You're listening to Voices of Your Village and I have such a special episode today. I get to bring you Lauren Stauble. Lauren is the co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. And she's my co-author of Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. We got to dive into what the CEP Method is, why we don't believe in a one size fits all approach, and walk you through what does it look like? A little bit in practice, give you insight and really a sneak peek into the kind of stuff that you'll find in the book. We co created the collaborative emotion processing method and researched it across the US. Our research ended in 2018 and we've been working on putting together the data in a comprehensive guide to raising emotionally intelligent humans for you. And it is here. We are publishing Tiny Humans Big Emotions on October 10 with Harvest Books, part of Harper Collins, and are so excited for it to come to you. I am reading the audiobook, so if you're an audiobook listener, it'll be your girl here reading to you and you can access the book and purchase it at seedandsew.org/book. You can reach out to your local library and ask them to carry it. You can connect with your child's childcare program and ask them to have a copy or share a copy with teachers. Feel free to share it with friends, with siblings, with anyone who is engaging with your tiny human. We go to seedandsew.org/book and you order. If you order before our publication date, before October 10, we are going to send you free goodies. So you go right back there after you order and let us know your name, your email and your order number and we will send you some bonus things that you can dive into right away.
Before we dive in, let me give you a little background on Lauren. Lauren and I were co teachers starting back in 2016. Lauren Stauble has worked with children ages birth to five in childcare centers as well as in her home for 16 years before moving into program administration and now in higher education. In 2018, we created the CEP method. It's a tool for developing emotional intelligence. And she's currently the department Chair of early childhood education at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. She partners with Angela Garcia of Engage, Feel, Think, Connect, where they offer workshops and consultation in early childhood education. They host a podcast together called Sacred reclaiming Intuitive Teaching and Caregiving Relationships. Lauren's work evolves daily and is the result of 20 years of practice which includes healing centered education, emergent curriculum, antibias education, community activism, in depth study and personal practice of yoga, meditation, psychology coursework, mindfulness based therapy and being raised by a mother with a healthy sense of agency. She's interested in deepening her understanding and expertise of collaboration as an essential tool in education and how the presence of emotional intelligence in the group enhances the process. In between. She enjoys spending time with dear ones in the mountains, in the tropics, around the fire, and in their kitchens. And she has just been a dream to work with. She challenges my brain in beautiful ways, and I'm really, really excited to be able to hand tiny humans big emotions over to you as the reader now. All right, folks, let's dive in.
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. I get to hang out with a longtime pal, someone I've known since before Seed existed. I get to bring you Lauren Stauble. Lauren is the co creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. She is my co author for Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. There is none of this for me. And with you all without Lauren. Lauren is such a key player in all of this. And I'm jazzed to get to hang with you today, Lauren.
Hey. I am so excited to play.
Yeah with writing the book. There's been so many logistics and so much work and all that jazz, and now we get to play. What a gift. When we were creating the CEP method. I think for both of us, I don't know that we went into it trying to create our own method as much as for me. I was like, let's find the framework that really aligns with what we're doing. And as we were looking through it and reading research and diving into what existed, we were like, wait, it doesn't exist. So for us, or at least on my end. I feel like it was kind of an accident to stumble into creating the CEP method and a privilege to get to take it to where it is now.
Yeah, I feel the same way. I remember you presented to, we all took turns presenting to our staff, and I was like, There is something about this, and I didn't know you very well yet.
And then our supervisor asked us to pair up with somebody on staff, so we did that. I was like, Alyssa, let's pair up. And so even though you were working with infants and I was teaching preschool, I was just like, wow, this feels like home. This feels familiar. And I was like, there's something here. And like, you right. We were like, okay, let's find the research to back up what we're doing. We were like, okay, let's do the research.
Yeah. Turns out it doesn't exist. Yeah. And what a cool process. And let's break down what the CEP method is, because there's probably folks tuning in who have heard me say this or have seen about it on our social and are like, wait, hook a sister up. Hook a brother up. What is the CEP method? You keep mentioning it. I don't know what it is.
I think for me something, so right everybody wants to be like, how do I interact with kids? Tell me how to teach. Watch when I observe my practicum students, and they're like, just tell me what I need to do better as they're interacting with kids. And I think that even before diving into the different components of CEP, first off, it's like, just take a breath. Okay, let's see what's going on with me. Where am I at as a human? Not even as a teacher? Before I go into my teacher mind. Because that's how I came into this work through teaching. Before I even do that, be like, whoa, what's going on with me as a first step? And for me in my learnings and practice, that comes from mindfulness and contemplative practice that invited me to do that, to slow down. And I couldn't do that at the beginning. Even when we were starting to practice this, we did action research because we got to be part of it and to see what that feels like, to be more present. So I think that's probably one of the most important parts of it, something that felt different for me and that I still teach about now, even when I'm hanging out with my students.
Sure. And I think that that's huge. The same thing with our parenting community and caregivers is that, what do I say to this kid? What do I do right now with this kid? And it starts with us. And I found for myself as a teacher, there was so much focused on the kid and what to do, what to say, what not to do, like say I'm sorry, don't say I'm sorry, do this X, Y, and Z. And it all sounded great when I'm sitting in a workshop or I'm sitting in professional development or I'm reading that book or I'm tuning into this podcast and it sounds great in theory, and I'm like, yeah, that's in alignment. Yes, makes sense. And then I'd be in the moment and this one year old slaps me across the face or they throw something and I can't access that language in that moment or those tools. And now I'm in a triggered state. And I kept feeling like I was failing because I was getting triggered. And I was like, oh, in my head, a good teacher or a good parent wasn't going to get triggered by that behavior. They're going to be able to be calm and regulated and respond with these perfect words. And this for me was like a real driving force in then developing our work, was learning how to do it myself and how to slow down and find that pause and get to regulation and allow myself to experience triggers without shame or judgment.
