Transcript for
Tuning in to Kids and the value of emotionally connecting with children

Runtime 00:36:58
Released 19/9/20

Narrator [00:00:02] Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast.

Sophie Guy [00:00:08] You’re with Sophie Guy, and today I’m joined by Associate Professor Sophie Havighurst, to talk about the parenting program she developed with Ann Harley called Tuning in to Kids. Sophie is a child clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at Mindful Centre for Training and Research in Developmental Health, based in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne. Tuning in to Kids is an emotion-focused, evidence based parenting program that emphasises the emotional connection between children and their parents. The program aims to teach parents and caregivers skills in recognising, understanding and managing their own and their children’s emotions. In today’s conversation, we talk about why a focus on emotional connection in families is important, and how the Tuning in to Kids program supports this.

Sophie Guy [00:00:59] Hi Sophie, and welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast.

Sophie Havighurst [00:01:03] Hello, nice to be here.

Sophie Guy [00:01:04] (I’ve) been thinking about this topic, I was conscious that it’s very timely that we’re having this conversation right now and families are under immense pressure again as a result of changes being brought to their lives by the COVID-19 situation. And I also thought about more broadly, it seems to me that as a culture, we’re still very much in the dark about our emotions and how we can relate to them in a healthy way. So getting the message out there about how to emotionally support children is something I feel really passionate about. To start off our conversation today, I wondered if you could tell us a bit about yourself and your background and how you came to be working in this space and developing this program, Tuning in to Kids.

Sophie Havighurst [00:01:47] Okay, well, I’ve been doing this work with Tuning in to Kids for about 21 years now. I’m a New Zealander and I did my clinical psychology training and started working in child and adolescent mental health back in New Zealand and the process of having a lot of experience working in mental health and in forensic prison systems, things like that, led to my awareness that for many adults, they don’t develop the skills and being able to understand and manage emotions from early in their lives. And I became really interested in that, we need to get in early, we need to start early with children’s emotional development, and we need to look at what is it that really contributes to children’s emotional development. And I remember being in a library in about 1996 or ’97 in the University of Canterbury, coming across this wonderful book by John Gottman, then Fainsilber, Katz and Carole Hooven, which outlines this whole body of work they’d done where they’d observed that the way that the parents responded to children’s emotions was very much related to children’s emotional development and then behaviour, academic outcomes, and things like that. And they identified that some parents actually moved toward emotion. They were much more connected around kids emotions and they wouldn’t try and distract their kids or tell them it wasn’t necessary to be worried or anything like that, they would actually really hold and support and be with their child when the child was emotional and then help the child to work that through. And that those were the kids that did the best emotionally and the best developmentally. And that was at the same time as some other work was really finding this in the developmental literature, finding that it was the way that parents responded to emotions, it was really related to children’s emotional learning. So when I came across that work, I’d go, “oh, this is the beginning. This is the way we need to go in terms of developing more parenting interventions. Now I came over to Australia to do my PhD, to look at this, and in the beginning of my PhD when I was working with Margot Prior and Anne Sampson, my PhD supervisors, and they were just like, “don’t do an intervention for a PhD, you need to really measure the ideas, these are fairly new ideas, people are not doing this yet.” So I started doing that for my PhD and at the same time, was introduced to Ann Harley who was working at the Victorian Parenting Centre, as it was called at the time, by Lyn Littlefield, who was later been the head of the Australian Psychological Society. She introduced us, she was the director at that time. She said, “you two have the same interests. You want to focus on emotions and parent-child relationships and parenting.” And that was at a time when pretty much everyone was working on behavioural approaches to parenting, where it was about trying to change the reinforcement, trying to reduce children’s difficult behaviours by using time-out or planned ignoring and things like that. And Ann and I had a very different approach, we were both very interested, much more that children’s behaviour came from feeling heard, their emotions feeling heard and listened to, and that when we connect with kids, their emotions settle, they can work through and understand what’s going on and solve problems. So Ann and I had the same sort of ideas and she was a parent educator and I’m a child clinical psychologist so we came together different angles, but with the same key thread. And that was the beginning of us starting the work with Tuning in to Kids and developing that back in 1999 and had 21 years of work since then. And we were also told really interestingly at the time, people didn’t think that an emotion-focused kind of way of working with kids, with parents responding to emotions better in kids. They didn’t think that that would be effective. This is all too touchy-feely. And so we got the message pretty clearly early on that unless we had a lot of evidence to show that this approach worked, it was never going to be supported. So Ann and I just had this mission of making sure we did a lot of randomised control trials to show that this approach was effective, that it led to better outcomes for parents, that children’s emotional development was much better, that their behaviour was better, that they’re more settled. And so we have done many research trials over the years looking at, “can we see this?” And that’s been very important to get the evidence so that when people or organisations or governments go, “great, this is an evidence-based program.” So that’s partly the beginnings.

