The management of emotions is the key to Family happiness
This has been one of the conclusions most mentioned during the Wellbeing Week organised by the British Council School. The initiative has, over the last few days, brought together expert child psychologists in Madrid under the strapline “A good education is an education in values.” Being able to manage feelings of frustration and the development of values such as independence and confidence are key.
For Joanna Tucker, Director at Oxpip (The Oxford Parent- Infant Project) and one of the participants during this second edition, “the role of parents is very important when it comes to learning how to control emotions.” She explains “We are not born knowing how to be parents, we tend to copy the role of our parents, but nobody teaches us how to do this. Before having children, it is easy to think about ideas such as patience, love and understanding... but the birth of a child means there is then a difference, between what we want and what we are able to do. As time goes on, there are other feelings such as lack of privacy, jealousies and tantrums... and these feelings aren't managed well, aren't talked about. In order to be able to teach our children how to mange their emotions, we have to first learn to manage these ourselves.
Amongst those pieces of advice for parents who are helping children to manage their emotions are:
HELP THEM TO DEVELOP THEIR INDEPENDENCE
“During their earliest years (especially from 0 to 3 years old) children need their parents to react quickly, if only for safety reasons. But, bit by bit, they will need to develop their own independence, they will want to prove that they are independent. They need to have an impact on the world, they need to know that they can do things, that they can solve problems and we must give them the opportunity to do so”.
“This sometimes brings them into coflict with their parents, because, on the one hand, being independent mans that children sometimes want to negotiate everything. And, on the other hand, because sometimes what is best for the children is not best for the parents”, she maintains. “Quite often, we forget what children need, like for example the right to be able to play”.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAYING
“The first years of our lives are critical in order to learn about how to resolve certain situations and play is a very important factor, when it comes to building relationships. We should spend more time playing with our children and playing is sometimes just watching to see what they need and how they can resolve problems which games suggest. If a child hands you a lego brick, it doesn't necessarily mean he wants to build a tower, she explains. It may be that they are simply showing it to you, that they want you to take it. And yet, the adults response is often to take the lego brick and make a tower, to show the child a pre-conceived shape. We anticipate their reactions without letting them try out the things, that they really want to do”.
“Playing helps families to be both physically and emotionally together. Spending 20 minutes with the children can really help them, because it reinforces their feelings of confidence and self-esteem. But playing also helps them to interact with others in a variety of situations. It teaches them that they aren't always going to win, that they are not always going to be good or that they don't always have to be the best”, she explains.
LEARNING TO GET FRUSTRATED
“Children have to learn to get frustrated and they have to learn to get over things, when these don't work out, or when they don't turn out how they wanted them to. Sometimes, this means being able to handle situations, which they can find as infuriating as their parents do. They should know that we are on their side, but they have to learn how to solve difficult situations, if they are then going to go on, and do this in real life.
On her part, Eva Millet, the author of the book, Hyperparenting, also pointed out the importance of children's independence, explaining the current consequences of over-protective parenting.
“We have moved from a “furniture” model (pay no attention to the child, as grandmothers used to say) to an “altar” model, where children are the Louis XIV's in their homes, where everyone is at their beck and call, and where they are consulted on everything and everything is allowed. Children have become untouchable beings, who are continually justified, shown-off and who have pre-programmed schedules with hardly anytime to play”.
“There is a tendency to want to be perfect parents of perfect children and this means that children have a lot more fears and aprehensions. It's what I call “L'Oreal Children”, because I'm worth it. That is why they have little independence and a low resistance to frustration, because since the moment they are born, they have been told they are the best, they have been consulted on everything, and nobody has ever asked them for anything in return. They feel important, but they do not know how to resolve issues, because this has always been done for them, and this lack of independence is very dangerous”.
Over-protection is the equivalent of fear and fears can paralise you. They paralise you however small they are. We cannot just continually solve all their problems, for them”.
For Millet, one of the keys is that we don't let children be children. “In today's world, they don't have time for anything, they don't even have time to be bored or to be astonished. They have seen and done everything and we should allow them the time to get bored, because that is when they can have their most creative ideas.
For Claudia Jaime-Xibixell, psychologist, adviser to the British Council School and author of the Guide to Emotional Intelligence “The best way to help our children is to communicate with them, to show them how to manage their emotions, to listen to them and also to know how to set limits. We have to send them a clear message that we care about what happens to them. If we are able to show them that we have confidence in them and that they can feel secure with us, it will be easier to prevent certain situations, such as school bullying”.Wellbeing Week is a British Council School initiative in response to the Every Child Matters programme which safeguards the emotional and physical wellbeing of children in the UK. For Gillian Flaxman, Headmistress at the British Council School, “an education in values is fundamental, as is the ability to overcome with self confidence. These are key elements so that in the future, these children have the necessary skills to prove their potential in the world and be able to achieve their goals”.