I think that's the hardest thing. And if you take classes and you study education, right, it's really impossible to learn to practice from reading. You have to learn to practice by practicing. And the year that we taught in the same center, one of the years we taught in the same center was extremely transformative for me as I was learning how to do this work. And it keeps coming up in my other conversations and my thinking about my practice, about how intertwined children's development and my own is and was, especially during that formative time. Because I think when we're studying, as you were just talking about it makes it seem like, okay, just do this. That's going to work for everybody, but it doesn't work for everybody, right? There are just as many different kinds of children as there are different kinds of adults, because we all grow up. And I think that was part, like, being able to pause and see, like, whoa, what's going on with me? So that I can see more clearly the child in front of me to say, like, oh, okay, now that I know what's going on with me, what's going on with you? Right? What does this feel like for you? What does this feel like for the other child that we're interacting with right now? And it does not feel comfortable, I think, that you talked about, like, Wait, maybe this shouldn't be. Maybe this means I'm not a good teacher. Maybe this means I'm not a good parent. Parents said to me, you're so calm all the time. And I was like, what? Really? And it's like, okay, so what they mean is, you seem calm all the time.
Or when I see you at pickup and drop off, you seem calm. I had a parent who was like, how are you so chill all the time? And I was like, oh, because you're seeing me for five minutes. Come back at, like, 1030 when we're trying to get in from outside and kids are getting hungry and it's a zoo. No.
I guess that is what CEP is, right? That is like, okay, that thing is real. And that thing is the work we wrote about transitions, because it may seem as an aside from emotion processing, but the more I think about transitions, and especially experiencing some right now in my life I love the quote from William Bridges. "Transitions are when we're most fully alive." Because we're so vulnerable. Like, we're redefining ourselves in a moment where, say, a child is moving from being an only child to being a big sister. That is a huge identity shift and relationship with the world. And even for parents going from having one child to two children.
Buckle up, Alyssa. Buckle up.
Right? Yeah, exactly. So even from a teacher moving to an administrative position is huge. But that time is so rich. If we go in, it's the same with big emotions, which are really associated with transitions. But that is such a fertile place. There's so much development that can happen there. We're open to it takes a lot of energy to resist a transition, right? And it takes a lot of energy to move through it and feel it do it. But I think that is almost a liberatory experience, I think, when we practice CEP.
I think CEP really taught me how to be in things, right? Like, how to allow and experience things. I'm really good at either problem solving or running away, right? Like, so good. When COVID started and I was in the midst of a miscarriage, that was really hard, and then life was just kind of upended COVID wise, I was like, let's move to Maine. Right. And I'm like looking for houses because surely I won't be feeling what I'm feeling right now if I live in Maine and I studied abroad when I was 15 years old. Red ran away from what I was feeling at 15 years old and was like, maybe if I'm in Austria, I won't feel what I'm feeling, right? Not consciously, but I'm so good at running away and dissociating and disconnecting. And it is a practice for me to stay in something and to allow it. And Sage has been a really good teacher for me as a parent, too. He just started saying, I'm having a really hard time with this, and it'll be different things, whether it's like putting the top on something or yesterday we were in the car and he wanted to be out, and he said, I'm having a really hard time with this. And I said, what's going on? And he said, Being in the car, I don't want to be in the car. And just allowing that hard time. And kids are good at it. And if I don't step in and pull him out of the hard time, which is that's for me, the hard work, it's like, yeah, it makes sense to have a hard time. Your body wants to move, and we have five more minutes in the car. So hard to wait and allowing that and validating that in that space without trying to fix it or distract him out or come up with a solution. CEP has allowed me to be in it and allowed me to let him have a hard time.
Yeah, right. Because this is not the last time he's going to have a hard time.
It would be so lovely if it was.
It's interesting, I never thought about this. Right. That's our hard time in that moment. It's hard that this baby is suffering right now or experiencing pain right now, which is inevitable, an inevitable part of being human. But that is how our learning is wrapped up in theirs. And this is a gift for us to have children in our lives, that they invite us to do that. And I think you're getting at the self awareness piece, too. It takes a lot of courage to hear our thoughts and feel our resistance and notice when it comes up. So mindfulness, is that noticing and what's next? Right. Okay. So I noticed that my instinct as I am like, you like, let me just push that thing away and let's do this other thing over here. Surely I'm not going to feel this over there. Yeah, that resonated with me. So the next step, self awareness is like, oh, here's that thing again. I know. That part of me. Okay. Hey, that part of me. What's coming up for you? And okay, you're welcome here, but let's see. Do I need to do this right now? Is this serving me right now? Is this serving the child's development right now? Is this serving our relationship in any way? And if it's not just saying, okay, I have a special place for you, but I'm not going to take action right now because that's my instinct, is to take action. But maybe for people who are like, I don't want to do any I can't do anything. This is awful. I can't do anything. I'm frozen. For that group, it's more like, okay, usually this is what I do. I just stay right here and kind of create a barrier of safety for myself. But what if I actually just stepped out a little bit to try something different this time? It's so scary. It is so scary because this is how our brain was built as littles.
Let's give an example to walk through so that it's not I think I feel like for my brain, I need a concrete example, right, of like there are two kids in conflict. And one the conflict is that somebody came over and hit the other one, right? Let's say younger to older. A toddler comes over to a preschooler and maybe in an effort to play right, maybe whatever, we don't know, but comes over and pushes or knocks down their tower or takes their toy and now the preschooler is screaming.
And I mean, maybe adding in again, took their toy or knocked down the structure again. Even that's a moment where I would feel triggered and say, like, we've done this already. This happened at the beginning of my career, okay, now this is like personal between me and the child that knocked over this structure again. And it's so easy to forget that this is a new being. Even a three year old is a new being in the world compared to me. And that was in my twenties at the time. But I really thought it was personal. Sure, but of course I thought it was personal because in our adult interactions, sometimes it is personal and depending on how we were as children with other children right. I was a very shy child and I was not a child who knocked things over. I was probably the child whose thing was knocked over. And I just kind of didn't want to make a big deal. So in that moment, I'm like trying to serve justice for the child who's been harmed in some way by this knocking over of the thing. Okay, so if I say, whoa, let me just take a breath here. What's going on for me? Wow, that's an interesting story that's going on in my mind right now. And it's familiar. I've heard this one before.
My phrase has been like, what I'm feeling, like I'm mad at a three year old right now. And when I say that to myself, or like, I want to fight a 20 month old right now, when I say it to myself of like, what am I really experiencing inside? When I can say it inside. It is helpful for me of like, okay, when I say that phrase, it feels a little bonkers. Right. I'm mid thirties, and I want to fight a 20 month old. Okay, maybe there isn't rationale happening in this moment. I'm not in a space to respond is really what it does for me, but just that sentence of like, I'm mad at a three year old.