Sophie Guy [00:06:12] Thank you, that’s a good overview and helps to provide that background and context. I will get into asking you specifically about Tuning in to Kids, but I wanted to ask you, as you’ve just explained, it’s very much emotion-focused and it’s about emotional connection and emotion coaching. Why is this important to focus on with children and with parents to help relationships and help families?

Sophie Havighurst [00:06:38] I think a big part of it is that, like, our emotions in us are really important information to let us know about what our needs are, they tell us when we’re unsafe, when we’re threatened, when we’re not having our needs met, when there’s something wrong, when there’s injustice. So if we learn to listen to our emotions, we can be guided by not overwhelmed by, but use them to guide us and make good choices, and they’re the essence of connection, you know, to connect with another person around their emotional experience, to feel heard, to feel seen, to be responded to by someone else is it, is what intimacy and closeness and love is. You know, it’s not just about touching and hugging someone, it’s actually about that holding, that being with. So it’s at the core to what our needs are, emotions, and kids who learn to develop the skills of listening to their emotional experience and being guided by it are the ones who do much better in life. They become much better at socialising and the social relationships are better, they have better later intimate relationships, they can handle when someone else’s angry with them, and work that through. They can share grief or sadness and work that through, they can see someone else who’s very worried about something and they can respond in a supportive way to help that person. So these are very essential skills that we want kids to learn from early, and just by changing behaviour is not the way to do that. So we have always thought that at the core we’d make sure that the Tuning in to Kids program focused on helping parents to move toward kids when they had emotions rather than away, because so often we avoid, “it’s alright, don’t worry, you’ll be right, don’t be silly.” You know, that’s a very common part of our culture, is just to dismiss emotions. And if you have that all your life, you learn to dismiss those emotions in yourself and you don’t listen to, “oh, actually, I’m feeling really, really hurt by that. I need to address that.” Or, “I’m hungry.” So part of even knowing what your body needs is about recognising your physical body and your emotional wellbeing. We know there’s a close relationship between the more you pay attention to your emotions, the better you can work out, “what do I need in this body? I am stressed, I need to stretch my body. I’m really pent up with anger, I need to release this feeling.” So these are really integral skills that kids need from early, and if parents give the message to kids that your emotions are really, they’re really important to pay attention to, “I love you even when you’re angry. I don’t like it when you hurt people, and I want to guide you on what’s right behaviour, but I understand you’re angry when your sister won’t let you play on something that’s also very important for you as well.” So I guess these are the sort of core skills that if parents respond in this way from early in kid’s life, kids learn to listen to that. And this is the development of emotional intelligence or emotional competence, whatever we want to call that.

Sophie Guy [00:09:44] Yeah. Oh, I love this conversation. I’m so glad we’re going to get this out there and you talk about it clearly. So, yeah. Tell me a little bit about the program Tuning in to Kids. What is the structure? What, what is actually going on in that program? What are parents learning?

