Understanding meltdowns and how we can calm ourselves & our kids down…


For me understanding how our brain processes emotions, the triggers for the fight, flight or freeze responses in myself and in my kids has transformed my life!  I have also seen it transform many parents lives in coaching or in workshops as they understand that their child’s emotional brain is still developing and the ability to put the ‘brakes’ on is not yet mature.

Once we understand how the brain works – (in video above with this model of the Brain In the Hand by Dan Siegel) then we can begin to understand our own emotions and understand our child’s emotions.  What is the first sign for you that you are getting annoyed / irritated?  What is the first sign in your child?  What about for nervousness and excitement?  The Emotional Thermometer (in video below) is one of the best tools for developing awareness and understanding of emotions – a very important part of emotional intelligence.

Once we have this understanding and our kids have this understanding then we can begin to learn some mindful calming strategies – from simple 10 second activities to longer 5-10 minute activities suitable for young and old!

If you would like to learn more on the emotions and on calming strategies check out the NEW Understanding Emotions Online Course with short videos that you can access in your own time at your own pace and begin learning the skills needed to teach yourself and your children how to regulate emotions.

Which tool would be helpful in your house – the Flipping The Lid Brain in the hand model or the Emotional Thermometer?

How to find your inner calm & calm down your kids?

Being With Strong Emotion Pema Chodron's strategies

What do you do to stay calm or calm down?   I’d love to know what works for you…..

I had to use all the mindfulness skills available to me earlier this week to keep calm….and then when I erupted (oops!) – to recover quickly!  No-one can push our buttons like our kids can – and it is often when we are tired, stressed – or need to get to work on time….that we are pushed to our limits!   As Jane Nelson says in Positive Discipline we are aiming for a general direction NOT perfection…so no point beating ourselves up when we revert to old ways….and instead we need to keep practicing and keep noticing the times when we remember our new strategies…when we find a way to stay calm or calm down!

For me what worked this week was:

  • breathing,
  • focusing on my feet,
  • saying to myself this too will pass,
  • looking outside to the view…
  • then doing some LOUD breathing out…
  • then when I did erupt (unfortunately!) keeping it to ‘I’ statements –  limiting the  blame and shame….
  • and afterwards giving both kids huge hugs,
  • apologising for my reaction,
  • talking about what we can do the next morning to prevent the same scenario from happening again….
  • and for me to identify that I need more self-care / me-time so that I have more reserves for handling BIG issues as they come up!

I am passionate about the need for all parents to understand emotions – how they work? how our brains process them? how kids develop emotional intelligence? How we can use mindfulness to find our inner calm and to help our kids to calm down too?

Here is a video I made for our recent How To Talk So Kids Will Listen group on how to deal with Big Feelings.

I’m so excited to have a *NEW* short online course ‘Understanding Emotions’ – you can work through it at your own pace, when it is convenient for you – there are slides , videos & reflective questions to encourage deep learning!  I highly recommend it,  you can free trial some of the videos here  http://mindfulparentingmindfulcoachingonline.thinkific.com/courses/understandingemotions

I’d love your feedback!

Understanding emotions


Free Resource: If you would like FREE mindfulness prompts like the one above with strategies on how to deal with a STRONG feeling (yours or your kids) – please sign up at www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com or for recommended mindful parenting resources go to www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com/resources


#mindfulparenting #parenting #parentingtips #parents #parenthood #kids #mindfulness

#mumlife #mom #dad #mother #fatherhood #children #baby #coaching #coachinglife

Big Feelings – and how to deal with them?

How To Talk book cover 2012

I recently received this post in my How To Talk So Kids Will Listen 2016 group (currently closed to new members – new coaching programmes coming out soon on www.mindfulnessandlifecoaching.com – stay tuned)

‘I feel a bit at my wits end with H (3.5) at the moment. Very defiant and rude and yelling at me etc.? I just get down on his level and try to empathise and wait it out. However this is so hard with a 6 month old too.
He’s great with words and after will tell me “I had big feelings or I was So frustrated I just yelled” But after an hour it’s hard to remain chipper. I’m just so tired by this time of night from keeping my composure etc’ M.

Below is my  reply – but so many parents myself included struggle with this – showing empathy and validating emotion but not knowing how to move on!  I thought there might be some strategies there for you to try too?

‘Hi M. – I know what you mean – especially if the big feeling is directed angrily at you, it is exhausting to be patient and show empathy 🙂 For me, each kid and age and stage have been different with how it works best to respond to their big feelings. I like the approach by Dan Siegel (The Whole Brain Child) http://www.drdansiegel.com/books_and_more/– he says to empathise and allow feelings – and to help kids know how to process and move through them and his great advice is to get kids moving… This works for all my kids, but especially my boys – and for me too really!

So when overcome with a big feeling, 9/10, flipping the lid, reaction – it can feel really scary and overwhelming. By going for a walk, running, jumping 20x, racing out to the back fence and back – this can help to engage the ‘brake’ (mindfulness) part of the brain to help to dissipate the emotion enough to be able to make some good choices about what is needed… (for you and for them).   This isn’t distraction – as you still validate the emotion – instead it is teaching them a life skill;  when overwhlemed – move & make choices and decisions later.

I would usually discuss with kids when they are calm, ‘what will we do when there’s a big feeling?’ They may have one thing they do – or they may have several (you can put pictures up on the fridge). Then in the heat of the moment – if they choose not to do any of those agreed things – you role model it – by saying:  ‘ no worries, I can see you are sooo mad, I’m feeling (X) too – so I think I’ll run out to the clothesline and back (or whatever you have agreed on!) – come and join me when you are ready.’

