The huge waiting lists for school counselors and mental health services tell us there is something missing in our children’s education. Their little hearts, hungry for something deeper and more meaningful. Something more emotional and authentic.

Without this connection to their hearts – the essence of who they are – they are more susceptible to mental health issues. Many of them have learned helplessness (they are waiting for permission or for someone to do it for them). Some of them are flooded with feelings or numbed out – they feel unsafe in their bodies. They’ve lost their love of learning as their sense of self is dependent on their latest assessment, grade or achievement. I don’t feel like social media is helping there either.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

If we are going to educate hearts and souls, as well as minds, self development is the way. Self development is the process by which a person’s character or abilities are gradually developed.

It’s sometimes called personal growth and is closely linked to self-awareness. A life laundry that gives an honest review of the areas that need improvement. Through this process, we get to know who we really are, what our true values are, and where we would like to go in life.

People who lack self-awareness

(you might call them ignorant)

tend to want to control everything

Even the things they cannot control. Like other people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. How many times have you seen a teacher or parent pleading with a child to change their behaviour, so that calm and order can be restored to a situation? Typically, these people have high conflict relationships, like drama, lack emotional depth and tend to be critical. Often they are defensive, unable to laugh at themselves, and they don’t take responsibility or apologise.  

Self-awareness requires introspection (a looking inward; specifically, the act or process of self-examination, or inspection of one’s own thoughts and feelings). Those who are defensive and lack the willingness (courage) to go within, do not and cannot introspect. Perhaps it’s too painful for them to delve deeply into their emotional realm, or maybe they are afraid of what they might find there. Most of them, if not all, are in denial about something.

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” ― Lao Tzu

If you don’t know who you are and have not met yourself truly-madly-deeply, then your capacity for happiness and success is limited. Imagine if you had started this process at the age of 8. What would your life look like now? For those people who are avoiding emotional pain or are too afraid to look inside, they might not have gotten to that point, had they been given this magnificent opportunity.

The chance to learn more about themselves and their place in the world. 

That’s why I created Truly Madly Smiley. The focus is on developing children’s sense of self and their emotional intelligence, so they grow up feeling comfortable in their own skin, having positive relationships and living a life that is fulfilling and happy. Kids can introspect as they listen, seeking their own answers and meeting their true selves, one episode at a time.

My wish is that these types of life lessons and life skills can become part of the mainstream curriculum.

Can you imagine a world where everybody is connected to themselves in this way? 

A world with more joy, compassion, empathy and love 

Children need to hear something 4-12 times before it becomes part of them. We know this because we repeat ourselves daily and sometimes shout because it feels as if nobody is taking any noticeTheir ability to hear us is influenced by how the message reaches them. I like to use storytelling, games, creative thinking exercises, guided visualisation, songs, quizzes and other fun ways to weave these very important tools into their world. It’s much more palatable than shouting, nagging or lecturing. 

Here are 15 Smiley life skills that children can have fun learning

I wonder how many of these you wish you’d learned growing up:

1 – – How to think positively (sometimes called a Growth Mindset). This has been an absolute life changer for me. I went from having chronic self-doubt, a brutal inner critic and a dramatic brain that defaults to catastrophise, ‘Oh no the sky is falling on our heads!’ – to feeling calm and relaxed. It took me 15 years to learn it! Yeah we don’t want that for the next generation. And it really, really hurts when your brain needs an off switch. That’s why I created a remote control for your mind.

2 – – How to creatively problem solve. You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it. Read point #1 to see what sort of mind creates problems. You have to learn how to see it from a different perspective. In fact when you learn to think positively, you’ll understand that what you once thought was a problem, really isn’t one at all. And when you get really good at positive thinking, you totally trust yourself to handle anything that comes your way!

3 – – How to make confident decisions. How many times have you procrastinated over a decision, feared making the wrong one and had to ask a million people what they think? They don’t know what is right for you, so that won’t help. The one about the decision doors helps kids tune into their inner wisdom and work out what is right for them.

4 – – How to have strong boundaries. You want to grow up knowing that you’re not here to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm. Do you know what I mean? That little word no that sets you free (and is a complete sentence) is worth its weight in gold. If you don’t know how to listen to your body’s warning signs, say no and keep yourself safe, that’s going to be problematic. Unless of course, you’ve listened to Episode 66 | Courage Chat #9 Keeping Your Body Safe.

5 – – How to practise mindfulness. How many times have you put your car keys in the fridge and your sandwich in the bin without thinking? I used to walk around lost in my own thoughts. When we are mindlessly going about our day, we are disconnected from our true selves and over time, that can make us sick. Listen to Episode 44 – The One with the Sunny Walk + Talk where you can take a stroll along the canal with me and let’s tune in to all your senses and ground your energy back in your body. This is my niece’s favourite one to fall asleep to at night time. We actually walked this route together one rainy school holiday.

6 – – How to be with & regulate emotions. Do you know how to soothe your feelings in healthy ways, or are you a comfort eater? I think nowadays it’s more likely to be screen addiction. I talk to children about the negative consequences of that here. Any kind of addiction is a red flag for being disconnected from ourselves and carrying unprocessed feelings. I’ve coached hundreds of children who appear to be anxious on the surface, but underneath they are carrying big feelings that they pushed away and locked inside.

