Learn From The Kangaroo - How To Support your Emotional Child
A Kangaroo is a great animal to help you children learn to regulate their emotions and develop a positive mindset. Not only do they remind us to keep moving and burn off lots of excess energy, but they also only ever look forward, which is a great reminder to learn from mistakes and move on from them. They also keep their young close, which helps them to feel safe and secure. These are just three important lessons that a kangaroo can teach to help us raise happy and confident kids.
Move To Improve Mood
Kangaroos have powerful tails, which they use to propel them forward in huge jumps. As their way of moving is based on jumping, this naturally burns off a lot of energy. A great strategy to use with children and one that they will thank you for.
Children naturally have a lot of energy, which if left to build up can result in heightened emotions, such as tears, tantrums, angry outbursts, anxiety, or they may display very demanding or challenging behaviour. When children are in this state, it becomes extremely difficult to reason with them until they have calmed down, so providing safe opportunities to burn off their energy will go a long way towards helping with this.
Movement is highly beneficial on so many levels. Besides releasing physical tension, which calms the mind and in turn helps us to access the rational parts of our brain, it also increases the heart rate and sends oxygen to the brain, which allows us to focus better. Movement breaks can really help to break up longer activities.
Another benefit of exercise is that it releases many feel-good chemicals into your body, including endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which help to regulate mood. Regular exercise can help to bring stress hormones back into balance, including adrenaline, which triggers the fight, flight or freeze response.
A final benefit of exercise is that it can be done as a family, it can be good fun and a great way to bond and release tension for everyone. Whether you join an exercise club, join Joe Wicks on his exercise programmes from the comfort of your living room, or whether you simply bounce around like kangaroos and have fun being crazy, inevitably it will lift the spirits of all of you.
More ideas on how to burn off energy can be found in Finding Your Balance - Helping Your Kids Feel Beary Well.
Moving Forward from Mistakes
Kangaroos only ever move forward. This is a great observation and analogy to make, especially when it comes to how we respond to mistakes.
Like many adults, children often struggle to accept that they have made mistakes. Worrying about the things that they have done wrong, constantly replaying the mistake in their heads, or worrying about the outcomes of their mistakes can lead to many negative results:
Children might learn to deny or lie about their actions; they might become fearful of consequences and develop subsequent anxiety, or they might develop avoidance strategies that prevent them from making mistakes in the first place.
Mindset is a huge area to cover, and one which you will find as a running theme throughout all my blogs. However, in this instance we are going to talk specifically about the importance of mistakes and why you should teach your children to value them, learn from them and move on from them.
Mistakes are the best way to learn. Everybody makes mistakes, from minor spills to huge fall outs with friends, colleagues, or partners. No-one is perfect and how boring would life be if we were?
Children need to know this. They need to know that mistakes are the best way to learn. As a parent, you probably know only too well that you can tell your child not to do something until you are blue in the face, but until they tip over that paint tub or drink that you told them to move several times, they will not necessarily learn. Once they have made the mistake, they are less likely to do it again.
How children learn to respond to mistakes can be heavily influenced by two key factors:
- How you and other people respond to their mistakes; and
- How they see you respond to your mistakes.
Your response to the mistakes that children make is key. If children learn that they will get into trouble every time they make a mistake, they are likely to respond with fear, which will in turn lead to problems such as avoidance, telling lies, anxiety, or associated feelings of shame. However, if you use their mistakes as a teaching opportunity and respond to them as such, children will learn to take the positives from the situation, move forward from it and avoid making the same mistake again.
If children see you responding to your own mistakes negatively, they will also learn that it is bad to make mistakes, which can again lead to a subsequent fear of making mistakes. Children look to their parents as role models and will learn so much more from you than you will ever realise. If they only ever see you respond negatively to mistakes, even as simple as cursing whilst dropping a carton of milk, you are inadvertently teaching them that mistakes are bad? Think about it. If this describes you, where did you learn to respond negatively to your mistakes? It takes time to change behaviour patterns, but if you can learn to be mindful of your responses and provide opportunities to model positive responses to your own mistakes, you will really help to nurture resilience in your kids, that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
(For more about this see A Mouse's Guide To Mighty Kids)
Safety and Nurture
Although there are other lessons that we can learn from the kangaroo, the final lesson to discuss in this article is the importance of children feeling safe. Kangaroos carry their young in their pouches, where they can feed them and keep them safe.
Children need to feel safe and loved to thrive. Children who feel safe and loved will be more willing to try new things, to form positive relationships with others and to value themselves for who they are. That is not to say that other external influences will not challenge these mindsets, but with encouragement from someone they love and trust, who keeps them safe and who loves them unconditionally, they are more likely to overcome these challenges (see Nurturing Needs with The Orangutan).
A strong bond between a parent and child is so important to the child’s emotional development. Besides attending to a child’s basic needs, bonds can be strengthened by spending quality time with them, actively listening to them, being there to empathise, comfort and calm them when they are ill or upset and sharing fun and laughter together.
At the height of their emotions, children are not able to rationalise their thoughts and behaviour. They first need to be able to calm down but will often need help with this. Empathy, exercise, and cuddles can often help with this, so that you can then discuss the problem and work together to find a solution and/or learn from the situation and move on from it.
For more detailed advice on how to support and develop your child's emotional wellbeing, download my free guide 'How To Give Your Kids A Happy Head Start.'