Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Should we hide our emotions from children?

Claire Burgess, Head of Research, Consultancy & Training
Twitter: @belles28

We all experience a range of emotions each and everyday.  Some can be quite overwhelming, whilst others influence how we approach the people or the environment around us. But what are emotions?  The Oxford Dictionary (2016) defines them as “a strong feeling derived from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others” and “instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge”.

Being instinctive, emotions are present from birth through to death, we cannot stop ourselves from feeling or experiencing emotions as they are part of our makeup, they are part of being a human being. So why, as adults, do we sometimes feel the need to hide our emotions, particularly from children? As children develop and grow they will start to experience different emotions when faced with different circumstances, they need to learn how to recognise and manage these new feelings to help them to manage their reactions to them and to others.

Recently I was delivering a training session to a group of Australian students on the importance of communication skills when working with children and families. We began by looking at non-verbal communication and our body language.  I asked why this was an important part of communication and one of the delegates responded by saying “it helps us show our emotions”.  This led us on to a discussion around why this is something that children need from the adults around them. We recognised that we needed to demonstrate emotion so that children were able to learn to recognise different emotions. However, when I asked the group whether we should let children see us when we are feeling sad or if we should let them see us cry, this was met with a resounding “no, absolutely not”! When asked why, the group were in agreement that crying was a sign of weakness and that we would not want children, or anyone, to see this because as practitioners and parents we are there to support and reassure them and not make them feel unnerved or upset by how we are feeling.

I felt these were strong statements which I could not let pass without challenging them. Why is it not ok for children to see negative as well as positive emotions from adults? How will children learn how to manage their emotions when the adults around them view portrayals of negative emotions as a sign of weakness? If children are constantly met with adults who are happy and positive at all times, do we leave children open to feeling vulnerable and abnormal when they feel anything but?

I am not saying we should share and display to children all emotions we are feeling and reasons behind these, particularly in times of real crisis or when topics being dealt with that are too complex for a young child to understand.  However, we know all too well that even our newborns are attuned to adults’ emotions from birth, in fact even within the womb. As much as adults like to think that they can hide certain emotions from children I question, can we really? “Psychologists say that there are 412 separate emotions which humans can feel, each of which we express on our faces.” (Morgan 2013:34).  Children might not know what is wrong but surely they are able to use those instinctive skills to recognise when those key adults around them are experiencing something that has changed how they are behaving or that they are ‘just not themselves’.  If they are able to instinctively pick up on a change within the adult, by not showing and talking through the negative emotions is this going to unsettle and worry our children even more? 

We all know that feeling of walking into the office or someone’s home and sensing an ‘atmosphere’.  It makes you question what has happened prior to your arrival and you either want to make a quick exit or you change your behaviour and approach. You may find yourself talking to fill the silence or trying to make people laugh as you want to find ways of making the situation more comfortable and support those around you, even if you don’t know what has triggered an emotional response. 

When we try to hide our emotions from children I think that we can see this compensative behaviour in them.  When we are under stress or upset, through emotional contagion they can sense this, they may for example become louder and sillier or quiet and feel a need to be closer to us.  By not acknowledging our feelings with the child, that they are already acutely aware of, is this leading to them feeling worried, upset or anxious but with no true understanding of why or how to handle the situation or their own emotions? Also are they learning that when they feel like this, the best way to handle this is to clam up and try and hide their true feelings? If this is the case, could this lead to emotional inhibitions later on in life?

