skip to main content
Greyscale headshot of a woman with long hair, looking at the camera. She is wearing a fluffy jumper

Q&A with Lorna MacPhail: Bringing mindfulness to education

Posted 24 August, 2022 by Nina Joynson

Ahead of her webinar, 'Big emotions in the classroom', Lorna MacPhail talks to us about how to better support wellbeing in schools in order to create supportive spaces for both children and teachers.

What do we mean when we talk about ‘big emotions’ in a classroom setting?

It’s important to mention here that all emotions are welcome. They are part of our human experience and provide insight into what is going on for the individual. Everyone responds differently to situations – some individuals could be loud and expressive, while others may be quieter and more withdrawn. It is important for anyone working with children to recognise emotions at both ends of the scale.

The big emotions for me are the ones that sit at either end of the scale. The aim is to support the child to notice their experience and have the strategies to bring themselves back into homeostasis or equilibrium.

Your work often focuses on mindfulness and the emotional and social needs of children. Do you think we’re lacking empathy towards these needs in schools?

I wouldn’t say those who work with children lack in empathy, but we do need to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of trauma and stress on the body, mind and heart.

We also need to equip teachers with confidence to deliver effective strategies to help children find the middle ground. When children are calm and at ease, they focus more easily and can take on and process information. It is extremely important that classroom practitioners are well-trained in good mindfulness practices to implement these strategies effectively.

I do think there can be a lack of empathy between adults. There is so much pressure on everyone at every level of the education system and people feel overwhelmed and exhausted. For me it is about finding ways to be more considerate in our communication and more compassionate towards ourselves.

The pandemic has meant children and teachers have had to radically shift their understanding of the classroom, and in many cases, their approach to teaching a class full of children again. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges?

What I notice the most is children’s ability to focus has worsened during the pandemic. We know one of the factors which impact the ability to focus is stress and children will have absorbed the stress of their family and teachers, perhaps watched the news and of course been aware of everything that has been going on around them for the last few years.

On top of this, the range of needs in a classroom seems to be getting bigger with more children requiring individualised educational programmes. The biggest challenge for teachers is meeting the needs of all children in their class, which then adds to the level of stress they’re already experiencing.

Teachers and children need strategies to support them in managing stress and connecting to calm, now more than ever. There is already great work going on in Scottish schools, however integrating effective strategies of mindfulness and compassion can offer both children and those who work with them the tools to navigate the challenges of modern life more effectively.

Big emotions in the classroom takes place in September. Who is the workshop aimed at? What would you like them to take away from the session?

This workshop is aimed at headteachers, educational leaders, heads of department, primary and secondary teachers and anyone who is connected to educating children.

I will aim to help school leaders and teachers think about how they can integrate an effective whole school mindfulness-based approach to wellbeing. I will address common misconceptions of what mindfulness is and demonstrate simple ways teachers can integrate these strategies in their classroom to help children with focus and concentration. We will also explore how compassionate practices can develop resilience, self-belief and pave the way for communication that empowers all.

Delegates will leave with strategies that they can implement straight away and build confidence in delivering these strategies effectively.

Lorna MacPhail is a wellbeing consultant and embodiment coach. Click here to visit her website

She will be leading the online session 'Big emotions in the classroom: tools to navigate' on Wednesday 14 September. Click here to find out more and book

Black and white headshot of person with short curly light hair. They are mid-speaking and are wearing glasses, suit and a microphone, on a white background.

News: Renowned trauma specialist to lead Children in Scotland webinar

Posted 21 October, 2021 by Catherine Bromley

In a rare UK appearance, leading American neuroscientist Dr Bruce Perry will lead the last session in the More Than My Trauma partnership series.

Children in Scotland is delighted to be hosting Dr Bruce Perry in a two-hour, live webinar, Understanding the Therapeutic Moment: The Power of Being There, on Thursday 28 October, that brings the 2021 online sessions in the More Than My Trauma partnership to a close. Ticket holders for this live event also have access to recordings of the five preceding sessions in the series.

Dr. Perry's presentation will focus on the power and regulating effects of healthy relational interactions on the developing child and the critical importance of therapeutic, educational and enrichment opportunities provided in the broader community, especially the home and school.