Sophie Havighurst [00:09:59] Well, we decided to set this up, so ideally, people would learn the program in a group. So there might be somewhere between 6 and 12 parents coming together, two hours a week each week, for 6 or 8 weeks. And through that process of coming together, they would learn these skills called ’emotion coaching’, which is the work that’s come from John Gottman. And so we had this design had quite a focused approach just on learning these skills, not on learning about everything about parenting, but learning these core skills. And that was that we would help people to start noticing, when is your child just a little bit irritated or a little sad? or, what is the look on their face? When you see them more stressed right now, for example? You know, as your child is much more quiet, or you know, around the home schooling, all the stress that’s going on. And instead of actually just leaving them to it, you see that as a time to come closer to connect. “Hey, you’re a little quiet right now. Maybe you’re having a little bit of a hard time with this homeschooling stuff right now.” And then a kid, you know, you might see the feeling come through and then we encourage a parent to empathise. “Yeah, it’s really hard. You really miss your school, or it’s really hard learning right now. I wonder if you’re a bit worried, you’re not doing as well as the other kids. Yeah it’s stressful when you’ve got to do things and you’re not used to it this way.” So the naming of emotion is important but the empathising. And then the fifth step that we use of emotion coaching that Gottman outlined is one talked about is called problem-solving or setting limits. And one of the things we teach our parents in the group is that you don’t actually do problem-solving around emotional experiences until the emotion in the child has actually reduced to allow calmer. And this is always what people do, often they get off track on is that they try and name emotions or empathise, but then they try and get the child to move on. And you can’t get a person or a child to move on when they don’t feel like they first been able to connect and you hold, and then they calm. So if you try and, you know, with another adult and they’re really worried about something, you try and give them a whole lot of solutions, they won’t work, that often is just like, it just gets them more and more wound up. You’ve actually got to connect with their fear and validate that. And then as a person settles down, and you see that breathing change, then you might say, “what would help?” It’s the same with kids, you can’t get them to try and solve problems, and you don’t want to keep on going on about what you did wrong before, until the emotion’s actually down, because kids don’t hear that. So we teach this and we teach this partly by helping people to learn these ideas, but then to practise them. And we do that through role plays, and we do that through lots of different exercises about how to step into the child’s shoes and imagine how the child’s feeling and then connect around that. But we do a lot of role plays because we’ve found that it’s very hard to do this because when your child is emotional, it activates things in you, it kicks into things and you go, “oh, this is annoying” or “oh, I don’t want my child to be in pain, this is so hard, I’ve just got to protect them. I want to solve it for them.” So we have these kind of automatic reactions. So another key piece of what we think is really important for parents is for them to explore, “what is your experience been growing up in your family of origin with emotions? What messages did people raising you give you about anger? Was it that you don’t get angry in this household, you go to your room whenever you’re angry?” So the message is, anger is not allowed. We love you when you are quiet and calm. Or, are the messages given to a child that it’s really OK to cry? You feel really sad when you know, your pet hamster dies or when you don’t get to see your friends. It’s OK, I feel it. So if the messages is that, then from early in our lives, we would have learnt that those feelings are OK. So we ask our parents to explore, “what sort of messages did you receive from your family, from people around you growing up, either verbal or just a look, or whether you are punished or, what was their reaction to your emotions?” Because that is what feeds us and has helped develop our automatic reactions to emotions as adults. And that is automatic reactions both to people we are close to in terms of, you know, intimate partners or friends or family, and especially when we’re parenting with children and perhaps even more so with kids. When kids are emotional, we often don’t have that kind of lens of, “I must behave well.” We really go to automatic reactions, so often soon as a child is crying or angry, it’s almost like without thought we have an automatic reaction. So we help parents to identify, “what are my automatic reactions?” And, “what can I do to slow that down?” Because the research tells us that if you can help people alter that automatic reaction and start being aware of what their automatic reaction is and then develop some skills for doing something differently, that is how you change parenting from one generation to the next because otherwise, it’s very easy just to repeat the same ways that are parents or whoever raised us to repeat that. And in the mind, people are very dismissive of emotions. [Oh, yeah]. Yeah, everywhere, and I’m noticing that right now, there’s a collective dismissiveness of the fear and the sadness and the anger of what’s happening with COVID-19, because we so often have this, “oh, well, other people have got it worse than us.” Or, “you know, but really, it could be worse.” So there’s a very dismissiveness even of my own feelings when in fact, I’m feeling so much grief and so much anger and so much loss and read about what’s going on. But it’s very hard for us, even as adults often allow that feeling in ourselves or other people. That’s very much come from what our experiences have been of being raised. So this is a really central part of Tuning in to Kids to help parents identify that and then to try not to do exactly the same with the kids, which is challenging. It’s really hard, and that’s why we have to practice it through role plays and we do find that people normally learn the skills over time, it unfolds over time, not just with giving people a piece of information and they’ve got it. So it’s very interesting, seeing that development.