Yeah. It allows you to hear yourself right. To hear what you're experiencing, and then to say like, that doesn't really sound rational. That sounds like an old wound coming up for me right now. So like, okay, that old wound is real. I'm not going to work with it right now because now is not the time. I'm taking care of these children, so I'm not going to forget about it and just push it away. I'm just going to put it to the side while I'm teaching and then be like, okay, what just happened right now? I can be present with the children and see the child whose thing got knocked over. Well, in your scenario, was the child whose thing got knocked over screaming or was it the other child.
The child whose thing got knocked over screaming. And in my scenario, I would actually have the toddler who knocked it over is like laughing or smiling.
Oh, yeah, that's even better. Yeah, it feels so personal. They're doing this on purpose and they're taking pleasure. Right? Okay, sure. Maybe that's happening, but it's not helpful to start there. Let's start with, okay, somebody's experiencing something big right now. Let's zoom in there. What are you experiencing and how can I help you move through it to develop your skills? We don't need this other person to help you develop your skills. Let me just be present with you, and if we need their help to understand what happened or to communicate about it afterwards, depending on what this child needs who's screaming, then I'll figure that out as we go. Sure. But if I can't do that, if I still am focused on serving justice to the child who knocked the structure over right. I guess I was going to say mama bear, but in that case I was a teacher bear.
Yeah. Well, because then you're protecting, at least for I my brother Andrew is five years older than I am or four years older than I am, and there were a lot of times growing up where he would do something. I'm walking down the stairs and he hip checks me into a wall, whatever. I'm like mom. Andrew hip checked me. Or like, he says something and he's being snappy or sarcastic, and I would be like, mom, help. And she would just say, Just ignore him. And so I consistently in childhood felt like ignoring him is somebody needs to tell Andrew to not be a jerk, to like maybe if we teach Andrew to not be a jerk, I wouldn't have to deal with this. And so in the moment with that three year old and toddler, I'm the three year old, and this toddler is Andrew. And justice needs to be served for it's tiny human Alyssa. Right. Like, it's not even about them anymore. It's tiny human Alyssa.
Yep. And that great, tiny human Alyssa deserves to be paid attention to.
Right. And just figuring out the context, the right context.
And it's learning that's exactly it. I can teach those same things, and how do I teach these things to the children? And it's not in the moment that I'm going to do that right now, and it's not through justice being served, which is what tiny human Alyssa really felt like should happen in terms of what's going to be most effective, but that still surfaces in the moment. And that's where you were saying, like, setting that aside for now is helpful of, like, yes, tiny human Alyssa, we will help this child develop some tools so that they don't grow up to be jerk. Andrew, who is being rude to you all the time, or to these other kids all the time. Yeah, but being able to set that aside of, like, I hear you. We are totally going to address that right now. I'm going to deal with this, and we'll come back to that.
Yeah. And that takes practice. That is the thing that takes practice. And we're talking about kids self regulating, and we really want kids to learn emotion processing skills side by side with self regulation, but they're not going to learn that if we don't demonstrate it. So I think that's another key. That's why we start with us. Right? Most kids learn the most through watching us. And so we can say all kinds of my mom was the one who said, do what I say, not what I do. She would not wear a bike helmet, but she was like, you need to wear your bike helmet. And I did wear a bike helmet, but it was hard because I was like, well, how come she doesn't have to wear? Right? It's much easier to learn when this is the culture of the place. This is the culture of our family. This is how we do it together. And not to say that we do it perfectly, to say it's okay to make mistakes sometimes, and we can move through that together. That's not a deal breaker. Making mistakes, that's part of this. Another chance for us to practice again.
Yeah. Rad so now we're on what we've covered here. I feel like just a couple of components of this, that method that have come up. We have self awareness, we have some bias coming up in this moment here. So we have uncovering implicit bias is another one of the components of the CEP method, and might notice some in this moment of even those, like, the parts of us that surface from childhood. Those are really key for learning about biases, too. I now have certain thoughts about who this child needs to be, otherwise they're going to become Andrew. Right. And poor Andrew, he has turned out he's doing great at this point. We have a lovely 30 something year old relationship going on. But, yeah, he's going to be tiny human Andrew who doesn't have these skills. Right. Like noticing those things. We have some bias coming up here and then looking at the scientific knowledge part of this. Can you break down for folks what we're looking at with scientific knowledge and how it might be at play here?
Oh, yeah. Well, what I'm thinking about now is scientific knowledge and the concepts of implicit bias and the ladder of inference that information is coming around. So people might have heard that about that before. But in that case, if we think about you coming as a teacher and tiny human Alyssa coming up in that moment, if you are assuming, based on the child who is laughing, that means that child did that on purpose. If I start there, the story that happens after that could be completely incorrect. If that first rung of the ladder is not true, and if my nervous system is activated, my amygdala survival mode is there. My childhood self might be in the driver's seat in that moment, because this is how I learned to protect myself as a child. So if I get to the first rung of the ladder and my nervous system is activated like that, this is just not going to go in a way that supports children's development or our own.
Yeah. Or our ability to connect with that child in the moment.
Yeah. Right. Because the ladder takes us further and further away from them. So that pausing piece is so important for our nervous system regulation, because when amygdala is important right, there would be no humans if there was no amygdala because it's the way we don't die.
And so we need that, but we also need the prefrontal cortex. It comes online to say, like, oh, hey, let's stop and analyze this moment. Let's look at the clues. Let's put together the puzzle pieces. Let's reflect a little bit about what I know from before when I wasn't triggered. And so if we get those two parts of our brain talking to each other, then that will serve everybody in the moment, because we might need to have a heightened nervous system. Somebody might be about to get hurt. And so we can be alert, we can be paying attention, but we also need that other part of our brain. We need to be having those two parts talking to each other in order to have a conversation, totally figure out what's going on.