It helps to work out what you need when you feel upset. I tend to gravitate towards a hot water bottle, blankie and nice Hallmark Mystery Movie. Aurora Teagarden is my fav! When I’m worried, I like to journal and pull oracle cards. It also helped me to work out my stress response and what triggers that. You can work that out here.

7 – – How to introspect. As I’ve already said, but I’ll say it again because it’s super important! This is the skill that sets self-aware and ignorant people apart. If we learn how to go within at a young age, it becomes part of who we are. This popular guided visualisation takes children into the forest. Here, they connect with themselves, feeling relaxed and safe enough to let go. It’s a free one, so give it a try! It’s also great for bedtime anxiety.

Truly Madly Smiley is full of different ways to introspect. Children can choose from the full episode playlist. I invite them to draw or write in their journals. The pen connects their heart and mind to cement those introspections.

8 – – How to love and respect yourself. We all worry about what other people think of us, but what about what you think about you? Would you want to be friends with you? Do you treat yourself with loving kindness and offer yourself compassion when you mess up or life goes a bit wonky? When you look in the mirror, can you meet your gaze and say nice things to yourself? I couldn’t for a long time and what helped me was this series of exercises and a daily practice. Over time, I could smile and say kind things to myself. I stopped criticising and berating myself when I made mistakes.

9 – – How to change your emotional state. First of all you, have to understand more about why your brain doesn’t care whether you are happy or not. Then it helps to be consciously grateful and to spend as much time as possible in nature. As you connect to yourself in the present moment, you trust yourself to feel ALL your feelings (even the not so nice ones), you learn that you’re more resilient than you first thought you were. I mean look how much you’ve already been through and bounced back from.

10 – – How to communicate assertively. How many times have you needed help or didn’t know something but were too afraid to ask? Kids tell me that it’s embarrassing and they feel silly when that happens. Knowing what you need and asking for what you want sound so simple don’t they? The thing is when you’ve been conditioned to listen to what everybody else is telling you to do and nobody ever asks you how you feel or what you think, how could you possibly know? You don’t, but you can remain curious and open to learning.

11 – – How to choose healthy relationships that bring out the best in you. Our quality of life is measured by relationships (love), not by how many things we tick off our to do list each day, or how slim we are, or what our hair colour is. I talk about how to fight fair with friends and siblings because at some point a relationship will be tested by a difference of opinion or misunderstanding.

I also teach healthy conflict resolution because I believe we could totally get rid of reward / punishment charts (they create shame and unhealthy attachments), and focus on repair. The toxic relationships I think children need to be more aware of are frenemies. They are not openly aggressive like your common-or-garden bully. No, they are more sneaky and tell a lot of fibs to manipulate. It’s like drinking the sicky icky soup that seems yummy but is actually poisoning you. After all the unnecessary drama, you’re left confused, upset and alone.

12 – – How to find your calling. Your Zone of Genius is a phrase coined by Gay Hendricks who wrote The Big Leap. I invite the children to find their Zone of Genius not just from a place of passion and purpose, but from a place of effortlessness. As a child, what was that one thing you would do for hours and hours? You were having such a great time, hours would pass and you were totally lost in the moment. Those moments need to be nurtured and developed in children – not seen as frivolous playtime. Life is more fulfilling when we fill it with joy and passion.

13 –  How to set goals (based on feelings). Yeah that’s how I set my goals because it helps me to take the focus off being a human doing and back to a human being. This is who I truly am in my heart and soul. I really enjoy making vision boards with children to help them bring their goals to life. They can see the possibilities and it opens and expands their energy. When they face setbacks, The fear comes in and their energy contracts. Their vision board is there ready to motivate them all over again.

14 – How to find courage when you’re out of your comfort zone. I don’t know about you, but I like my familiar routine, but in life we must go through so many developmental phases, life stages and sometimes, unexpected change. I wasn’t just thinking of the pandemic, but more when a beloved pet dies or when our parents divorce.

I like to teach change using the analogy of standing on a river bank and wanting to get to the other side. We must leave behind everything we know from this bank and start again on the other side. I guide the kids through a fun and easy 10 step process for making a plan of how to get to the other side. The children learn what they will need, who can help them, what they already have inside of them to succeed, and what they can expect to feel as they cross the murky waters of change. The feelings are the trickiest part for me. I like to intellectualise and live in my head. How do you feel about change?

15 – How to see your sensitivity as a super power. This is the trait of all excellent introspectors (I’m not sure that is a word – it is now!). With high levels of empathy, big hearts full of love and a desire to do good in the world, sensitive souls are much needed in this world. Many children (and adults) are teased, shamed and dismissed for their sensitive nature. I want them to learn how to see their sensitivity as a super power, so they can live their best life.

Do you wish you’d learned more of those growing up? Yeah me too. I wish they had taught us this at school. I know that emotionally intelligent people will go far and be the happiest in life. I truly value and understand the importance of developing self-awareness, character and relationships. I had to wait until my late thirties because I had to learn it (without sounding dramatic, it was a matter of life or death).That’s why I’m passionate about teaching children how to navigate this thing we call life on Truly Madly Smiley. 

It’s time to start learning fun + creative self development tools to make growing up easier!

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Self development tools, soulful conversations & life guidance for children whenever they need it!

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