Formed in 2018 as a creative partnership between AberlourChildren in ScotlandClackmannanshire CouncilKibbleSeamab and Staf, More Than My Trauma draws together specialist expertise from across the length and breadth of Scotland to build consistent, trauma-responsive services that support young people in real, tangible and practical ways.

The partnership staged an online conference in September 2020 with Dr Bruce Perry, and it’s with great pride that we welcome him back to contribute his unique and inspiring perspective based on decades of research into adverse childhood experiences and childhood trauma.

Responding to the invitation and to his forthcoming Scottish appearance, Dr Perry said:

“I look forward to continuing the conversation with my colleagues in Scotland. We continue to learn from each other and share the progress we are all making in creating practice, programme and policy which understand that relationships are the agents of change.

"It will only be through respectful, reciprocal relationships that we can help transform our systems, and help improve the lives of children and young people who have experienced trauma.

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Perry has been an active teacher, clinician and researcher in children’s mental health and the neurosciences, holding a variety of academic positions. His work on the impact of abuse, neglect and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programmes and policy across the world. Dr. Perry is the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. His most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing (2021), co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, has been on the New York Times 'Bestseller list' for the past 23 weeks.

Ticketholders joining the event on 28 October will have two hours with Dr Perry plus access to the recordings from the five previous sessions in the 2021 series:
Lessons learned from implementing a large-scale, trauma-informed 5-year project, led by Clackmannanshire Council (27 May)
Reflective practice in trauma-informed care, led by Jan Montgomery (24 June)
Play, love and relationships, led by Seamab (29 July)
How our trauma journey has influenced participation, policy and partnership, led by Staf (26 August)
Moving from trauma-informed to creating safe, healing, nurturing environments, led by Aberlour (30 September)

Click here for more information and to book

More Than My Trauma webinar series: Dr Bruce Perry
Thursday, 28 October 2021 | 2-4pm | Online (please note the webinar will not be recorded).

Black and white headshot of a woman with long blonde wavy hair. She is smiling and holding a microphone.

Q&A with Betsy de Thierry: Understanding the impact of shame

Posted 31 August, 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

We spoke to celebrated trauma specialist and author Betsy de Thierry (pictured) ahead of her upcoming webinar focusing on the impact of shame.

Betsy de Thierry is a trained psychotherapist and a qualified primary school teacher who has founded several charities that work directly with troubled families.

She is the Founding Director of the Trauma Recovery Centre (TRC), a charity that supports children and families, and the CEO of BdT Ltd Trauma Training and Consultancy, which supports professionals who work with traumatised children across the UK.

As a trauma specialist, she focusses on helping children, young people and those who work with them to understand how to facilitate trauma recovery and has authored several ‘simple guides’ to understanding trauma, shame and attachment difficulties.

We spoke to Betsy ahead of her upcoming webinar for Children in Scotland about understanding the impact of shame.

How did the ‘Simple Guide...” series of books begin and what were you responding to?

They started because I needed a handbook for the parents’ support groups we were running through the Trauma Recovery Centre. The Simple Guide to Child Trauma was written for them, but more seemed to be needed and it developed from there.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned in your approach to or understanding of shame in children and young people?

Shame can cause the same reaction in us humans as threat and fear and so we need to understand the power of it so that we can help reduce it in every setting. When we speak about it and understand it more, its power is already reduced.

In your book Understanding Shame in Children, you quote Louis Cozolino PhD, who describes shame as a 'visceral experience of being shunned and expelled from social connectedness'. That really drives home the impact of it. How do we begin to bring young people back from that and how do we promote healing from shame?

When we give the feeling a name, we can be less afraid of it and understand our primitive reactions. This enables us to reflect and explore and understand ourselves better. We can facilitate this atmosphere for young people and create communities which are emotionally safe and relationally authentic.

You also talk about building emotional literacy and creative responses in children to help make sense of it all. Can you give an example of how to build shame resistance?

If a child wets themselves, or a young person shouts and calls someone a name and runs out of the room, we can gently create a non-threatening, empathetic and kind environment to chat with the child or young person and enable them to reflect on how they may have felt frightened or threatened and how that caused them to react. Then, we can talk about how the reaction caused shame and how normal that is, but also what they can do instead of experiencing shame when they feel those big feelings instead.

Interview by Catherine Bromley