Yeah. So we have that scientific knowledge part where really we in the set method dive into what is happening with the nervous system. And I think of this kind of, like, just I was just on a work trip, and I got this video of Sage, and he is just, like, belly laughing. I will send it to you. It is just the most delicious sound, actually, I think for the sake of mirror neurons. Let me see if I can pull it up. Yeah, awesome. And every time I watched that video while I was gone, I was just, like, smiling and fully feeling joy. Here's the he, like, laughs so hard. He's coughing, and it gets me every time. And when I think of mirror neurons, like, lately, that one comes up for me of like, oh, it's contagious, that feeling.
But feelings are contagious, which means that when that child's screaming or the other child's losing it or somebody's crying, your nervous system reacts to that.
And it should. Something is wrong. That's why we get activated. And it really matters who is in the driver's seat in that moment, because if it's adult Alyssa in the driver's seat, that vehicle is going a certain way.
And so recognizing when that's happening, that takes practice. Recognizing when you get triggered. And then even I don't want anybody to think like, oh, I just learned that if I get triggered, I can calm myself down, because that's not true.
Good luck. Also, can you just teach me how to always do that?
Right. So it takes some experimentation. There's a plateau in learning because you could experience your own trigger. It might take a couple of months of experiencing your own trigger, and that's hard. And we recommend, right, making sure that you have a support system. So that, for me, I love therapy and certain social groups that allow me to feel how I'm feeling as I'm feeling it. Whatever people's practice is, sometimes it's not with other people. Maybe it's doing something by yourself that's more nurturing to allow yourself to be with feeling triggered.
Have you been scrolling the Internet? And there's all these tools for calming your child and how to regulate and whatever, and you try them and your child just gets amped up or that doesn't work. Or you find yourself in these cycles where it's like epic meltdown. Try to come back from it and you just feel like you're putting out fires all day long. If this is you, you aren't alone. And we collaborated with an Occupational Therapist to create our Sensory Profile quiz. This is going to help you learn about what helps your child regulate what's happening in their unique nervous system. We are all different and figuring out what you're sensitive to or what helps you regulate is the key for actually doing this work, for getting to a regulated state, for having tools, for calming down, for having tools for regulation. Head on over to www.seedquiz.com to take the quiz for free. You can take it as many times as you like for as many humans as you'd like, and we will deliver results right to your inbox to get you kick started on this journey. Seedquiz.com.
Yeah, in our book, I think it's in chapter three. In part one, we dive in deep into the nervous system and what's happening and how we all have unique nervous systems, which is why a one size fits all approach doesn't work, because each of us is different. And how you were talking before about some people, they're going to go into that freeze mode, and they're going to kind of shut down, and they can't take action. And other people, you might be like, oh, I'm a yeller. My nervous system reaction is to yell and to kind of fight and get in that fight mode. And that we're all going to have different reactions to triggers and none of them are right or wrong or good or bad. But we all have different reactions to different triggers and that our nervous system is going to need different things, both throughout the day. Kind of proactively, but then also reactively in the moment to calm, to regulate, to find that regulation again. And what works really well for my husband is the opposite of what works really well for me. And it wasn't until we learned, with our unique nervous systems, what helps us regulate again throughout the day, kind of proactively, but also in the moment what
does that look like? It wasn't until then that I could really hone skills for regulation.
Yeah, absolutely. I think this also comes into implicit bias when we're thinking about culture and even multicultural families might experience this, and ultimately, anybody, even if you have a share of social identity, you might have been raised in slightly different cultures or very different cultures when it comes to emotions. Right. I think one of the things that struck me the most when we started studying emotions is that we used to think that there is a set of universal emotions that everybody in the world experiences that all humans experience. But those initial studies turned out only to prove that humans can learn emotion concepts so quickly. Like, even at the beginning of a study with researchers, humans who have had no exposure to talking about emotions can learn how to talk about emotions and identify images, pictures like that. So that's helpful information, right, that humans can learn emotion concepts, but sometimes people worry, like, am I teaching the right emotion? But you actually know more about emotions than this baby does. So you can teach what you know about emotions, and this actually serves attachment. This makes a stronger attachment. Because if my baby learns how to communicate to me about how they're feeling, one of the things I'm sure that your community will smile to hear me say this, but I know that you use the word jazzed when you're excited about something. And so I bet Sage uses the word jazzed. Some other families, a child would have no idea what that means. That's okay, because his parents are like, yeah, I feel jazzed, too.
Or like, I feel one of the things that kids are our best mirrors, right? So, one of the things I realized I had been saying to my students was, oh, that's a bummer.
Sage says it now, too.
One of my students one day was like, what's a bummer. I was like, oh, thank you for reflecting that back to me. That that's my culture. That isn't your family culture. And so that word doesn't really mean anything to you. I can define it for you. And now you have a more granular emotional vocabulary, but that piece is really important. And also the way that we express emotion through our bodies, and people misinterpret other people's emotional expression all the time.
Even in our most intimate maybe especially in our most intimate relationships, because all we have is our own experience to interpret what's happening. So we have to be open to I might not understand what's happening right now right. Especially when we're in a classroom of students who have different cultures from us or if we're in a relationship. And if our child is bicultural, that matters. That means our child might communicate differently with one parent than they do with another when it comes to emotions. And that's okay. That's welcome. That's good for our brains to have that kind of granularity.
