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  • Jen Walsh

Being with children (and anyone) and their emotions

How many times have you been with a child who is on the verge of expressing their emotions in a big way? What do you tell yourself about what's about to happen? What happens in your body? It's interesting to notice which emotions are most challenging for us to witness, and it's not always the ones that are generally considered negative. For some, a child's expression of curiosity or even joy can bring up just as many difficult feelings as anger or sadness, often due to their early experiences of expressing similar emotions. They may have had a caregiver or other adult respond by ignoring, dismissing, becoming angry and they may have internalised a message that their emotion was wrong or bad. Yet we can't escape emotions.

In 2012 I trained as a Circle of Security Parenting Facilitator in Portland, Oregon, USA. What an eye-opening experience! This model is different from many parenting programmes in that it seeks to build understanding about strengthening relationships between parents and their children. It helps parents separate out their own stuff that might be getting in the way of the relationship, and it explains a simple yet phenomenally powerful concept of the circle of security - the cycle a child goes around (thousands of times in their childhood) that includes healthy exploration and connection-seeking.

The model helps parents understand where they may struggle to support their children on this cycle. Sometimes it's easy to send a child off to explore but not as comfortable when they come back for connection, and other times it's the other way around. Interestingly, my experience, and that of participants in groups I have run using this model, is that the information is applicable to all kinds of relationships. It's a reminder that we are all moving around the adult world with some very old patterns coming into play!

Please explore the Circle of Security website and contact me if you'd like to learn more about this relationship-changing information. Below is a fantastic video describing the Circle of Security concept of "being with" emotions, and the 'shark music" that sometimes starts to happen for adults, getting in the way of positive caregiving.