“Allow your child to express their creativity and individuality”

Allow your child to express their creativity and individuality. Each child is an individual expression of love in this world, with unique gifts and challenges. Please see them in their wholeness, as the gift that they are to humanity.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Legh.

Angela Legh is the author of children’s fairytales, The Bella Santini Chronicles, a book series that plants seeds of emotional resilience in pre-teens. Angela’s life story could fill books — surviving two fires, saving herself from drowning two times and being on the receiving end of emotional abuse for much of her life. However, Angela turned all this adversity into a storyline that teaches kids to bounce back when hardship happens.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I lived a childhood filled with dark and light. My dad represented the dark, my mom the light.

During the first ten years of my life, my dad, a raging alcoholic, emotionally and physically abused me, my sisters, and our mother. It is said the sins of the father are passed down to the children, and that rings true for me. My dad was a sensitive man who could not deal with painful feelings. His father emotionally abused him as a child; he held onto those feelings of being unworthy. Yet, he could not deal with those feelings; they were too painful. So, he chose to escape them by drowning them in alcohol. The problem was when he was drunk; he behaved like a monster.

I learned from my dad how to repress my painful feelings — for me it was anger. He was angry, and I couldn’t be like him. This generational escape and repression of emotions and feelings was a pattern that wreaked havoc in his life, my life, and the lives of my children. If only I knew then what I now know, I could have been a better mother.

Speaking of mothers, I was fortunate to have a mother who was a walking advertisement for love. I learned from her to accept others at face value. I learned to be understanding and tolerant. She was creative, kind, and self-sufficient. I knew I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

My second-grade teacher read The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien, to our class. I was so inspired! The story opened a new world for me, a world filled with magic, where good prevailed over evil! That teacher opened a lifetime love of reading books, especially fantasies. First, I read all the Tolkien books. Then I read other magical books, like James and the Giant Peach and A Wrinkle in Time. While I cannot say any of these books caused me to take any specific action, I believe they helped me appreciate the value of magical thinking, integrity, and the power of words.

The books in my childhood, in part, inspired me to write in ways that open a child’s heart to their inner magic. In my books, children learn we all carry magic, the power of love. Children learn that words are energy and meaning well beyond what the letters convey. Children learn to face all their emotions, even the painful ones because when we repress or escape emotions, we carry them as a burden that revisits us until we face the feeling.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I was a naive author; for over a year, I wrote a children’s book. When it was done, it had 60,000 words! I sent a proposal off to several publishers, and like all authors, I experienced several rounds of rejections. Eventually, I signed with a “vanity” publisher and paid them to publish the book. I happily sent them the manuscript, only to receive a call from the publisher telling me I had to cut the book down to less than 30,000 words. Initially, I panicked; I didn’t want to delete any of my stories. Then I took a calming breath and said, “Let’s make it into two books.” I had to rewrite an end for the first book and a beginning for the second one to create two books. The funniest part was that when I was halfway done writing what I thought would be book two, I now had three books completed in an instant. I am now writing book five, with the other books in various stages of preparation for publication.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

From my lifetime of trauma, I learned many of us fear feeling our painful emotions, so we reject them. Alternatively, some are so traumatized by their painful feelings they grab onto them and hold them close. The feeling becomes part of their identity.

The biochemistry of emotion lasts perhaps 90 seconds. If we experience the emotion for longer than those 90 seconds, we’re experiencing the concept of the emotion! It’s not real! When you are a witness to your feelings, without engaging or escaping them, you find freedom.

I connected the dots between my father’s escape from his feelings and his behaviors as an alcoholic. I realized what lies underneath substance abuse, self-harming, and suicide is the fear of facing painful feelings. My children’s books, The Bella Santini Chronicles, teach children the importance of processing their emotions and provides tools for emotional well-being. The books delve into complex topics, such as child abandonment, bullying, sibling rivalry, and good vs. evil. Readers build emotional muscle and set a path for emotional well-being, which allows them to navigate the difficult teen years without seeing suicide as a solution to their problems.

Facing our painful feelings is very difficult and very easy. However, you can face even your most challenging feelings when you have helpful tools in your toolbox. A beautiful tool for facing feelings is called AAA by Dr. Donald Epstein, the founder of EpiEnergetics. First, be aware of the feeling, sense it — where is the feeling, and how is it present in your space? Then, acknowledge the feeling; you can even state out loud, “I am feeling. . .” Lastly, accept the energy of the feeling; know it is ok for you to feel what you’re feeling. This simple exercise allows the feeling to flow while you stay in the space of neutrality.