Sophie Guy [00:16:22] Yeah. I’m curious about what that journey is like for parents. What have you observed, because there must be a bit of an unlearning to learn something new?

Sophie Havighurst [00:16:33] Yeah. And it’s really interesting you say that, because as a researcher, you’ll understand the process when you measure something at the beginning of an intervention trial. People also think they’re much better at things than what they are. So as in, they might say, yes, I’m very accepting of my child’s emotions. But then as they start doing the program, they realise in fact, not at all. They might allow their child to be emotional, but then they quickly move them on. And so measurement often shows us that people become more aware of how dismissive they are as they go through the program. Now, what we often see is these patterns that when people begin the program, it connects with them so strongly because it makes so much sense at a core. “I would like this. I would have liked this myself.” Or, “I like this with my friends or people around me, if they hear me and they empathise with me and they support how I feel, I feel good, I want to do that with my kids.” It’s so compelling, so people get that excitement often and then they go away and try it and they find it doesn’t work, it just gets worse, what is this? And so then we have to kind of go through and look at, OK what’s happening here? And it might be that they’re again, are naming the emotion and moving on too quickly, or it might be they talk a lot. And one of the things that we know happens is that when children are emotional, Dan Siegel talks about this idea of kids or people flip their lids. They become overwhelmed by the emotion. Their frontal lobe, their rational brain does not work. And with kids, if you’ve got a kid who’s even moderately to high emotion, you don’t want to ask questions. You don’t want to talk a lot. And so one of the things we often encourage people to do, is just, what does your face do? Can you show empathy just through? Oh, yes, that’s hard. Or the way your face looks, your eyebrows or your facial expression or you use touch as the way in rubbing a kid’s back or just being close to them. And you do that as a way of communicating your acceptance of the emotion without using lots of words. That is the ticket. That is what really helps to bring down the elevation in emotion when someone feels like you genuinely connect with them. And kids are exactly the same. So we find that that’s the part that parents often end up talking a whole lot better emotions. And we have to then try and help them really reduce how much language they use, when their kid’s emotional. Instead then, you want to talk more about what happened or what we could do to resolve this when the children are calm. So it might be later that night or the next day that you actually then go into more on the conversation around the emotion, but not when the emotions are high. So we find people start to get this and then they often get a real dip around halfway through the program, they think, “oh it doesn’t work, I can’t do it on my own, this stuff is too loud, too strong. Well, this is a ridiculous approach, I’m going to go back to using something else.” And you keep working and then normally by about session six, people have really started to get it. And so we do see that really it’s a challenge to change something. And many people become aware that this is actually very hard to do. And I just need prompts and reminders. So we do give people out materials on it to help them do that.

Sophie Guy [00:19:39] I understand that Tuning in to Kids has been translated into different languages. And so it’s obviously a program that is being taken up. But here in Australia, how is it offered and how do parents find out about it and get involved?

