The Window of Tolerance

The Window of Tolerance

 Dan Seigul first named the Window of Tolerance, as the level of arousal in which a person can function to the best of their ability. When an individual is in this zone they are able to process their surroundings and regulate themselves in a positive way. When we are out of our window of tolerance the pre-frontal cortex region of our brain shuts down. Consequently we struggle with our surroundings, we become less rational and we may make impulse decisions and actions. This can lead to an individual to either fight (hyper-arousal), flight (hyper-arousal) or freeze (hypo – arousal).

Now this window is not the same size for everyone and for those young people who have gone through a trauma it is often particularly small. If you have led a relatively settled life your Window of Tolerance is likely to be quite big and flexible. Consequently you can handle more stress  before being pushed out of your comfort zone. However, if we consider a child who has multiple ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences (see infographic below)) it is likely that their experience of the world has caused them to be wary and suspicious. If an individual feels safe and supported they are likely to manage their stress effectively. However, if they usually feel unsafe or abandoned their window of tolerance is likely to be smaller and inflexible. For these young people even a small amount of stress can cause an extreme reaction.

So how might this look in a child? For those of us who work with children we have all experienced a situation where a child has been asked to do a simple task and they react in one of the three ways described above (fight, flight or freeze). A good example is public speaking. If a child has a small window of tolerance being asked to stand up in front of their class and speak could push them out of their window of tolerance causing them to freeze. Alternatively they might choose to fight and argue with the teacher about being asked to speak publicly. 

This can have huge consequences for a young persons mental health. A child who is unable to cope with additional stress is likely to struggle to build meaningful relationships with peers and adults. A playground tiff suddenly becomes a serious incident which could be met with violence. This child would be aware that they are different and struggle to regulate their emotions this could cause low self esteem which would go on to affect every area of their lives. Individuals may even go on to develop depression or anxiety.

The good new is this is not permanent and with the right support young people can be taught techniques to regulate themselves more effectively. Mindfulness techniques can help an individual learn how to anchor themselves in the here and now and teach their body how to be calm. Additionally, protective behavior techniques such as identifying indicators of danger and stress can enable a young person to better label their emotions and assess their situation. Therapy can also be a platform for an individual to explore the trauma they might have been through in a safe and accepting environment. Such support can be accessed from early help services and the adults in the young peoples life.

If someone is used to feeling unsafe or unsupported it is no wonder that their behaviour may be extreme or aggressive. As adults we must guide and reassure these young people so that they might better manage their emotions and therefore have more positive future outcomes.

COMING UP: Reading conference on Families’ Emotional Health & Well Being

COMING UP: Reading conference on Families’ Emotional Health & Well Being

Mental Health Starts in the Womb Conference
Laying the Foundations for Family Emotional Health and Well being
Conference in Reading, Berkshire,
Thursday 9th November 2017
The Pavilion, 143-145 Oxford Rd, Reading, RG1 7UY

Come to this insightful conference day followed by workshops focusing on how we can all work together to improve emotional well being for every family from the beginnings of pregnancy.

Why Mental Health Starts in The Womb conference?
We aim to raise the awareness of professionals working with parents and parents themselves of the importance of foetal development in the 9 months of pregnancy and infant development in the first few years of life. We want to promote family friendly policies and practice around pregnancy, birth and first two years of life for the well being of all.

What is the plan of the conference?
The conference will have two parts.

In the morning we will hear international and UK experts speaking on the themes of the conference: emotional wellbeing for parents, carers, babies and infants in pregnancy and first two years of life. We will have evidence from top academics in their field and we will look at what is already happening nationally and what tools and services are available.

In the afternoon we will have workshops for parents and people working with families in the field of pregnancy, birth preparation and early parenting, as well as for third sector, statutory services and local authority representatives.

What is the purpose of the workshops in the afternoon?
We will be exploring how we can all work together to improve emotional wellbeing for every family from the beginnings of pregnancy. The aim of the workshops is to look at how to map the services and gaps and work collaboratively in your local area.

Who is this conference for?
The conference is open to everyone interested in parenting as well as foetal and infant development. We welcome GPs, healthcare professionals, parents and expectant parents, third sector, statutory services and local authority representatives, and everyone working with families and in the field of pregnancy, birth preparation and early parenting.

Behaviour, Consequences and Discipline

Behaviour, Consequences and Discipline

Children’s behaviour…  as parents and carers we all know how this impacts on our lives.

We also know about the consequences of a person’s actions. Many of us think we have a fair grasp of discipline but what does discipline actually mean to you? There are many different definitions but for me the most important aspect of discipline is that discipline goes hand in hand with learning, (just as the disciples in biblical times learned from Jesus.)

