We all want our children to be at ease in themselves – the adult that is capable, responsible, warm-hearted and, most importantly, genuinely enjoys being themselves. The question is, how do we support our child to have this foundation within themselves, particularly if they find learning difficult?

This week we interviewed integrative child psychotherapist Vanessa McHardy on this very question – how do we unlock the learning potential of our children? We know this is a pressing issue for parents as this event booked out within 48 hours of promoting it.

Vanessa gave us some wonderful examples of the work she has done with children– including her own – and what’s behind some of the challenging behaviours and insecurities that play out.

Some of the topics Vanessa covered were:

  • How do children learn and why is this important for us to know as parents?
  • What biological aspects should we be aware of in our child’s learning development?
  • What’s going on for our children when they get frustrated with making mistakes or are find something challenging?
  • What part does role-modeling play in our children’s learning development?
  • How do we help children foster a connection with themselves and feel secure?

Below are a few snippets of wisdom that were delivered by Vanessa. If you would like the full recording with slides please email bookings@parentsatwork.com.au or access the audio on our podcast here.

“We put a lot of pressure on kids to be better rather than valuing them for who they really are.”

“Children learn through experience – the key thing we’ve found through neuroscience is that the brain grows through relationship.”

“The optimum environment for learning is where the child feels safe and secure.”

“There is a lot of stress in the structural learning environment.”

Helping kids understand the process of learning

“Support them to re-regulate their bodies…The way to turn the brain back on is to connect back to your breath – support the body back to a place of homeostasis so that we create a body that’s good for learning.”

“With toddler age kids – one of the techniques is to ask them to close their eyelids slowly so they can feel what that’s like. This helps them come back to themselves.”

“Often if the parent is taking care of their connection to themselves it is often enough. Your quality of your being will help regulate them down. Babies are constantly regulating off you.”

“Just because they are struggling now it doesn’t mean they will be struggling at 15.”

“You can’t get a kid to constantly do something they find tricky… you have to build their confidence with things they can do well. It’s about supporting them to value whatever it is they choose to do.”

“Support them to feel “I’m enough just for being me”.”

“Self worth is a problem for everyone… If they feel they are enough – the learning will take care of it self.”

“All the kids know exactly what they are doing… when they are getting angry or getting distracted or doing some daydreaming or ‘it’s boring’ defenses to not understanding are reactions. All these behaviours come from shame – shame is one of the worse things we can feel. To avoid that feeling we go into behaviours.”

“It’s very important to recognise your behaviours – make the unconscious conscious – make things explicit otherwise they make things up… the thing is the kids know exactly what they are doing. Make it ok. Once it is explicit you can do something about it.” 

“There’s so much potential in us but we have no idea about this when we are 10 years old.”

“The shame for some kids of not being able to understand is crippling… a tornado of confusion. We really play down that feeling for our kids.”

The magic of learning

“Foster the love of learning – it will stay with you your whole life.”

“Our kids are all-knowing anyway. We get caught up with trying to put it all in. There’s an intelligence in us that we just need to bring out. Kids absolutely understand.”

“Our body is made of 100,000 million neurons… just knowing that ignites us.”

“We just need to give them the environment that support them… give them a safe space to explore what’s already there. That’s the magic.”

“Your child will naturally be curious to learn. If that’s not happening that’s invariably because of the system they are in. We have to give them the tools to be in that system.”

Role modelling 

“If I step up the love and care for myself my daughter will step it up without a word spoken…. How we are with ourselves impacts everything. You being curious in learning… being open… staying engaged with things… how you care for yourself – everything.”

“When we don’t care for ourselves it subconsciously sends a message to our children that we don’t matter. We are teaching them that how we are with ourselves is not important. The most precious thing we can give our children is that we love ourselves.”

Forever student – building a positive relationship with learning

“Making mistakes is the fabric of learning, the fabric of life.”

“When we go into the role of being mum or role of being dad we are connecting to the empty ideal, which is quite confusing. By just being ourselves children can connect to you… not an ideal they are connecting to… you feel really safe and secure when the person you are regulating from feels comfortable in their own skin.”

“The children that do very well in the system have just as unhealthy relationships of not understanding… they have adapted ways so they don’t have to say they are not understanding.”

“Talk about the fact we do learn… you’re in a process… it’s just a process… relax… be ok with that.”

If you would like the full recording with slides please email bookings@parentsatwork.com.au or access the audio on our podcast here.

More about Vanessa

Vanessa is a qualified Integrative Child Psychotherapist (MA). Involved in psychotherapy and education, Vanessa loves to help young people and adults to have an understanding of how they learn and how they can express all of themselves in all areas of their lives. Vanessa is the creator of the WHATPONU (What Happens at The Point of Not Understanding?). This program is a practical and fun programme created to support children and young adults re-engage with life and understand their unhealthy reactions to not understanding. True learning is at the heart of all areas of Vanessa’s life, including her business Light Education Training.

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