Sophie Havighurst [00:19:55] Well, the first thing is that we started with Tuning in to Kids for primary school and pre-school aged kids, and then we developed Tuning into Teens program. We also developed programs specifically for fathers and we’ve developed a program for parents of toddlers. So in different places, you can often get access to the Teens program, the Tuning in to Kids program, the Tuning into Dads program. We’ve trained, I think maybe about seven or eight-thousand professionals around Australia now who run the program in various services. So you can often find out from the child and adolescent mental health services, lot of NGOs offer the program. We have an online version called Tickle, which we’ve recently released as well. That just gives a more brief snapshot. It’s just like a two-hour video program of me talking and examples of parent-child interactions and the key steps to learn because it is quite a learning process of learning steps. Often, you know, people might come away from this interview going, “OK I’m going to talk about my emotions with my kids”, but then they’re not sure what to do next. And it is hard because if you’re doing something quite different to what you’d normally do, you often get stumped. You ask the first question, “how are you feeling?” And it’s like, the kid says, “Well I dunno, what do you think, I’m angry of course.” Or maybe they won’t even say that. And so it’s often about saying, “OK maybe the first thing you want to do is start just by simple naming of emotion, you seem angry or you seem really sad.” And then trying to slow yourself down. So that might be something for people to begin and just reflecting from this conversation now about where can I begin with my kids around emotions. The other thing is that when you’ve got young kids, you use less language. So toddlers, pre-schoolers, much less language. You can talk a little bit more about emotions with primary-school aged kids. And with teenagers, you want to be really careful because teenagers do not want you naming their emotions. So the same steps of emotion coaching work with teenagers, but primarily about connecting when they’re ready to connect and empathy and using language that is less focused on. “You must be angry”, to, like, “oh, how annoying.” So language is not naming their emotions, but in more general ways, just naming the feeling that could be felt at that time because they don’t want you as their parent being control of their emotional experiences and what they do to work it through. But they do like for you to empathise in a very gentle, not controlling way so that for example, of things that change with our program is we move into the adolescent version of the program.

Sophie Guy [00:22:42] That’s interesting. Yeah. And what about, why did you see a need to develop one specifically for fathers? How does that one differ?

Sophie Havighurst [00:22:50] Well, Catherine Wilson was one of the people working on the Tuning in to Kids program before she retired. And she was really interested in fathers, in the role of fathers in children’s development. She did that as part of her PhD at Melbourne University. And then when she was working with Tuning in to Kids, she said, you know, we really need a version of this program for fathers that integrates other parts of what fathers want to know about, which is, what is their role, how do they contribute to children’s development in a broader way. And also that often talking about emotions isn’t necessarily the easiest thing for dads to do. And so maybe this needs to happen a little bit more slowly. So the groups with dads have been magnificent. We’ve stretched it over seven sessions, so there’s more kind of building up to talking about the same sort of materials as Tuning in to Kids, but doing it in a way where you first of all will look at children’s development and things like that before you get into looking into emotional development. So that’s been important. And some dads felt more comfortable with being with a group of dads rather than being one dad and nine mothers. That becomes a little intimidating. With that said, I think many of the fathers who attend groups get a lot out of it. And actually, the groups work better when there’s a mixture of mothers and fathers in groups, because it balances out those different roles. And talking about emotions is not a female thing, often mothers will do that a little more, but it’s more about the sort of personality of the parent. You know, some men are better at emotion coaching than women. And so in a family, you often have one who takes more of a role, one who takes less of a role around emotions. Interestingly, one of my PhD students, Christine Ambrosi, she’s developing a couples version of the program called Tuning in to Kids Together for either together or separated couples to learn she needs kids so that they are more on the same page around dealing with kids emotions. And that can help., That can be very useful.

Sophie Guy [00:24:52] And as you mentioned from the outset, you invested into the research process and conducted randomised control trials. And I know you’ve been evaluating it. What do you find in those more kind of research-y, conceptual terms. What do you find around the impacts of Tuning in to Kids, the program on kids, but also on their parents?

Sophie Havighurst [00:25:15] OK, so there’s a couple of things, I mean, we’ve trialed the program with kids from toddlers right through to teens and with families where they’re more, just a part of a community sample. So meaning anyone who wants to come along might come on it and that they’ve been part of evaluation trials and others where they’re specifically clinical and clinical service say, for example, coming to the Australian Childhood Foundation, where the child’s experienced complex trauma or child and adolescent mental health service, something like that. So we’ve looked at a range. And one of the things we find is that we consistently see a pattern that parents become less emotionally dismissive when they’ve done the program compared to controls who don’t, that they often improve in their awareness and regulation of their own emotions, the parents do. And that’s a really core part of the program because it’s such a critical part to be able to respond to your kid’s emotions. You’ve got to be calm, you’ve got to be in a good space. And when you’re elevated and reacting, it’s very hard to do that.