Totally. And I think it's one of those things where you kind of fine tune, I think, about this with language in general, that we were talking about food the other day, and Sage said, oh, that's a crunchy food. And I was like, oh, I didn't realize he knew crunchy food and that adjective. But we have exposed him to that word apparently enough times. It's like, oh, this is really crunchy. And it's how we'll talk about food a lot of the times, rather than like, can you please take a bite of this? Oh, my gosh. Wow. I just took a bite of this, and it's so crunchy, or this one's really salty, or whatever, just talking about food. And he tends to be then more engaged in it. But he said that word, and it was one of those reminders to me of like, oh, yeah, he knows that word because he's heard that word. And I think with emotions, this comes up. And he had been in a stage a little while ago where he was saying nervous a lot, like, that he was nervous about things. And so I started to pause and be like, is he really nervous? Or is he starting to experience other emotions that he doesn't have language for yet? And so I started to get curious with him sometimes in the moment, but a lot outside of it, where I'd be, like, reading a book, and I would say, like, oh, wow, that person looks really overwhelmed. They just walked into that space, and all those people are there, and there's so much going on, and there's music, and I look at their face and pointing out things I notice in their body language. I'm wondering if they're feeling overwhelmed. And then before we knew it, like, overwhelmed started to come up for him. He left his own birthday party saying he was feeling overwhelmed. For me, I was like, oh, he needs more emotions at this point, right? More emotion concepts need to be introduced. He's hit the top of the vocabulary. He's nailed these vocab words that we've essentially thrown his way. He's like, I don't have the right word for this, but I'm having a feeling, and here's a feeling word that I know. And as we started to expose more to him and another thought, I had a toddler when we were doing the research, actually, I was in a toddler room, and I had said something about her seeming sad or whatever, and she yelled, I'm not sad. I'm mad. And I was like, great. Right? As they're exposed to more and more words and emotion concepts, and also the feelings of it inside and what that feels like for them. They'll start to correct us, and they'll start to be able to say, like, no, this isn't what I'm feeling. I'm feeling this other thing. But we have to introduce them to those concepts in the first place, otherwise there's not a toolbox to pull from there and assume.
I think implicit bias comes in here too, with our own experiences of emotion. Your own kids can experience emotions differently. For some people, anger is really hard, and for others, they can handle anger. It's not a big deal. It's just going to blow over. They just need to express themselves. For some people, sadness is like a deep hole that they need help getting out of. And other people sadness is like, no problem, I'm just going to cry it out and then be able to move on. So I think sometimes we can start to think that somebody else is going to experience things the way we do, which we can make some space for them and actually pay attention to observe, to see. What do they do with that word I just offered them? Even infants, does their body relax in some way? Does their facial expression change? And matching that up with what you know about this in the beginning of the year, that is the most rich time, I guess that's transition again, right? Of like, oh, okay, who's this human? Let's find out what our relationship is as it unfolds.
Yeah, that is such a good point of our experience as parent, as teacher, as a human ever interacting with kids. It's so hard not to project your own experience onto another human in general in life. And we're not supposed to do it perfectly. We're not going to do it perfectly. But the more we draw attention to it, the more you might start to notice some of those patterns of like, oh, yeah, fear is hard for me, but they seem to actually be doing fine with it. They're not spiraling into anxiety in the way that I do. They're okay with it. It's me who's feeling anxious about them feeling scared and worried that they're going to feel anxious. Exactly.
And that is way easier to see from the outside.
Oh, gosh, yeah.
It can be helpful to have a partner in this. And it might not even be your partner. It might be a friend or a colleague or another dear one who you trust. And also just want to mention when we're thinking about implicit bias a lot of people, I think it's good that we're all thinking about this these days. But when it comes to social identity, like color of somebody's skin, even, or their gender or even their religion or their culture, it's important for us to pause and realize if we're not open to allowing somebody to feel what they're feeling, it might be connected to their social identity. And we might even share the social identity with this person. But it historically hasn't been safe for people to feel and express things in every body. And so it doesn't mean we're bad if that happens, but we have to be on the lookout for it. And that's the uncovering implicit bias piece does not mean you're bad, it means you were raised in this society and we're working on it. A lot of people are really diligently working on it, but we should do that in partnership too and with support.
Yeah, I dig that. I dig that. So we have briefly touched on adult child interactions and we can finish up this example in a minute. But then we've talked about implicit bias, we've talked about self awareness, we've talked about scientific knowledge and we have self care, which is so buzzwordy, right? It's so buzzwordy and it can feel luxurious, I think, at times. And for us, when we're looking at self care, we are looking at all the ways that we truly just take care of ourselves, take care of our nervous system. And I was just having a chat with one of my best friends this morning. She's a mom of two and has really gotten into a habit and pattern that I think a lot of us in caregiving can find. Where we come last, we come last. And so now it's at this place where it's like you're just operating from this place of burnout and you're stuck in cycles of reactivity and learning how to say taking care of myself matters for me and for the people around me. Both what I'm modeling to the kids around me about my own value and worth and also my ability to show up with the people around me. And I think for a lot of humans in a caregiving space, this one can feel really uncomfortable.
Absolutely. The state of early childhood education right now really matters where you work, whether self care is promoted or not and whether it's modeled even by administrators. One of my students was talking about she's working full time, she's taking classes full time. She needs to do this. This is what needs to happen in her life. And she's a mom, single mom, so she's like, how am I supposed to do self care? I was like, what does it feel like when you pause and make eye contact with your daughter? And she was like, that feels good. I was like, that is self care. That is a form of self care and it only takes 3 seconds. And you just released good hormones in your body and that's going to help you move through the next moment. Go back to your studies, go back from your break, whatever you need to do right now. Cook dinner. It doesn't have to be fancy. I think that my cousin has four kids and three out of four of them, they all have specific developmental needs and she was just like, what is this self care thing? They keep telling you, how am I supposed to do that with all these other things going on? So I think that's probably the number one message that I try to communicate with my students is like, self care does not need to be fancy. It can be filling your water bottle every morning before you go to work. It can be, well, sometimes it's advocacy in our field right now, I asked an HR professional to come to practicum so that my students could learn what their rights are at work for taking breaks, because sometimes they request a bathroom break and nobody comes.
So it's really hard to access self care in that context. So there are these really small change is not going to happen quickly, right? Systemic change takes a long time. So in the meantime, how are we going to care for ourselves, right? And even in somebody who just had their fourth child, right, that is a special time. And so self care looks different at that time, and there's a transition, right? So when we zoom in, when we go into transitions like that, we should look at our self care practices. Something that worked. Like when we went back from COVID to the centers, I was like, whoa, deep breathing is not going to feel the same as it did before because we're wearing masks now. And that might actually activate your nervous system instead of calm your nervous system to try to take a deep breath with a mask on. So we had to think of other ways to care for ourselves during that time in the classroom.
