Tell us a little bit about you...
My name is Laura and I live in the North West of England. I worked in the NHS as a Speech and Language Therapist for several years before starting up Language Box. I am passionate about all things communication, and when I’m not in my Speech and Language Therapy sessions, you can find me reading a book, drawing or travelling. Being able to explore the world is definitely one of my favourite things to do.
I’m continually inspired by the clients that I’m fortunate enough to work with every day. Many of the children and teenagers I work with often have complex communication needs that have presented barriers to their education, developing friendships with their peers and at times may have had a significant impact on their mental health. Their resilience & determination to continue to develop their speech, language and communication skills never ceases to amaze me!
When you were growing up, what was your family's favourite way to spend time together?
I’m very lucky to have a big family and some of my favourite memories from childhood are of baking with my Grandma and my Aunties and Uncles. Baking is an activity that I’ve always found fun and relaxing, which may be why I still use it as an activity in my Speech Therapy sessions now. It can be something as simple as making iced biscuits and decorating them together, but it provides so many opportunities to spend quality time, whilst developing children’s communication, confidence, and independence skills.
I think it’s likely that I developed my creative side from my Mum, who would happily sit and draw with me at home (usually something Disney related!) I would always look forward to the weekends as that was usually when we would have more time to do craft activities, which we would take out into the garden if the weather allowed. I think it’s very telling that when we think of our favourite memories from childhood, it’s often the simple activities such as drawing, reading or playing in the garden together that stand out as some of the best. Quality time is definitely about the people we spend it with and having quality interaction, rather than the activity itself.
How can we encourage children to talk about how they feel?
This is a question that comes up frequently during my Speech and Language Therapy sessions, and even more so with all of the changes the pandemic has brought about in the last few months. If we think in terms of adults, sometimes we can find it incredibly challenging to talk about our feelings, particularly if we view them as ‘negative’ feelings, such as feeling sad or frustrated. A really important factor is to make sure that we place emphasis on the fact that it is completely normal to feel a whole range of emotions! We often focus on ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ from an early age, but don’t necessarily expand beyond this to more abstract emotions, that can sometimes be difficult to identify and explain, particularly for children.
It’s important that we remember to also label our own feelings, to make sure we create that open line of communication for children, e.g. ‘I felt a little bit worried when...’ this allows for a safe space to talk about feelings, but with no direct pressure applied. I have also found using a ‘worry box’ to be particularly helpful, keeping this somewhere accessible at home so that children can write or draw their worries down as needed.*
What is your top tip for maintaining a healthy family relationship when one caregiver is away from home?
I think creating a ‘happiness jar’ (this doesn’t necessarily need to be a jar, it could be a bag, box or container that you could design together and use pictures on the outside with their family member that is currently away from home) is a really positive idea that is both visual and fun.
For a happiness jar*, if the child mentions that they are missing that family member you can acknowledge how they are feeling, and then suggest writing down a happy thought about the absent family member and putting it into the happiness jar. This could be something exciting that they perhaps wanted to tell this caregiver about that happened at school, or it may be something they can’t wait to do with them when they are back, such as going to the park. This way children feel that their feelings have been validated, that they have been listened to and heard and have something fun and practical to do that can then be kept to show the family member when they are back. Using visual and tangible activities can help to reduce anxiety or worries that the child may have.
Taking photos or videos and creating a digital scrapbook can also be a helpful and fun way to record any special moments that can be shared together at a later date. Maintaining a feeling of connection is key.
*There is more information on how to set this up successfully in the Exploring Feelings resource pack: use code ARABELLA15 for 15% off.
About Language Box...
Language Box is an independent service providing private Speech and Language Therapy to children throughout Liverpool, Wirral and Merseyside. We are a small, dynamic team of Specialist Speech and Language Therapists who work with children and young people with a variety of speech, language and communication difficulties from 2-19 years of age. During the pandemic we have been able to offer our services remotely, which has been amazing as we’ve been able to connect and work with families all over the UK!
We offer assessment, therapy and training and now have a range of speech and language therapy resources on our website. We currently have a 15% discount for Arabella Jones customers on our Exploring Feelings resource pack, as we know how vital it is to support children’s mental health, giving parents quick and easy tools to help them talk about their feelings in a fun and meaningful way. Use code ARABELLA15 for 15% off (expires 31st October 2020).