[00:26:20] So we do find a reduction. One of the things that’s been interesting is we don’t get bigger changes for people improving in emotion coaching skills as we do reductions and dismissiveness. And we think that this is partly because it’s easier to become aware of where things are going wrong. But actually, paying attention, responding, supporting emotions is actually quite hard to learn. So people typically become more empathetic with their kids, but the actual working through all five steps is harder for people. That’s what they say in our observation studies, because we often measure parents and children interacting around emotional experiences, we observe parents being much better at using language around emotion, talking through emotions with their kids compared to controls. And interestingly, with the outcomes of children, we typically see better emotional knowledge. So compared to controls, they’ll have more knowledge of what causes anger, sadness, what to do with it than controls, and they can to improve in their regulation skills. So managing emotions across home and school settings and they have much less in terms of behavioural difficulty. So that’s one of the biggest changes we see is reductions in behaviour, which is so interesting because we don’t try and change behaviour. We change the connection and we look at how parents respond to the emotion and that leads to the change in behaviour. And that comes right back to what Ann and I believed right from the very beginning was that if you helped parents pay attention to the emotions and kids learnt that their emotional experience is okay, then they end up behaving much, much more appropriately. So it’s very interesting to see how behaviour doesn’t have to be changed by changing whether you punish your child after they’ve done something wrong. If you connect around why that child was angry and you hear that feeling and you validate their emotional experience and then you guide them on what to do to repair a situation that they may have done something wrong, that works as equally effectively. So one of our research trials, we compared a more behavioural approach to parenting interventions using the Triple P program with the Tuning in to Kids program. These are two programs that are both used in Australia, and we’ve got the same changes in child behaviour for both programs, which is really interesting. Both methods work very effectively. [Mm hmm]. So that I suppose are some of the changes that we’ve seen. And even our toddler program we’re just publishing right now, we actually see that children in the intervention condition when their parents do Tuning into Toddlers, which is very similar to the Tuning to Kids program, it was less language, more around attachment and connection. Those toddlers actually showed significantly lowered cortisol stress, systemic cortisol stress, than controlled children. So that means we take a hair sample and we look at the last month of stress in that child, which you can use from looking at cortisol levels when you look at the first centimetre of hair growth, we see significantly reduced cortisol in the intervention kids, but not the controls, which is just wonderful to see at such a young age that when parents comma in responding to emotions better, their children’s biology is changing. Isn’t that just fantastic?

Sophie Guy [00:29:34] Yeah, it is.

Sophie Havighurst [00:29:36] It’s what we would imagine. You know, you know it. [Yes]. When someone hears you, you feel calmer, it’s like, “oh, yes. That’s a really tough session. Thank you for listening to me.” You know, we know the feeling of releasing emotions, lowering when we feel supported and held in adult relationships. Is it just the same with kids? It’s really interesting to see that. And Christiane Kehoe who’s one of our lead team people, she’s done a lot of the with the Tuning in to Teens program, and she’s also finding the same sort of outcomes with parents of teens and with adolescents reports on that. And she’s actually been doing an approach called a whole school approach where she uses the Tuning in to Teens program with all of the teachers in the school and offers it to parents and then offers a component to grade eight children to learn about emotions. And she’s still in the evaluation process with that one. But that’s really interesting work to think about taking it all of, you know, parents, teachers and child. [Yeah]. One of the things I’ve been in Norway for the past two years doing a number of research trials there. And one of the trials they’ve done is with 50 kindergartens and where we were randomising intervention or control kindergartens. And then in the intervention kindergartens, all of the teachers got trained and Tuned in to Kids and then they were given weekly supervision to use it in the care of kids in the kindergarten. So this is kids from one to five years of age and then the leades also got trying to support the teachers. And then we’ve measured, we’re doing classroom observations. We’re doing parents, teachers, reports, kindergarten reports, all things like that. Because we’re looking at, again, this whole of environment approach to, if you teach everyone to focus more on emotion when kids, what does that do for children? It’s not just from family, it’s actually from kindergarten or the school environment. [Mm hmm]. So these trials that we still have ongoing. Yeah.