I have a question for you… how often, when a child has behaved inappropriately, does the exchange that follows actually take that opportunity to help them to learn. How often does it help the child to question their own behaviour and lay the paths for a more appropriate action next time? I’m not talking about the old fashioned, often harsh, kind of teaching and learning as represented by phrases such as: ‘That’ll teach them’ or ‘He’ll soon learn’. I’m talking about discipline that helps a child to see the consequences of their action, their impact on others and ways that this action may be avoided or amended for a more positive outcome in the future. If we imagine ourselves alongside our child, guiding them and supporting them then our response to their behaviour will be just that. It will be guiding and supporting.

Yes, we do need to be firm and consistent. There are certainly times when ‘no’ has to mean ‘no’ and it is important that children understand, especially where safety is concerned. However, there are also times when it works better to be a little less authoritarian and hold back from being judgemental. We can work with the child to help them reflect on their behaviour and to agree an appropriate consequence.

Wherever possible consequences should be matched to the misdemeanour, after all that’s the way it works in real life; If you break something it is down to you to repair it. If you lose something it is your responsibility to replace it, or to go without, if you make a mess you have to clear it up. On the other hand, if you work hard at something the result can make you and others feel proud and usually leads to positive outcomes. As our children mature, with our help, they learn about these consequences and therefore learn to think a little more and take a little more care before they act. These things may seem like a tall order if your child is still quite young but with caring respectful discipline, over time, this really can happen.

One thing we need to be sure of, especially if we have younger children, is that we are not expecting our child to do something that they are not yet ready for. Just because the other children in the toddler group can pour blackcurrant juice without spilling or most of the children in their class can make a beautiful, home-made card without sticking it to their clothes does not necessarily mean that your child is being disobedient if these things do not fall naturally into their skill set. We need to help youngsters by building in success and praising them when they make steps towards these challenging tasks, however small. We need to avoid the temptation to compare them with others and focus in on celebrating what our child is good at. We most certainly must avoid humiliating them in front of others. All this will help them build greater confidence and self-esteem which in turn will result in their needing to behave in ways that demand our negative attention less frequently.

For happier times together we need to think of:

Realistic…Choose which BEHAVIOURS are important for us to address.

Results…Be sure the CONSEQUENCES are appropriate and linked to the actions.

Respect… In DISCIPLINE, know that every encounter with our child shows respect and is an opportunity to learn, for them and for us!


Ali McClure

Ali McClure is an experienced Parenting and Education Consultant and mother of three children. Her inspirational training works equally well for boys and girls, however her ‘go-to’  book ‘Making it Better for Boys’ has been widely acclaimed by parents, teachers and early years practitioners. She offers training days and consultancy for schools and children’s settings and one to one parent coaching.

Join us for Ali’s lively yet thought-provoking parent talk BEHAVIOUR, CONSEQUENCES AND DISCIPLINE at RALEIGH SCHOOL on 18th October 2017 .

 Ali’s work inspires and empowers those who care about children, emphasising enjoyment and positive relationships for their learning and future.  

Are we missing dads from the mental health conversation?

Are we missing dads from the mental health conversation?

There has been an increasing emergence lately of social enterprises and charities campaigning for men to speak up and ask for help with mental health issues and for good reason: suicide is the biggest killer of young men.

This positive growing awareness brings up another contested issue – are we giving fathers enough support?  From reading WAVE Trust’s Conception to age 2 report we know these stages are crucial years for a child’s development. This is a profound period in which we can shape children’s lives and ultimately the world around them.

We also know that pregnancy is a particularly important period for the well-being of mother and baby. Maternal stress, diet and drug misuse can have a lifelong impact on any child. Carefully looking after them is all too important. So – what effect can dad’s mental health have on this crucial period?

A report from Learning lessons from serious case reviews shows one of the biggest problems with the mishandling of significant child maltreatment cases was marginalising the role of the father and missing the parents’ own needs. By failing to include men in the conversation around prevention and well-being, we are putting children at a higher risk of experiencing abuse or neglect.

Unfortunately, men often face the stigma of being labelled (or labelling themselves) ‘weak’ when discussing poor mental health. This is despite dads having to face the pressure and rapid change of bringing a new baby into the world, and often being an emotional buffer for mum too.

One father blogger, who experience the effects of post-natal depression, writes in his blog:

‘I had come back from hospital with no real help, they didn’t want to admit I had male PND, if they admitted it they would have to admit it existed in men and would have to then treat men as well as women’.

Promoting early screening and preventive support for both parents, the 70/30 campaign hopes to see more children, and families, given the opportunity to have a healthier start to life.

How many of us are aware that dads can experience post-natal depression too? Take 5 minutes today to read through the signs here and ask a another father/male in your life how they are feeling today; let us know your thoughts and experiences by following us on @7030campaign with the hashtag #7030dads.