It has been well documented (Wilkins and Kemple 2011, Devon 2016) that there are increasing number of men who are feeling that they are unable to show their true emotions and feelings for fear of showing ‘weakness’. This is leading to anxiety, depression and, in the worst case, suicide.  Is it because we are all trying to maintain that true ‘stiff upper lip’, showing that we can cope with anything that life has to throw at us?  Phrases such as ‘man up’ are used in the context that by showing negative emotions one is weak and suggests that individuals need to put those emotions to one side and show the world what it wants to see. But even with a ‘stiff upper lip’ this doesn’t stop us feeling the emotion, just potentially inhibits our ability to deal with and overcome these feelings with the support of others. Why is it not socially acceptable to show that sometimes we need someone to talk to or that we are not coping in a certain situation? It is human to feel vulnerable at times and perfectly acceptable for us to want someone to show us compassion or empathy.  How will our children learn to be empathetic or compassionate if they only ever see people who are happy and who hide negative emotions?

A couple of months ago I fell over and yes, I cried (as much as I tried not to). Apart from the huge amount of embarrassment I experienced, it hurt! The people around me offered support in making sure that I was ok, asking “where did it hurt?”, what could they do to help and comforting me physically with a hug.  This got to me to thinking about children; falling over is an emotional experience, whatever age you are, it causes physical pain, embarrassment and shock. When we tell children to “jump up”, “it’s ok”, “it didn’t hurt” – are we sure?  How can we judge if something hurt or not, be it physically or emotionally, when we have not directly experienced it?   This then takes me back to the question, can we teach emotion or is this something that we need to feel, hear and experience first hand to gain a full understanding? Often we cannot control what emotions we feel in a given situation and having someone tell you that an emotional reaction you are having is inappropriate may make you less willing to display these emotions to that person again, but will not stop you feeling that way. As the Oxford Dictionary defines emotions as “a strong feeling derived from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others” one’s reaction to your emotions may well contribute to more negative emotions that you are then even more reluctant to show. 

Denham (2007:3) states “children’s emotional competence supports their growing social competence, and vice versa.” We should be showing children compassion and empathy when they are feeling emotional, for whatever reason. Valuing these as emotions that they are allowed to not only have, but also display, can help them learn that an emotional response to a situation is not a ‘weakness’ but more just a signal that they too are simply human. This could aid their emotional development but also emotional intelligence (Rose, Gilbert and Richards 2016), a life skill which can benefit us as humans in our careers and in social situations.

Not only should we not be afraid to show children our negative emotions, but we should value it when they display signs of feeling vulnerable or upset. I have witnessed many times when we want children to display certain behaviours, we say that they are a ”big boy or girl” when we don’t expect them to cry when mummy or daddy leaves them at nursery or school that day.  There are times when I hate to say goodbye after a lovely weekend with family and I have to return home or go back to work, those emotions are there and we feel them regardless of how old we are.  Emotions are no more or no less significant depending on our age and we all as humans have a right to display these emotions and have those closest to us support us at those times of vulnerability. This helps us to support each other, develop emotionally and grow emotionally closer to our loved ones.

So, when asked should we hide our emotions from children? I say no! We should be willing to share and discuss when feeling any one of the 412 emotions (Morgan 2013) that come with being human. This will enable them to learn that this is normal but also develop the understanding and compassion to be emotionally intelligent adults.

This article was first published in Early Years Educator. Click here to subscribe.

For more information about Norland's Research, Consultancy and Training department, visit our website


Denham, S.A., 2007. Dealing with feelings: How children negotiate the worlds of emotions and social relationships.  Romanian Association for Cognitive Science., [Online]. Volume XI, No. 1 (March),, 1 - 48. Available at:  [Accessed 4 August 2016].

Devon, N. (2016) The male mental health crisis is real – so why is it still being ignored? [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 4th August 2016]

Morgan, N, 2013. Blame my brain The amazing teenage brain revealed. 2nd ed. London: Walker Books Ltd.

Oxford Dictionaries. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 9 August 2016].

Rose, J., Gilbert, L., and Richards, V. (2016) Health and Well-being in the Early Childhood. London: Sage.

Wilkins, D. and Kemple, M. (2011) Delivering Male, effective practice in male mental health  [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 4th August 2016]

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Etihad Airways and Norland celebrate the graduation of the 2,000th Flying Nanny

Etihad Airways has celebrated the graduation of its 2000th Flying Nanny, continuing its relationship with Norland, the respected UK-based higher education college which specialises in ‘early years’ education.

