touch with how we feel. And so what we might do is just get triggered all the time. And when you get triggered, you might there’s not enough space to really think about what’s going on. And then typically what happens is that you might start shouting, and that doesn’t make anyone feel good, but sometimes we don’t know why we’re shouting. It just happens.
And what happens, it comes from this place of fear. And generally an attempt to get some control back. But actually, I think sometimes it just makes us feel a bit more out of control. And so what we need is that little pause, a bit of space, before we start reacting to respond, and that’s what exactly what that strategy is that you’ve just explained. It’s like a little bit of space before before you make your next move, really.
I think when we are in the space where we feel a bit triggered, maybe like fear is rising, and we want to start shouting, there’s no chance that we’re going to be able to reflect back our child’s feelings because the reality is that we’re probably not even in touch with our own feelings at that moment. We need to have the headspace to be able to do that properly.
Yeah, completely. And that headspace is it can be really hard to find as a parent. And actually, funnily enough, I started to really enjoy reflecting back the boy’s feelings. Because the actual act of doing this would often stop a situation escalating.
So, basically, when I reflect back my children’s feelings, it helps them move through the tricky feelings quicker. And also, I really love reflecting those happy feelings, because then, Callum or Harrison will just come back and get this real sparkly smile that says to me, “yeah, Mum, you get me.” And that just makes me feel much closer to them. And I still don’t feel like I’ve definitely got it. So I still feel like I’ve got this really narrow range of emotional literacy to draw on. Something that I need to keep working on because I find in that moment I’m saying very basic emotions like sad, angry, frustrated, happy, enjoying, I feel like I’ve run out very quickly.
Yeah, it’s not easy to keep coming up with new words. But in reality children don’t need us to go in there with lots of big long complicated feeling words, either sometimes the basics are, are good enough. Good enough.
So how on that point, how important is it to get the feelings bang on and describe it right when I reflect back to them?
It’s not really about getting it right all the time. So that’s the good news. You, you don’t have to always get it right. And the research shows us that we just need to be good enough as parents, which is actually less than 50% of the time. So that is good news. Something that we can all take on board.
If you get the feelings right, less than 50% of the time you’re you’re doing really really well. We don’t have to be perfect. It’s not about being perfect. It’s just about trying. And it can be really hard to get those feelings right when you’re reflecting back. So you might say something to your child, like, “you’re really upset that that happened” and your child will turn around to you and go, “I’m not upset. I’m angry.” And I’m sure you’ve probably had that happen.
Yes, I definitely have had that.
So what’s happened is that you’ve just kind of missed the emotional cue, or you’ve said the wrong word. But the action of trying is just as important as getting it right. So even through showing your child that you care enough to tune into what is they are feeling is enough in that moment, and what children will do is they’ll naturally correct you if you get it wrong. So that also helps you to learn so that you’re teaching them emotional literacy. They’re teaching you emotional literacy, too.
And it is great just even having these conversations is amazing.
Yeah, totally. It’s it’s brilliant to develop everybody sense of how to talk about feelings. It’s an important skill for life. So if we can do it early on, it will just be part of your children’s natural mode of operation when they’re a bit older.
Yeah, that is so funny actually, because that’s something that’s happened. I think as a direct result of Treasure Time with my boys, probably only in the past few months, actually. But they now reflect back my feelings to me all the time. And I was pretty shocked the first time they did it. But you know, on reflection, I think it is pretty cool to see how astute they’re becoming with what’s going on for them and for me, and when they reflect back my feelings to me, it does make me stop in my tracks and think, “Oh yeah, I am angry with you. I’m angry that you weren’t listening to me” and then we can have this quite open, honest conversation and move on. It’s really great because it’s way calmer than how I would have managed these situations before they had the Treasure Time tools to draw on.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s important just to say, we haven’t really talked about what Treasure Time actually is if you’re doing it actively with your children. So what Treasure Time actually looks like is doing 30 minutes of play with your child every week. And it’s a particular type of play using a box of toys, and the approach that we teach in the Treasure Time course. And obviously, these are things that we’re teaching in our podcast as well. But Nicole has been doing this for quite a long time with her boys now.
Yeah, I can’t recommend it enough. I learned so much from being with Sophia and being on this journey, but see my boys recognising their feelings. And my feelings too. It’s just pretty amazing. And it does make me think that they’ll be a better set up for relationships in the future. It’s like this really healthy blueprint we can be passing on to our children.
Yeah, I was just saying to Nicole, what lucky future partners they will have! Because communication is such an important part of all relationships, not just romantic. But it can certainly be helpful for when they’re grown up and they’re adults, and they have relationships, and then they have their own children as well. This will be something that they just do naturally with their own children, which is amazing.
So what we’re doing today is we’re sharing a post on Instagram, with some of the words that you can use to develop your own emotional literacy which will in turn develop your children’s when you start to get in touch with your feelings, and be able to name and label your own feelings. You’ll have more words to use when you are reflecting back your children’s feelings to
Oh, that would be great for me. I’ll check that out!
So next episode, we’re going to look at the fourth principle of Treasure Time, which is respecting your child’s ability to solve problems.
Fantastic. We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast and that you can post a picture of your play time this week and tag us @TreasureTimeUK – don’t forget to add #treasuretime for the chance to win the Treasure Time course and a year’s worth of membership to our exclusive Facebook community where you can access loads of advice and a weekly live Q&A with Sophia.
We’d love it if you’d be able to head over to iTunes to give us a review, and share with as many parents, as you know, because we want to reach as many people as possible with these skills. We believe that all parents should understand and know how they can apply these principles in everyday life. So please do share and give us a rating as well. We’d love a five star review and some words. And thank you so much for listening. We hope you tune in for our next episode where we’ll be looking at the next principle of leisure time.
So we’ll see you there. Thank you, bye.
Feelings children parenting emotional literacy reflection emotions