Here is the full text of Karisma Kidz founder Erika Brodnock’s talk: The Importance of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child at TEDxHackney event conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: The Importance of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by Erika Brodnock at TEDxHackney
Hello! Great. So I am Erika Brodnock and I’m the CEO and founder of a company called Karisma Kidz.
So I started Karisma Kidz, because about five years ago, I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. So I was told by the doctors that I needed to take medication every day for the rest of my life.
And I refused to accept that.
So what that meant was that I went on a journey. And on that journey, I found some amazing easy-to-learn, simple-to-use techniques that enabled me to completely turn my life around.
So I went back and I was certified WELL… and although I’m not sure they got that right.
And I started to have a look at the effects that my illness had had on my own children and how I could teach them the tools and techniques that I’ve learned in the most easy, fun and engaging way.
So I also had a child at that time, she was 5; she’s 10 now. But she was 5 then, and there wasn’t a day that I’d gone to school for the hall of reception all of year one and into year two, that I hadn’t had some sort of complaint about Lexis’ behavior from the teachers and them saying that you know she didn’t have a good day today, and she didn’t have a good day today and she didn’t have a good day today.
And it got to the point where I was like right I’m going to need to do something about this, because otherwise she’s going to end up just like me. And that was the worst possible outcome for her in my eyes.
So I went to the doctors, and after about 12 weeks of badgering them, they said “Okay, we’ll do a referral to CAMHS.”
So I waited and waited and waited and after about six months she had an assessment at CAMHS and back came the results. And they said that she wasn’t bad enough for them to take her on and help her in any way shape or form.
It turns out that children need to be either a danger to themselves, or to other people before any interaction is usually taken or they need to be assessed.
So I started to do some research and I had to look at some figures. And these are just from the Office of National Statistics. And one in four children is experiencing anxiety, stress or depression before they reach in their adult lives, and then one in ten is actually being diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
And I just thought: how can this be, how can it be that we’re looking at how we can do all sorts of other things in the world but we’re not taking care of our children’s mental health?
So I started to look at how many children that actually meant. And there are 4.3 million children below the age of ten in the UK at the moment. So that’s more than a million children experiencing the effects of stress.
And the thing with it is that it’s not discriminatory. So it’s not that you need to be from a certain race, or a certain background, or a certain demographic to have these issues. It affects everyone.
So I started to look at the definition of stress. And according to Richard Lazarus, stress is a perception that someone holds that they’re unable to meet the demands that they face because they don’t have the resources to do that.
And so I started to look at that in more depth and started to think about something that Einstein once said, which was that you cannot solve a problem using the same thinking that created it.
And there’s no such thing as a problem free life, as I said before. So that led me to start looking at the brain and how it works.
So you’ve got the first brain that’s responsible for your breathing and your blood pressure and your temperature, et cetera.
The second brain — the brain’s like an onion and there are layers… three main layers. So as I said the first one is responsible for all of the things that we do instinctually.
Second one is responsible for things like sleep, emotional reactivity and then looking at how we… our appetite et cetera.
And the third brain is responsible for our thinking centers, and that gives us the ability to think creatively and to problem-solve.
The thing with it is that… what happens is, is that if a stress signal, which is just depicted down the bottom there, goes up into our brain, it shuts down the third brain.
So just when we need to be thinking creatively and to be able to solve problems, we’ve actually, by being stressed, shut down the area of the brain that allows us to do that.
So I wanted to start to look at how we could help children to keep that center open so that they were able to think creatively and solve problems as and when they arose.
So this is a saying that we’re often told and it’s to prepare to… to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. So being a smart and sophisticated thinker is what we need to be able to feel less of the effects of stress.
I wanted to know how we could teach that to children at the earliest possible opportunity so that they weren’t… there wasn’t the time for them to grow up in this stress phase that we’re seeing at the moment.
So I started to look for the apple-a-day in terms of emotional intelligence. And the picture over here that says negative to positive, one to three represents 20 years of research conducted by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson that shows that for every negative emotion that we experience, we need to have three positive emotions that will enable us to still grow up in a balanced way and to perform effectively.