This Norland approved training ensures that Etihad Airways’ highly trained cabin crew members who transfer to become Flying Nannies, can combine their service and hospitality expertise with an appreciation of the childcare skills required to ensure outstanding service and inflight care for the airline’s younger guests.

The bespoke training programme, devised by Norland specifically for the Etihad Airways Training Academy, provides cabin crew with the skills to support families on longhaul flights.

Linda Celestino, Etihad Airways' Vice President Guest Experience, said: “Flying with a young family can be daunting, even for our most experienced guests, and the Flying Nanny role demonstrates our understanding of their needs and our unwavering commitment to making the journey as relaxing, entertaining and comfortable as possible - for both parent and child.”

Claire Burgess, Head of Research, Consultancy and Training at Norland (left), Etihad Airways’ 2000th Flying Nanny, Isabel Moya Guzman (centre) and Linda Celestino, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Guest Experience (right)

Flying Nannies were introduced by Etihad Airways in September 2013, and are onboard to provide an extra pair of hands and to allow parents more personal time while they entertain the children.

Claire Burgess, Head of Research, Consultancy and Training at Norland, who has been delivering the training at Etihad Airways’ headquarters since the Flying Nanny initiative began, commented: “This milestone reflects how successful the Flying Nanny programme has been for Etihad Airways, and it proves that Norland’s expertise continues to make a positive impact on the passenger experience.”

In September 2016, the airline introduced a new Flying Nanny Kit as part of a new range of ‘Etihad Explorers’ children’s activity packs, to keep its younger guests occupied while onboard. The kit promotes greater interaction between nanny and child and contains an extensive range of fun items including Origami, games, pom-poms, flight certificates, tools for magic tricks and face-painting, and a ‘Flying Nanny stamp of approval’ which the nanny can use to reward children during their in-flight activities.

For more information about Norland's Research, Consultancy and Training department, visit our website

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A job that can change the world

Mandy Donaldson, Vice Principal, Head of Academic Services and Registrar

It’s a bold thing to say, but something I firmly believe in: “When you work with babies and young children, you can change the world!”
The early years of a child’s life are so important. They are not just a time when the child is being prepared to learn – they are learning at a faster rate in the early years than at any other time in their lives. In fact, they are learning sponges, soaking up new experiences through their senses and processing it all in order to make sense of it. Their brains are already sophisticated learning machines and the experiences they have within those first few years actually make a difference to the way their brains work. As Conkbayir (2017) informs us, babies’ brains are shaped by their early experiences and they need lots of emotional, social and cognitive stimulation to ensure healthy growth. In fact, there is a strong link between emotions and brain development and, when the needs of babies and young children are met positively and sensitively, by adults who are attuned to their needs and wants, the conditions for healthy brain development are created. Every positive response and interaction creates a pathway in the brain that sets a blueprint for how that child will manage their emotions in the future; a loving, responsive and nurturing environment can have a life-long impact on personal, social and emotional wellbeing, underpinning the conditions needed for learning.
As a nanny, you are in a prime position to really make a differ
A degree from Norland is a degree with a difference
ence to the lives of the babies and children you work with. This is the time when children are learning about themselves, their families, their world and their place in it. Nature and Nurture combine most potently in the early years, as genetic factors combine with the people, places and communities supporting them to grow, learn and live, to shape the developing brain. During these critical years, the foundation is being laid for a child’s learning, as well as physical and mental health; will he be confident or unconfident? Will she know that she is loved and therefore have good self-esteem, or will she feel unworthy and unimportant? Will he feel accepted and valued or feel unwanted and insignificant? Will she feel that she belongs or be lonely? Will he learn to eat well and be fit and healthy, or will bad habits be instilled from the very beginning? The answers to these questions will define the life of that child and it is the responsibility of all those involved with children to ensure that their physical and emotional needs are met, so that they become confident, articulate, healthy people with high levels of self-esteem, resilience and self-regulation. We can’t teach children everything they need to know for the future, but we can give them the skills and strength to ensure that they can adapt, learn, take risks, bounce back from failure and have a positive outlook on life.
If we get the early years right, we can change the world! We can minimise poverty, delinquency, poor health, poor achievement and the welfare state. We can create a world where there is respect, tolerance, forgiveness, friendship and love. So what do we have to do to get it right? We all have to do our bit. We have to recognise that children have an emotional bank account and that positive experiences are the deposits and negative experiences are the withdrawals. When you are a nanny, this means supporting your charges’ development and learning in an environment of love and acceptance. Be a role model for positivity and make sure that the emotional bank account of your charges is always in the positive.