Sophie Guy [00:31:33] And I’m just curious if we can talk in generalisations for a minute. How did you find culturally Norwegian people relate that their emotions compared to Australia?

Sophie Havighurst [00:31:44] Yes, it’s been a fascinating journey because countries vary widely and cultures vary widely in how they respond to emotions. I was training some facilitators the other day and this Spanish woman who was joining from Spain on the online training. She said, “I grew up in a family where anger was wonderful. It was, everyone expressed it very freely. And it’s something I feel so comfortable, and I can be really assertive in my work.” So she had this lovely story of the people around her that she’d grown up with that was very much a comfortable part of her culture. In Norway, they’re very, very respectful of children. So they’re much more respectful children I’d say on the whole Australians are. They haven’t got quite that same sort of ethic of children need to be well-behaved. So they’re respectful of kids on the one hand. I’m not saying Australians are not, but they have a very strong value around, you would never hurt a child, you talk well to a child. So it’s very much part of their culture. So respect is important, but not focusing on emotions. Whenever a kid’s emotional, you just get up and move on. [Right]. Get out and onto the snow, get out and move. So it’s very much a culture of, I’d say, holding things that are not showing them publicly, emotional things. So I don’t know what’s better because I saw people much more respectful of each other around challenging situations. I remember seeing a guy open his car door and another Norwegian got whacked into it on his bike, slammed to the ground. Both guys jump up and immediately are smiling and cordial with each other. Even if this guy’s bike is crumpled. Now, in Australia, Australia will be a very different response. The cyclist, if they were okay, is very likely to have a really big yell at the driver for being so unthoughtful in opening their door. Norweigians will be much more hold with the emotion, so a much more controlled. And that was one of the things I saw. You know where you’re just writing up a paper, looking at the Tuning in to Kids program in Turkey, Iran, Norway, Germany and Australia, because each culture is quite different in how they view emotions. And we had trials happening in each country. So it’s very interesting seeing these cultural differences. And as you were listening, you know that part of your culture is maybe more or less accepting of sadness or anger or excitement or pride. You know, we vary widely. So it’s really interesting that’s a part of Tuning in to Kids, just think about what if this is part of our culture? What if this is part of our parenting and the overlaps between those?

Sophie Guy [00:34:20] Oh that’s so interesting. I want to ask you one more question. You’ve been doing this for 21 years, like you said. Have you noticed a shift in, you know, maybe broadly, culturally in our understanding and acceptance perhaps of emotions?

Sophie Havighurst [00:34:36] Absolutely. And it’s really funny because I think when Ann and I first started this, we really were a bit like these kind of lefty hippies or being really on the edge. It wasn’t what was done. It was quite different and we built in quite for just the mindfulness work into the program from early, which was only just coming onto the stage at the time. But in the time we’ve been doing this has been much more accepted. So when we first started training professionals in this program, we had to really convince them this is a good idea. And that hardly happen now, like people are just like, ” well of course”, because it’s in the neurobiological literature, there’s a lot more brain physiology literature that actually really validates this approach and shows that, yes, it actually maps the brain functioning and cognitive literature and the developmental literature. So, I think more and more it’s become normed, and we’re just publishing a paper and current opinion in Psychiatry, which is a very, very good journal, which is on the state of emotion-focused parenting programs, which have really blossomed, especially research in the last five years on this area. So it is interesting seeing the huge shifts in culture. I think it probably is, you know, 10 to 20 years it takes before an idea starts to permeate the society. And we see it much more dominating in Australia now than it was when we began this work.

Sophie Guy [00:36:04] Well, I think that’s really hopeful because, you know, everything that you’ve been describing about the importance of emotions and moving towards them, like you said, really resonates with me and I’m sure is going to resonate with the people listening to this podcast. You work with families and children, so it’s been a really useful and interesting conversation. Thank you so much, Sophie.

Sophie Havighurst [00:36:27] You’re very welcome.

Narrator [00:36:30] Visit our website at to access a range of resources to assist your practice. Brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, led by Emerging Minds. The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.