So what that means is that we need to be… because the negative… when we’re affected negatively a lot longer than a positive emotion, so you need to counterbalance that as I say with three positive interactions with a child.
The other thing is the power of APPRECIATION. So if we’re teaching children to seek out and to find things that they’re grateful for and to make note of those, what that does is it gives them something else to look for. In fact, it engages the reticular activating system.
Now the reticular activating system is what happens when you buy a red car. And every time that you go out of your house in your car for the next three weeks or so, all you see all over the place is red cars.
And so the same thing happens with GRATITUDE. If you start to look for it and you find it, then automatically up comes another thing and then there you go you’re on a roll.
The other thing is CREATIVITY. So obviously the creative center of our brain is stimulated every time we are being creative. So in order to open up that third center, being creative is a really good way of doing that.
So it’s often touted that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So how… again a question came up: how do we teach children these skills before there’s a problem? Why are we waiting until we’ve got the one in four, until we’ve got the one in ten, until CAMHS is saying that they can’t do anything to help us.
So I teamed up with a group of passionate parents, teachers and psychologists and we partnered with the design and technology industries in order to create what we’re calling the definitive prescription for happiness, confidence, and creativity in children.
And what we’ve created is an online platform that meets children where they’re at, which is unfortunately online most of the time nowadays.
And so in our virtual world Moodville, we’re able to help children to move from areas such as… that was the stress response there, right on my face.
So we’re able to help children to move from areas such as Fear Farm and Angry Alley over to areas like Gratitude Gardens and Love Lane. And what we’ve done is we’ve placed the areas like gratitude and love and joy in the center of our map in Moodville and then we’ve put the areas like sadness, fear, anger, et cetera on the outskirts of town.
So what we’re doing is we’re enabling children to play but we’re also showing them that, where you want to be is in your center. And it’s not a problem to have to go and visit the other areas like anger and fear and sadness and tiredness. But what you need to do is go over there, get the tools that you need in order to come back to your center which is love and gratitude.
And what we’re hoping is that if children learn these skills right from the very beginning, they will grow up into well-rounded adults.
We’ve also got some characters, and here is one of them. And so what I’m going to do is let her speak.
[Female voice: You are perfect just as you are. You are unique and special. A princess is beautiful on the inside and out. I love you very much.]
So what we’re doing is we’re giving children those three positive reinforcements. We’re also allowing parents with this doll to record positive messages onto the doll so that when they’re not around for any reason, work or what have you and that child can listen to their parents’ voice giving them a positive message.
And we’ve also included a couple of stories in here so that they can listen to how our characters find their way around Moodville and from fear and anger into gratitude and love. As well as they’ve got a guided meditation that helps them to find their safe place.
And so the safe place is the place that we can all go to and adults can use this as much as children. And that’s the place that you just love the most and you feel safe and happy there regardless of what’s going on in the external world.
We’ve done some testing with these… with the dolls and with our online world and we’ve got some great feedback. And of more than 600 children that were tested, 90% of them said that they felt the tools and techniques that we were using were helping them to remain calm when they felt stress and upset.
And 98.25% of their parents thought that it was a great intervention and they noticed the difference with their children as well. So that’s been absolutely amazing.
We’ve also won some awards which has been brilliant stuff as well. But there are a couple of characters that I didn’t tell you about before. And they’re the Bloomabears, so half flower, half bear. They bloom when they’re positively impacted, and they wilt when they’re negatively impacted.
So the mission is to enable children to become bloomers, not wilters.
So what I’m asking you guys to do in the audience is if you’re parents, I’d like to ask you to look at the following questions.
And that is: how can I help my child bloom? How can I ensure that my child helps others to bloom?
And whether you’re a parent or not, how can you pollinate positivity in the next generation?
Because what we’re looking to do here is actually start to get children looking at why they feel a certain way, how they’re actually feeling before that, why they feel that way and what they can do to shift to a more positive emotion?
But that starts with you, because if you guys start doing that, then it inspires children to be able to do the same.
So I’ve been Erika Brodnock and you’ve been a very kind audience.
Thank you very much.
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