Given the importance of the early years, it’s ironic that the work of nannies and other early years practitioners is so undervalued, when it is, perhaps, the most important and wonderful job of all. In what other job do you get to change the world? What I mean by that is that a nanny is employed to care for, nurture, support and love a child. He or she will become part of that child’s life and will therefore influence who that child becomes. Yes, it’s a hard job – both physically and emotionally. Your arms and your heart will ache. But it is also the most rewarding and interesting job on the planet! Training to be a Norland nanny takes those rewards to another level. Our students work very hard but they leave us as highly qualified graduates, with the skills and knowledge needed to be the very best practitioners that they can be. Not only that, but we take all our students into our family. Norland College is not a place where we wave goodbye to you at the end of your course. We support you throughout your career as an early years specialist. We can place in your jobs all over the world and we are always at the end of a phone to support you through challenging times. 

Once a Norlander, always a Norlander!

Visit our website for information about applying to Norland College.


Conkbayir, M. (2017) Early Childhood and Neuroscience, Theory, Research and Implications for Practice. London; Bloomsbury

Friday, 17 March 2017

Norland Choir returns to the Mid-Somerset Festival

On Saturday 25th March the Norland choir will be returning for the second consecutive year to perform at the prestigious Guildhall, Bath as part of the Mid-Somerset Festival. This marks the fourth choir performance of the 2016-17 academic year.
Norland Choir performing at Set 37's graduation ceremony
in November 2016
Founded in 1902, The Mid-Somerset Festival is one of the oldest festivals in the country. For a full fortnight each March, the Mid-Somerset Festival hosts classes in Creative Writing, Speech & Drama, Music and Musical Theatre. To conclude the two-week festival, a concert is held to celebrate some of the best performances in each discipline.
At Norland Choir’s debut appearance at last year’s festival, they performed two contrasting pieces; ‘Love Call Me Home’, Peggy Seeger and ‘Like a Singing Bird’, Bob Chilcott, they achieved a distinction and finished in second place. Norland Choir will be competing in the Adult Ladies’ category against seven other choirs on Saturday 25th with an ambition to improve on last year’s performance. 
Under the stewardship of Choir Leader Grenville Jones, the Norland choir has evolved considerably over the past nine years, nevertheless, the choir ethos still remains that all are welcome and auditions are not held; all that is required is a love of singing and a commitment to rehearsals.
Elizabeth Kerry, Events Manager and Norland Diploma Lecturer commented “We are thrilled to be attending the Mid-Somerset Festival for the second year running. The choir has continued to flourish following the new additions from Set 40 students who joined us in September.”
In addition to this performance, the Norland Choir will be performing on 18th March at St Swithin’s Church for the Goldies charity. Founded in 2008, The Goldies charity aims to reach the lives of hundreds of elderly isolated people across England and Wales. “Singing can provide a dose of escapism, it is a wonderful way to unite members of the community and bring joy and friendship to people’s lives; singing should be on prescription,” says founder Grenville Jones.
Follow the choir’s progress on social media by following us on Twitter @NorlandCollege or Like our 'Norland College' page on Facebook.