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How to help your child manage their mood

A ‘mood’ is another word for our emotional state. These moods change over the course of the day and are affected both by external events and by what is going on in our head (internal events), our thoughts and feelings. Most people allow their state to determine their behaviour but by understanding the process and the structure, we can learn how to take charge and manage our moods.

“Change your physiology and you change your emotion. When I smile and you smile in return, that smile passes on happiness to you.

How well you learn depends on the state you are in. How well you perform depends on what state you are in.

Whatever task you have to perform, whatever you want to learn, whatever outcome you want, ask yourself: ‘What state do I want to be in to make this easy?’” Joseph O’Connor NLP Workbook

As parents we need to lead by example because our children are constantly watching us, learning from us and as you know, they will copy what we do, not necessarily what we say!

“Leading starts with the ability to lead ourselves. To do this we need first and foremost to be able to manage our emotional state. If we feel irritation, guilt, anger, frustration, doubt or self-consciousness, the result will be less than we are capable of and is unlikely to be a win/win. In contrast, feelings of ease, confidence, forgiveness, acceptance, inspiration and amusement are states that are much more likely to lead to us giving of our best, whatever the context.” Sue Knight NLP at Work

“You have to realize that you can create any state you want whenever you want,. You can learn to look at the same piece of personal history in a different way..because the truth is that it’s not your personal history that makes you who you are, it’s your response to it.” Richard Bandler

“Emotions make excellent servants, but tyrannical masters.” John Seymour -Introducing NLP

“If you begin to look at things as if they’re difficult, they will be; if you begin to study what makes things impossible you’ll find out.” Richard Bandler

Managing your state is important for many reasons. At work we cannot function effectively if we are at the mercy of unpredictable mood swings; our colleagues wouldn’t know how to respond to us and we’d be unable to cope with pressure. It could certainly be a barrier to advancement. There are also serious mental and physical health consequences when we allow our emotional state to govern us. High blood pressure, risks of heart attacks, digestion problems and headaches as well as depression and anxiety can also result from the pressure of not being in control of our emotional state. Lastly, healthy relationships rely on the ability to control our emotional state so we can communicate well and express our feelings.

The NLP Communication model helps us to understand how our emotional state can be affected by external events. An external event is something that happens. This can be something you see, hear or experience. We process these differently depending on our map of the world which is based on our memories, beliefs and values.

Our map is unique to us which explains why the same external event may stimulate different emotional states in other people. We then filter the event by making our own internal representation of it. We select what we take from it, omitting some parts of the event, generalising other parts and distorting some parts of it until we have our own version of it. Now we have a state and it may not be one that is resourceful. A resourceful state is one that enables you to do what you have to do and do it well. An unresourceful state is the opposite and prevents you from being effective.

Here is an example: Jack has just been asked to explain his new product idea at a team meeting. Last time he did something like that, his manager found fault with it and he felt embarrassed and stupid. This reminded him of how he used to feel at school when he got an answer wrong in class. So in his panic, his internal representation became distorted such that he thought everything he came up with was stupid and he felt like a little boy again. His head went down and he felt a bit sick so much so that he had to leave the room and he then felt even worse and even more stupid. Can you see how Jack worked through the NLP model from external event to behaviour?

The other interesting thing about states is that they can be contagious. People are attracted to other people in whose company they enjoy a resourceful state.

Use this knowledge to gain rapport and instantly make friends and influence people.

If you’re with someone, maybe your child or teen, who is unhappy and you want to cheer them up you can match their body language initially and match their language patterns. Sigh when they sigh and look upset when they do. Match their body posture and how they hold their head. Use similar words and you will soon find it easy to empathise with them. Then gradually mismatch, this is called pacing to lead. You have been pacing them but now start to change the body language a bit. Make it gradual. Start by encouraging them to look up, maybe notice something in the sky or in a tree. Looking up automatically raises the spirits. If the pace of their voice has been quite slow, speed it up a little. If it’s been in a low tone, slightly raise it. If you have both been very static, shift position. Be careful not to do everything at the same time though as you need to stay in rapport.

Add a little energy and move the focus on towards and positive language so that instead of focusing on what they don’t have (happiness) you notice what they do have. In no time their spirits will have been lifted through the mind and body connection. You will have changed their state through pacing and leading.

Now let’s PLAY! How would you like to have a play with your state? In NLP we consider the mind and the body to be one. They directly influence each other and if you play a sport you will be very aware of this. Exercise is the best way to improve your mood as you change almost every part of your physiology and by focusing on the exercise and the external, you take your mind off the internal thoughts and feelings.

So let’s start with making a few changes to the outside and notice what that does inside. A quick and easy way of doing that is to write alongside each one a score of 1-10 for your happiness level.

  1. Smile

  2. Look up

  3. Laugh

  4. Frown

  5. Look down

  6. Sigh

  7. Stand up

  8. Jog on the spot

Now for the inside and again make a note alongside of how each changes the happiness level. Also notice though how your physiology also changes.

  1. Think about something sad

  2. Think about a happy moment

  3. Think about when you did a great piece of work that you felt proud of

  4. Think about when you were a child

  5. Recall a sporty success

Have you discovered that by changing one you change the other? So now you know how to manage your state. You are responsible for your own state. Do not blame other people for how you choose to feel. It really is up to you. Some people use drugs and alcohol to change their state, or they buy themselves new things, phone friends hoping they will cheer them up but when you know how to change your own state you are in control. So how do we know what state we are in? We need to know our baseline state as a benchmark so we can learn to recognise when we are in a different state. Our baseline state is long established and it’s the state we are in when we are relaxed and comfortable with ourselves.

Let’s calibrate it so we know how to recognise it and from there we can learn to recognise other states that we may want to work on.

Do this now by becoming aware of your state. Check in with yourself for a moment and it may help to close your eyes. Let’s work from the outside in. If you had a mirror to hand or could see yourself, how do you look? How is your body posture? Notice everything from your toes to the top of your head and make sure that you are comfortable (not lounging about, just resting nicely in a calm state). On a scale from 1-10, how tense is your body and is this the same in every part of your body? How high is your energy level? Now go inside and become aware of how you feel right now. What adjectives would you use to describe how you’re feeling? What skills are you conscious of right now? On a scale of 1-10, how happy do you feel in yourself? Do you have anything on your mind?

Take a mental snapshot of how you are now and file this as your baseline state. When your child or teen and indeed you yourself, can calibrate their state, know their best learning state and be able to shift into it with ease, know their best state for socialising or performing in sport, they can calibrate, shift and take ownership of their state to choose their best state for whatever they are doing. There is so much you and your child or teen cannot control but their state is something they can control with practice.

If you'd like to learn more about this and other practical ways to help your child, buy my book 'Empower your kids! A coaching guide for parents' or 'Understanding children and teens - a practical guide for parents, teachers and coaches'. You can buy them from my bookshop, Amazon, The Book Depository or send me an enquiry form with your postal address so i can calculate postage and I'll send you my bank details or paypal address so you can get a signed copy and a free workbook as a special thank you from me.

Managing moods or states starts with taking responsibility for your own and recognising that it isn’t up to other people to make you happy or to make you feel good about yourself. They also can’t make you angry or sad. By changing your inner dialogue , your internal representation of the external event and by changing your response through changing your physical behaviour you can through a series of checks and balances and with your baseline state in mind, create for yourself the most resourceful state for you at that moment.

This extract was adapted from another of my books which covers more general NLP tips on work, health, sport, relationship and also family.


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