I am so excited to get this podcast started today! I got the chance to interview a children’s author today and she is so amazing. Besides being an author, Kate has helped families for over 10 years as a play-based mental health practitioner and she uses a method called the 3 Ps combined with emotional regulation. But, I’ll let her explain in this episode.
All About Kate Bartlein
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, what do you do, your life as a mom, etc.
My name is Kate Bartlein. I am a children’s book author and a parent educator and a mother of two boys (ages 6 and 2). We live in Minnesota. My 6 year old is diagnosed with Autism and we are a proud neurodiverse family. We really really embrace his Autism and just view it as one of his many gifts. And kind of lean into his special strengths to help him learn and grow. And then my two year old is a two year old full of big feelings, big attitudes, lots of opinions on things.
I work full time for a local non profit in addition to writing and parent coaching. Right now, I am home with both kiddos and trying to navigate homeschool and working. All of that good stuff.
2. How did you start your business? Where did the idea come from?
After my second child was born, I was home with him and I just had this bubbling of creativity. I jut had this idea for a book, which led to an idea for another book which ironically none of those got published. So I went back to the drawing board and at the time my oldest was around 3-4 years old and it was right around the time we confirmed his diagnosis. One of the things he experiences a lot is that he is just a really sensitive kiddo with a lot of big feelings. He doesn’t just feel happy or sad, he is either ecstatic or devastated. He feels everything really really big.
So, we were doing a lot in the area of emotional regulation and trying to help him learn ways to cope with those big feelings. His special interest at the time was dragons and he was pretending to be a dragon for the majority of the day. So, I started helping him be a dragon and use breathing fire as a way to teach him how to take deep breaths to help bring those big feelings down.
Then, that sparked the idea of making it into a book. That’s kind of where that one came from. I’ve used it with him and other clients as well. My background is in play-based learning for children with Autism and developmental disabilities. So, that is where it started and from there it has just kind of grown because working with families I hear a lot about the difficulties with emotional regulation, how to manage big feelings. So the book actually brought about a different way to help parents and kids manage big feelings.
Emotional Regulation Book
3. Could you tell us a little bit about the book?
The main character, his name is Lennon Bruce, and he is a little boy with a big imagination. He likes to pretend to be a dragon and in the book he kind of runs through some scenarios of things that have happened to him that have made him really mad. He loves pretending to be a dragon and most of the time it is a good thing because dragons are fun and cool. But, when he gets mad he turns into this terrifying, fire breathing dragon and that fire breath and big dragon body does a lot of scary thing when he’s mad. And he feels scared of himself when he gets upset.
So he goes to his mom and asks for help and she says that you’re a dragon you breathe fire and that’s really all you need. So she teaches him a strategy and this is the strategy I use with my little boy. You hold up your hand with five fingers and it teaches him to pretend that his fingers are trees and use his fire breath to blow down the trees. In the book, it helps him and the book ends with him realizing he can control his big feelings and I can use my fire breath to help me calm down.
4. What is the biggest struggle you see with parents that you work with?
It goes back to that emotional regulation piece. I hear a lot from families about their kids having challenging behaviors, really big feelings and we don’t know what to do. Everyone is feeling stressed.
In my non profit work, I work with families who have children with a mental health diagnosis. We are seeing mental health diagnoses on the rise. About 1 in 5 kids will have a mental health diagnosis. It’s all connected, not being able to regulate your emotions really ties into mental health conditions and challenging behaviors.
The 3Ps of Emotional Regulation
5. So, in your business you talk about the 3Ps of emotional regulation. Could you tell us about those?
When I work with parents, give workshops, and talks about supporting emotional regulation in kiddos, you’re gonna use the 3Ps. The 3Ps are patterns, practice, and play.
Patterns look at both that proactive piece like how are you setting up your day to create more peaceful days. Then, the reactive part is how are you responding when they have these big emotions.
Practice looks at emotional regulation likes any skill like handwriting. It’s not a one and done thing. It’s a muscle that needs to be worked on regularly, so it can be strengthened to be used when it is needed.
Play is the work of childhood. Play builds happy chemicals in the brain. It gives kids a safe place to explore those big feelings. Pretend play just naturally includes opportunities to explore that full range of emotions. Parents can use those natural moments to make kids a little more curious about feelings.
6. How can we as parents make sure we are using the 3Ps in our everyday interactions with our little ones?
This is not a specific diagnosis at all. Right now my two year old has all those big feelings of a two year old. He doesn’t have a diagnosis, but we use the 3Ps with him as well.
I think a really great place to start is when you look at that first P-patterns. Is to just be curious about your own patterns as a parent. That is really a great place to start. What I mean by that is this is a stressful time for a lot of people. A lot of people are at home or potentially facing job loss and things are kind of up in the air.
A great way for parents to start this process is to look at how they are managing stress. What are the patterns in their life, what do they do to cope with stressful feelings, because kids are watching. Even if it’s something you are not directly teaching, there’s no shame or judgement but just pay attention. If you are having a stressful day, are you reaching for the Oreos. It’s not about shaming yourself, but it’s kind of about noticing. Then, asking yourself some questions: are these the kinds of coping strategies I hope my child will use in the future or what if I caught my child using this coping strategy right now how would I respond.
Sometimes we think of emotional regulation being limited to childhood and once you’re an adult you’re done. But emotional regulation, managing stress and big feelings, they’re a lifelong process. So I think that’s a great place to start with patterns. Then if you’re feeling up to it you can start slowly by shifting your own emotional patterns and bringing in your own coping strategies.
If you want to go into those second two Ps. First of all practice, pick a strategy-any strategy. When I say strategy, it’s things like taking deep breaths, counting to 10, incorporating yoga, meditation, mindfulness activities-there’s a ton out there. But, just pick one and let your kids see you do it, do it with them kind of build that muscle simultaneously.
Spend time on the floor. There are definitely some activities you can do to work on emotional regulation in a playful way. But, it’s okay to go in without a plan. Just getting down on the floor with them and if you want to bring in some emotions go BIG. For example, when my 2 year old knocks over my tower I start sobbing and let him sit with that awhile. So, he realizes I knocked over mom’s tower and now she’s crying and then I see him try to piece it together of what do I do next.
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7. Where can people find you and buy your book?
Right now you can find me on Instagram @kate.bartlein.