Families Under Pressure

‘Families Under Pressure’ is a series of 12 videos featuring parenting tips and guidance on how to respond when children are misbehaving, and how to build a better rapport with your child. The series was created by King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and Maudsley Charity.

Watch the animations below and make sure to visit www.familiesunderpressure.org for more tips and resources.

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Tip 11: Helping your child manage negative feelings

Normalising: It is helpful to explain to your children that it is normal to be irritable and feel upset when things are tough, but the bad feelings will pass with time, and there are things they can do to manage big emotions next time they arise.

Calming Tool Kit: You can encourage your children to practise techniques to manage their big emotions. For example, they can find a quiet space to calm down, take deep breaths, distract themselves with exercise/music/reading, or talk to a trusted person. They can use grounding techniques, which involve paying close attention to their senses – the details of what they can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel around them. For example, listening out for lyrics and different instruments in a piece of preferred music, focusing on brush/pencil strokes when painting/colouring, or eating mindfully noticing textures and tastes as they come. They can also create a box of calming activities (e.g., touch: playdough, fidget cubes or spinners, and stress balls; smell: essential oils, candles; hear: favourite music; good memories: photos). Finally, they can imagine being in a safe or fun place.

Reflecting and acting: Because it is hard to think rationally when experiencing big emotions, it is important to encourage children to reflect on their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours once they are calmer. In this way, you can help them think how to be kind and to avoid blaming themselves or others. Over time, they can learn to notice early signs of feelings erupting and to use the above strategies in a timely fashion. Early on it is helpful to offer praise and little rewards when children are able to use those strategies.

Read and download our fact sheets, watch more videos or sign up for our mailing list and free interactive guide.

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Tip 12: How to boost positive emotions

Acceptance: Parents must recognise that they are not superheroes: it will be impossible to entertain children 24 hours a day and all children will get bored at some point; parents are not expected to suddenly know and teach them the whole curriculum. It is important that parents are kind to themselves.

Scheduling activities: When old routines are lost, it is helpful to build new routines by writing down a plan together with your children.

Remember essential activities: It is important to ensure that your children keep eating and sleeping at regular times and to ensure that your children maintain a good social connection with friends and family – in person or even through video calls and social media.

Identify positive activities: You can write down together with your children a list of what is important to them (e.g., being creative, being a good friend), and what they can do to get what they want (e.g., drawing, texting their friends). It is important to ensure variety in activities (education, exercise, creative activities, socialising), and encourage your child to try something new.

Read and download our fact sheets, watch more videos or sign up for our mailing list and free interactive guide.

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Further information:

This series was created as a response to the Coronavirus pandemic, as a way to help parents struggling to maintain a positive family dynamic. Keeping a positive routine and communicating was especially difficult during the lockdown due to the uncertainty of the circumstances. These videos provide families with practical tips to help build a healthy and open atmosphere in the home.

The tips are based on decades of research from UK’s leading professionals and reflect the real-life experiences of families and parents. The animations feature the recognisable voices of a host of well-known parents including Olivia Colman, Rob Brydon, Holly Willoughby, Romesh Ranganathan and Sandi Toksvig, among others.