A couple of things that jump out at me. One, that it's seasonal, right? Like, what self care looks like is different in different seasons. There have been seasons for me where self care meant like, all right, I'm going to put 30 minutes workouts on my calendar. And right now, self care looks like, okay, after Sage goes down, can I get a ten minute stretch in what does that look like? Or I started doing when I go to the bathroom, what's helpful for me is habit stacking, which we talk a little bit about in the book. But taking a habit that you already have, like, for me, going to the bathroom 7 billion times a day, when I do that, I know that's something I don't have to build in that's new that's already happening. What can I stack on top of that habit while I'm in the bathroom? That's going to be nurturing for me. And I was in a habit of being on a call with someone on my team and go and pee, or I'm going to respond to an email or a text or listen to this thing, or I'm on Instagram or whatever while I'm peeing. And I was like, what if I just make it so that whenever I'm going to the bathroom, I don't bring my phone, I'm not on my phone, and I just breathe while I pee. Sometimes it's 30 seconds. Not huge, but I put my hand on my heart and my hand on my belly, and I will just take deep breaths. And a lot of my bathroom trips involve a toddler. Like, he's around, right? And so it's not like a Zen trip to the spa. I'm just taking deep breaths. And he started saying, what are you doing, Mama? And I told him, like, oh, this helps my body feel calm. And he would ask me, like, your body's not calm. And I was like, oh, right now I actually feel calm. And when I pause and I take deep breaths, it helps me feel calm when things feel really out of control for me, it helps me feel calm easier. And that was kind of it for him. He was like, cool, check, whatever. That's enough information. And I just kept doing it. And then recently, he was going through, like, a toilet learning process. He's now in the undies full time, but he would be in the bathroom, and he would have his hand on his chest and his hand on his belly. And Zach was like, what's going on? My husband, and I was like, all right, you don't join me in the bathroom every time I go to the bathroom, but I've been doing this. And then Sage brought it into part of his not every time he goes to the bathroom, but sometimes he would just pop his hand on his chest, his hand on his belly, and he would take deep breaths. And I was like, yeah, I guess he just exposed. This is one of my self care practices, but it's little, but it adds up for me. I think so often with self care, it can feel inaccessible because it feels too big. Like, you need a 30 minutes run. You need to be able to carve out time to be alone. You need to be able to carve out time to connect with this person or that person or go to dinner with a friend or it feels like it's too much that you are expected to do. And when I made that shift for myself of like, what can you do in 30 to 60 seconds at random points throughout the day? That felt way more accessible for me. And then sometimes I even got to do something for five minutes or, like, my ten minute stretch. At the end of the day, that ten minutes is the longest, most concentrated self care time I have. And it's ten minutes, and it's once a day, and that's the season I'm in, right? And that's okay. It won't always be that I only have ten minutes to take care of myself. And right now, that's okay. And so looking at, like, throughout the day, what can I do in 30 seconds, in 60 seconds to nurture myself, filling my water. Boundaries? Boundaries are huge for me for self care. Huge of like whether it's that I can't have you sit on my lap right now, I would love to read a book with you sitting next to me, or that I'm going to put my phone on silent and put it away so that I don't have to talk to anybody else or deal with another thing or whatever. What do boundaries look like for me that allow me to take care of myself and then up pop those parts of me they're like, but you need to help everybody all the time.
Yeah, okay. Notice that voice, right? And just allow yourself to continue to care for yourself anyway. I remember a time so I had a program in my home. So it was me and six kids for 40 hours a week. And I didn't feel good, but I knew I didn't feel sick enough. If I worked at a center, and I knew there was a sub, I would have called out. But knowing that I had six families need to go to work today, and I'm it I was like, okay, I can do it. I can get through. And during nap time, two of the kids didn't fall asleep, and I was like so I was like, you know what? This is a child safe space. I am going to do a little legs up the wall. And I was like, guys. And one of them was my very active goddaughter, and the other was a child who was pretty chill most of the time. And I was like, guys, I am going to do this thing. I'll show you what it looks like. I'm going to lay here. I'm going to put my legs up the wall. And they knew what the timer on my phone was for other purposes. It's like, I'm going to set my timer for four minutes, and I'm not going to move. I'm going to stay here the whole time. You could do it with me if you want, or you could play. It's up to you. You just have to stay in this room. And they were like, okay. They wanted to do it with me. And I was like, okay, great. I was like, okay, guys, whenever you want to go play, you just go play. No problem. I'm going to stay here, but you can go play. They both stayed the whole time until my timer went off, and then everybody was like, we were just feeling good together. I could not believe my two and a half year old goddaughter stayed still for four minutes. I just didn't know that was going to be possible. I love her dearly. We're both movers and shakers, but sometimes we sell the kids short about what they want to do with their nervous system. Sometimes they want what we want and our nervous system wants. Right? And most importantly, they want to be cared for by an adult with a regulated nervous system that feels safe to them. So it's worth testing out some strategies and making sure that the kids can try them, too.
Yeah, I dig that. And I think you're right. They do surprise us. I found in this first trimester when I was sick or tired and, like, solo parenting, and I'd be like, I just need to lay down. That Sage would be down more than I realized to just lay down with me. He wanted to snuggle know we watched extra TV videos. He was like, this is freaking great. I get to watch another episode of Daniel Tiger. This is the dream. And I was feeling guilty. Whatever. And at one point, Zach was like, just curious what you're feeling guilty about. Sage is having a blast. He's living his dream, yeah, but it was like, in that season, I needed to lay more and do a lot more things. Like, we would lay down and read books at bedtime where normally I was sitting up with him and I felt more engaged, and I was like, what can I access right now? I still read this book. I got to be horizontal for it and just yeah, I think realizing that it's not this luxury that we access, but how do I take care of myself throughout the day? Because that truly we can't access regulation if we aren't tapping into self care throughout the day.
And it doesn't mean we don't go back to feeling whatever, totally stress we were feeling after the self care. But that break for the nervous system is so important, and we got to release some good hormones during that time, which is really healthy for our bodies to interrupt a pattern of stress. Sometimes just stressful, as you're saying, seasons of life, and that's okay. Our bodies can withstand that, especially if we pay attention to the moments where we take breaks.
Yeah, I dig that. All right, so we have mentioned now all five, let's circle back to adult child interactions to close out this circle for these tiny humans, where we have a screaming preschooler whose thing has been knocked down yet again from a toddler who is laughing or smiling and has just knocked it down. Walk us through the phases of emotion processing here part of the adult child interactions, and then we'll wrap up.