This way too you are validating feelings, role modeling how to deal with them but also showing that your feelings are important too. That is the firm bit of kind & firm (Kind & Firm video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88Hux_EYyyc  )– respect for yourself, for others & for situation.

So it is great to teach kids I’ll validate your emotions, but if the anger is directed at me I can only listen for a short time – and then I need to do something to calm me down. It’s been great for me to build that understanding (slowly) in our house – that we all need to go and do what works for us to calm down – before we can then talk about it… (Video on Big Feelings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqmRtCviRDU )

I know for me personally – I have sometimes sat and stewed on an emotion and felt worse…but if I go for a drive or go for a walk or go outside I begin to feel better – and then solutions come. My friend once had her daughter at age 6 do the worst hysterical tantrum she had ever seen – at a beautiful serene hotel pool adn she was dumbstruck – couldn’t think of anything to say or do and then remembered Dan Siegel’s ‘MOVE” – so grabbed her hand and said ‘Mia lets run!!!’ It took two whole blocks before she felt the softening and the ending of the tears and then she could give her a hug and have a chat about the scenario. I love that story!

When we go camping, or to stay with others, – I still say to my kids – ‘what are you going to do if you feel overwhelmed and get really angry with someone – what is our agreed plan?’ In the past we have picked the ‘fighting’ tree – ‘if you want to fight with eachother you need to take it to the tree’ – 9/10 times – just the mere act of walking to the tree helps to calm the situation and for them to decide to come back! Harder with younger kids – but generally if you walk to the tree – you feel better and they follow?

Sorry to write so much but to me it has been the biggest issue to get my head around! What do you think, will any of this work? 🙂 Sara

It was great to receive M’s reply:

‘Thank you so much!! I will definitely get into this. I love the Move idea! I always have tried to yell into a pillow to show him that’s how I get frustrated.
I will love to try this with him to see if I can get in there in the moment he is so enraged.. If not right then I can talk to him afterward about doing it next time to see if it makes up feel better.
Thank you so so much for your guidance and words ❤️❤️❤️’

What do you think?  Anything helpful there to help you or your child when experiencing a big feeling?

Cheers, Sara 🙂

Feeling fear….mindfully!!

At first I HATED my 50 minute drive to work….still do on occasion, but I appreciate the drive better if I have downloaded some podcasts at Zencast for free http://www.zencast.org/ and I feel that I am learning…

Appropriately the other week as I was driving along, worried and scared about work, I found two podcasts, Fear by Gil Fronsdal and Redemption by Jack Kornfield – 2 of my favourite mindfulness teachers.

I wrote down some of their key points as it helped me so much that week!

When we feel fear – it is a good idea to first examine the beliefs & ideas (thoughts) behind it- where do they come from?  Often our fears are so much worse in our imagination…(too true for me, all that lost sleep and what I feared most, conflict, didn’t eventuate!)

Next be a body witness: where do you feel the fear in your body, what shape / colour does it take, sit with the fear & observe it if you can….or do something that helps you to feel peaceful and then sit with the fear…. Observe too whether you feel scared of the fear….and sit with that if you can…  I found observing the fear in my body actually helped me to be less scared…less overwhelmed.

And Gil also talked about the need for Generosity & Integrity….and somehow this helped me to remember that other’s feel fear too, that I need to have compassion for how others are feeling and to find a way to maintain my integrity as well as those around me in conflict…   Pema Chedron says that it is important find the middle road between silence and listening and action….don’t be a doormat, but don’t dominate either….

These strategies helped as I drove to work, to observe my fear and to see what was behind it and amazingly the situation when I got there couldn’t have been more different to how I imagined it was going to be!  Hopefully it will work next time too!!

I had a chuckle at this quote in Jack Kornfield’s podcast:

 ‘Fear is the cheapest room in the house, I hope you can improve your accommodation!’ (I’m sorry I can’t remember who said this, you will need to listen to the podcast!)   It’s so true, we can so easily REACT out of fear rather than finding a different place to interact from….I’m upgrading to a room with a view!!

Mindful Parenting

Positive Disscipline Connection_blog

Really this whole blog is about how I’m trying to be more mindful in my life and particularly as a parent…..it’s an incredibly challenging thing to do….especially as the chaos of family life escalates in that pre-dinner craziness!   Still I like with mindfulness that there is no right or wrong, you just keep coming back to it, pulling your attention back to the present moment. 
I’ve been practising mindfulness daily now since 2011 and slowly I can see that I am more able to think before I speak, more able to make good choices when really angry, more able to laugh and see the funny side….yet at times, almost every day it seems that I am yet again mindless and unaware and caught up in my thoughts and feelings, what a life long challenge!

What I am really excited about is that since 2012 I have been facilitating parenting programs (In Alice Springs and now on the Mid North Coast of NSW).    These programs teach parents how to be mindful, particularly in stressful situations and explain the importance of being able to stop, pause, reflect on what the present moment needs and regulate our own emotions before we launch into responding to our children or to the stressful situation

I have found that all parents from all backgrounds like learning about this and come back the next week with stories about how they put it into place! Wouldn’t it be great if we could all access these skills and prevent harm from happening to children the world over!
One of those programs is Positive Discipline http://www.positivedsicipline.com and another is Bringing Up Great Kids (Check out their great FREE Mindful Parenting booklet on http://www.childhood.org.au/training/bringing-up-great-kids-resources-parenting-program )

I love that saying that we teach what we most need to learn and that certainly is the case for me! Each time I teach a workshop or write this blog it helps me to stay more mindful with my children! I am facilitating some Introduction to Positive Discipline Workshops in August, with the emphasis being on mindfulness. More information is at http://www.saraphillipsnsw.com. Hope to see some of you there!