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  • Writer's pictureTamsin Hartley

Helping children manage their emotions: part 2

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

I’d like to introduce you to Sophie – a mother of two young children; Ella, who is eight years old, and Sam, who is five.

Having found herself getting run down by all the demands of raising a young family, Sophie decided to look for more constructive ways of managing her children’s more challenging behaviour. She came across Clean questions at a parent workshop and found that they had an almost immediate impact for her:

Clean questions help me to know how to help my children.

For example, Ella has always found it really hard walking into a busy playground and getting to school two minutes before the doors open. There are lots things that could have been making her distressed — noise, space, anticipation, saying goodbye to me — and I’d never really got to the bottom of it. If you don’t know what’s hard about a situation then it’s difficult to know how to fix it.

So I sat down on my bed with her and asked her if it was OK to try and find out what was going on. I asked a few Clean questions about going into the playground and she came up with this brilliant metaphor:

‘It’s like walking into a room where a bomb of children has just gone off.’

I suddenly understood that there was a really big impact and disorder for her that was to do with the noisiness and the movement. She kept doing this gesture exploding up and out with her hands, which seemed really significant for her. I discovered that her distress wasn’t so much about saying goodbye to me or about being nervous at school, it was about dealing with the sensory overload — that bomb of children. So now we make sure we get to school when it’s quieter. She’s fine if she’s already there and things build up as people come in — she can absorb that. But walking into a space that’s already full is hard for her.

Everyone had always said, ‘She’s just clingy, she just needs to get used to it.’ But you can’t get used to bombs going off. If that’s how it feels then it’s not something that you should have to get used to. Clean questions gave meaningful depth to her experience — it let me separate the issues out rather than just assuming that it was because she was clingy.

Clean has helped me realise how much the way my thinking colours the way I see things. I’m much more aware now that I am not other people and they are not me — which sounds very obvious, but it’s easy to forget that not everybody is thinking or feeling what I’m thinking or feeling. You only have to realise that once and then it has a profound effect forever.

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