Okay, so you use the word allow a lot at the beginning of our conversation. So we'll take it right back there because that's the first thing. And sometimes it's one of the hardest things is to just be like, oof, this is really hard for me to just allow you to experience that thing that's really hard for me and seems to be really hard for you. Okay, so allow and that means allow ourselves to feel whatever we're feeling about it. So we can just take care of our nervous systems and then be present with the child. So once we can do that, okay, I see me, I see you. Let's move through this. And I'm going to stay right with you, right? Because you don't know how to do this yet. I might be a learner in Collaborative Emotion Processing or emotion processing for myself. I can be a learner and practice this with them. That's okay to not be an expert when you're learning how to do this, you can learn together. Okay, so now my job is to say, well, right, remember, this child might have their amygdala might be firing off right now. If that's happening, I really need to just help them calm. I'm not going to try to teach them emotion processing yet until they can be crying still. But if they're in distress, not a good time to teach skills. We'll work on just soothing them first, and then once they seem not distressed anymore and we're not distressed, then we can say, okay, I wonder what it is you're feeling. Let's play in this space a little bit since you're experiencing something. Let's see if we can match a word to it. Let's see if we can match a picture to it. If you have emotion pictorial cues like the CEP deck in your space, then you can use that. You can also use books that you read regularly with children and just offering them some symbols. Are you feeling sad? Oh, I see your eyebrows are scrunched. I guess they're sad. Probably doesn't usually happen that way. I see your tears, right? Like, oh, I see your hands are so tight. Are you feeling sad? And it doesn't matter how old they are, you can say that to them, right? They don't need to be able to confirm for you that that's how you're feeling. But you're still asking. So even if they're a baby, right now your nervous systems are talking to each other on purpose. So before they were reacting to each other, now they're communicating and they're really looking for you to be there for them on the other side and offer this symbol. And they might respond back and they might not, but you got it, right? So then if we got there, we got the symbol, now we're ready to just settle into that a little bit. Okay, what does that feel like? And then maybe we think I'll just mention briefly because security happens when the adult provides it first. Like, oh, you're sad, I can be comfortable with that, it's okay, or I might be uncomfortable, but I'm going to stay, I'm here with you. So we provide that security first. Eventually a child is going to demonstrate the security with that. That looks like in a different scenario, maybe they're sad to say goodbye. They hang out at the door to say goodbye and they watch their parent go, they don't really need anything from you, they're just experiencing that very natural feeling. So in this situation, I'm probably going to offer that security for them, say like, oh yeah, sadness, I have felt that before, and give a little validation there as we then the child may or may not need some help from there on. So if they're still, they're just like, I don't know what to do with this. And that looks like nothing's changed. I'm in the same state I was when this happened. Okay, so let's look at some coping strategies. So we all learn coping mechanisms as children in order to keep ourselves safe, but sometimes those don't serve us anymore, and sometimes we can be proactive. We're so lucky that we live now and we have all of this research about coping strategies that really help our nervous systems and help us to actually learn skills and strategies. So that's what we want to teach next, right? So as you were saying before, Alyssa, not one strategy that works for this child is not going to work for that child. If it works for you, it might not work for the child. So you have to build your strategies library so that you can be ready to offer some different things. And once you get to know the children, if you're a teacher at the beginning of the year, you're going to find out quickly what works and what doesn't work for each child. And if you're a parent, you have your family culture to start with.
And in our book we have full coping strategies toolbox. We have a whole bunch of ideas and can also kind of guide you through there of what your child might be seeking, what might help them regulate based off of other things you've noticed or observed. If you know that your kid loves to swing on swings when we're at the playground, or spin around in a chair, et cetera, there are certain activities you can do in the moment that will give them similar input, that helps them calm. So we're looking at what regulating strategies do we have here coping strategies. And these are also things that you might have pulled in, if they're in distress, to help them calm and feel safe. You may have pulled some of these in then, to help them regulate as well. We do a lot in the book of helping you figure out different approaches. Here we have a lot of examples and ways that you can apply them proactively throughout the day and kind of play around with it. How do they experience this? What if I do that? So that then when you're in these moments, you know, oh, here are things that work for them.
And for you, too.
So my go to was always in my this was with my three to five year olds. Would you like a hug? I was surprised how often, even when I was the source of frustration for them, that they wanted a hug from me, but they're getting it's not sometimes we're like, oh, they're so snugly, they're so affectionate, but sometimes they actually really like the feeling of somebody hugging them because they can feel where their body begins and ends. So it probably is also that they love and trust you as well, but they're also getting this other thing. But some kids are going to be like, no, I don't.
Don't take that personally. That's not about you, that's about their system.
It is hard, though. It's hard if there's a sensory mismatch where I love that perceptive input, I love touch, I love a hug when I'm upset. And it's not regulating for Sage. He loves vestibular input or some down regulations, like a sensory break. And so it was like, work for me for a while and still I have to access it's like, oh, no, that's what you want, Alyssa. What he wants is different.
Yeah. That also takes practice, right? Yeah. And the more that you practice, the more you might even think of strategies that you never would have thought of before. Just because you start to see the things in your environment as resources and you'll learn how to use them in different ways and creative ways. We haven't listed every single coping strategy because you're going to invent coping strategies, even that work for your space and your culture. So that piece is a big one and it mirrors our work as adults, too. And then the moving on piece is just so it's a breeze if you did all the other things. Sometimes we just try to skip from allowing or matching up a symbol to moving on. The common phrase is like, I see you feel sad, but now insert adult agenda. I see you feel sad, but in this situation, we might be trying to rush the child along in their feelings for us. It's like, this is really not that big of a deal. Perhaps the blocks got knocked over. We'll just build it again. Let's just build it again. No problem. We'll just build it again. But if we skipped over those other pieces, they're not ready to build it again. They don't feel seen yet. They didn't learn how to process that, but they might need your help in order to process that before they can move on. So at the end, if you did all those other things, maybe it's like, oh, hey, do you want to build that again? Or would you like to ask that child to help you build it? They give them a choice, too, right, about whether or not they want the other child's help?
Yeah. Or the conflict resolution part of if the other child is there to navigate conflict resolution now and be able to turn and support that child next, or if they had continued to spiral, I may have connected with the child whose tower was knocked down and then gone to the other child. And we talk a lot about this in the book of like, who needs your attention in this triage situation? Because sometimes it is that kid whose tower was knocked down, and sometimes it is the kid who is smiling. And laughing. And it is potentially very triggering. And it looks like on purpose and manipulative or defiant and in actuality, it is a nervous system. Dysregulation response to be laughing or smiling in that moment. And they might continue to run around and knock people's things down or hit or kick or whatever. And so then they need your attention first, and we pour into that. In the book of like, who needs you? When do you talk about the behavior and what are different strategies for navigating this conflict resolution, whether it's that they're going to come back together or what to do instead of having that younger kid come over and say, I'm sorry, what else do we do in those moments? We dive into a lot of those specifics in the book, but yeah, that phase five. Moving on, problem solving, conflict res. It is a breeze when they're regulated. And I still find for myself when I'm rushing through and not slowing down and allowing them to go through these five phases of emotion processing that I'll get to the moving on. I'm like, oh my gosh, they're just like losing it again, or they're getting ramped up again. And it's my reminder that, okay, they aren't there yet. We're not at phase five. If it's not a breeze to do phase five, we're not usually ready for phase five.
Yes, thank you for saying that. That was a huge learning curve for me. At the end, sometimes the child will even say they're done, but they're not.
They're like, I want to be done feeling!
Exactly and I want you to go away.
They'll say that all different kinds of ways, but we have a responsibility to stay with them and help them through to the moving on part. And sometimes that is more complex and we need other on the team to help.
It's part of emotion processing. It's a huge part of it, and I think a part that we can sometimes jump over because up until phase five, we're really focusing on that regulation and emotion awareness and learning how to be in and with an emotion without drowning in it, without kind of being in quicksand. And that's a tool. There's a whole skill set there to learn. And then when we're moving into phase five, I see it as really moving more into the social skills part. We talk about social emotional development a lot and the emotional development part is really honed in on those first four. And phase five can often be more focused in that social development part. And you had mentioned at one point when they start to kind of calm and come out of distress and you kind of hit on this, but I want to really acknowledge that just because you stop expressing doesn't mean you stop feeling. That once you get into a more regulated state, you can still be with and experiencing a feeling. And this is what we're helping kids learn how to do, is that they can feel sad and not be overcome by sadness. That you can start to regulate and be able to access more of your tools and talk about what you're experiencing, et cetera, communicate about it and still feel it. We're not trying to make a kid stop feeling. We're helping them learn how to regain control of their body and their brain, to be with that feeling with intention.
Thank you for saying that. Absolutely. I think, yeah, we can really rush over that piece because it's uncomfortable for us, right. We want to get to the end. But sometimes that middle piece, again, I guess that's the transition, right? The transition from big emotion to moving on is really that rich, fertile place. Like hang out there. And sometimes if you're a teacher and you have like, oh, we're supposed to be doing this curriculum today. I was supposed to be doing this activity right now. That thing just got interrupted because of this. You hear those voices, right? But hey, this moment is actually extremely rich for learning. Like this is why we're here. You can get back to that other thing that you were planning. That was cool too. That was important you'll get there and this is important and also just want to just touch on and we have a whole chapter on this. The kids who are regulated in that block scenario, they're listening because they know somebody is upset. Their nervous systems are like, hey, what's going on over there? They are actually learning something. When there's a big moment in the classroom when you're getting in tune with yourself and your nervous system is regulated, you might start to notice there's a hush over the room and the activity level really slows down because the nervous systems are all paying attention to what you're doing and how you are going to respond to those big emotions. So those other children are actually learning as siblings are learning by listening to you be with another child who's experiencing something hard, and they actually learn how to do it with you. They can offer that to each other over time in small ways, and in big ways when they get there.
Yeah, it's so powerful. So we dive into all of this and so much more and really concrete examples for you. We've talked a lot about what the CEP method is, and we talk about not just the what, but the how in the book and help you build strategies for yourself, for your classroom, for your family, for your tiny humans with your tiny humans. And you can snag that at www.seedandsew.org/book or snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions wherever books are sold. We have some fun bonuses for you at Seed if you snag it. Now, preorders are huge for authors, so preorders being before the book publishes, this book publishes on October 10, and that's when it'll be shipped out to you. But if you order before then, what it does is tells different outlets. Like, this is a topic we care about. It tells media we need to learn more about social, emotional development. This is something we care about is raising emotionally intelligent kids. It tells libraries, like, we want this book here. It communicates to everybody that's listening. Like, this topic is important so that our schools can have resources for this. So these topics are more readily available and discussed. And so we have some special bonuses for you over at Seed when you snag the preorder. When you order this book, you can go back to that same page seedandsew.org/book and let us know. Give us your name and email, and we'll send you some fun goodies as a little bonus thing you can access in this moment before the book comes out.
Lauren, I love you. Love doing work with you and getting to play, and am really proud of what we've created and put out there. And this is the most comprehensive guide I've created to raising emotionally intelligent humans it's the most comprehensive guide I've found to raising emotionally intelligent humans in my work, in my research, and I am really grateful to have been able to do this by your side and with you by mine.
Same. Alyssa, a lot of gratitude for your presence and sticktoitiveness!
I know, right? Like, somebody the other day was like, oh, when did you do your research? And I was like, oh, the research ended in 2018. So we've been working on this for a long time, and I think that's something that I feel really proud of, too. Not only did we stick with it, but we really wanted to make sure that it was packed with data and research and wasn't something that was just thrown together to get a book out there and really proud of it and excited for it to get into folks hands. Where can folks learn more about you, find you, connect with you outside of our book?
My consulting is Engage, Feel, Sync ,Connect. My consulting partner is Angela Carolina Garcia and we have a website. I think that's the best way to find us because we have links to our podcast which is called Sacred Reclaiming Intuitive and Teaching and Caregiving Relationships. So you can find our podcast on the website and other information about what we offer and that is feelthinkconnect.com awesome.
And we'll link to all of that. If you are like me and you are like listening while you do dishes and not able to jot things down, we'll link to all of it in our blog post. If you go to Voicesofyourvillage.com, it's all going to be linked there. Thank you, Lauren.
Thank you, Alyssa.
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