Through my fairytales, children learn everyone has dark shadows and light inside. If we repress our dark feelings and only allow our light feelings, we are not whole. Our dark feelings can turn inward. We attack ourselves with self-criticism or engage in self-harm through our thoughts, feelings, or actions. When we bring our dark feelings to light, they dissolve. Light always dispels the dark.

In 1969, Mister Fred Rogers of the Public Television show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood spoke to the U.S. Congress about saving public television funding. He testified that his program did a great service for Mental Health in America by making children know that feelings are both mentionable and manageable. Now it is my turn to bring that message to kids.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

In book one of the series, The Bella Santini Chronicles, the main character, Bella, is escorted to a strange dimension, an alternative world populated by emotions. Bella and her escort must use tools and techniques to be present in this strange, new world. Using their wits and hearts, the characters move through the heavy emotions to achieve their goal and return to the land of the Fae.

This chapter initiates many discussions between the characters about the importance of feeling all emotions and the tools to face painful feelings. Exploring this concept through character discussions helps the children absorb the information, through the story, without having it drilled into them.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

When I began writing the first book, I had no idea I was writing anything more than a tiny tale to amuse my friend’s daughter, Isabella. As I wrote, the tale grew and grew. I began to organize it into chapters, and the story kept growing. Finally, about six months into writing, I realized I was building a tale that could help kids find their inner value, so they don’t make self-harming choices; they don’t have to experience the kind of trauma I experienced.

My biggest “aha” was when I realized the stories I write could help people of any age. Today’s parents were not taught how to handle emotions any more than people in my generation were. Many adults are subconsciously controlled by their emotions; without practical tools for emotional management, they seek to escape or repress them. The tools and lessons written into my fairytales can help adults navigate their world from a space of emotional balance and integrity.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I believe a virtual stranger was the person most impacted by my cause. I have often wondered if my work is impacting lives. I write books, and though I’ve received great reviews, I have not received input as to whether I am making a difference in anyone’s life. And yet, a stranger who never read my book did provide me with the opportunity to make a difference.

One day, I saw an intoxicated, homeless man outside a local grocery store. I felt compassion for him, so I bought a sandwich and brought it out to him. I also stopped long enough to chat with him. Our conversation went deep; we shared horrific experiences from our respective childhoods; we could connect because of those shared experiences. When he was seven years old, his dad slit his mother’s throat while he watched. I told him of the time my dad threatened us, four little kids, he would kill our mom, who was sleeping, with the knife he was brandishing. This young man described his horror and terror; it was clear he was still suffering from that trauma. I told him it wasn’t his fault for using alcohol to escape his painful feelings; no one had taught him any alternatives. I shared some tools and techniques for processing emotions that I write about in my books. I told him of his infinite worth. I told him he carried magic inside himself, and the magic is love. When we parted, I was deeply moved because I could see my words affected him. I had no idea how much. I went home and posted on social media saying I had finally fulfilled my mission in life, to inspire people to know of their inner magic.

Several weeks later, I stopped to give money to a man playing guitar outside another store. When he took the few bucks, he looked into my eyes and said, “We spoke before, and I felt like I needed to run away.” At that moment, I knew he was the guy who touched my heart so profoundly. He was now groomed, he had a job, and his eyes were clear. I reminded him of his inner magic and thanked him for the gift of music he shared.

Can I say that my words and the love I felt for him created that tremendous change in how he presented himself to the world? I won’t be audacious and make that claim, but perhaps I planted a seed he tended and allowed to grow. I know when we see others through the eyes of love; we open them to being love.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Many community efforts are dedicated to bringing more hope into the world. Two of my favorites include Helice “Sparky” Bridges, “I Make a Difference Campaign,” and the “Community Alliance for Youth Success” led by Bobbi DePorter and Stedman Graham. In addition, there are conscious parenting groups such as Katherine Winter Sellery’s Conscious Parenting Revolution and Ashley Avanishi’s Raising Humanity Playground. I believe communities are doing tremendous work to help children thrive and enjoy a better quality of life.

Governments try to provide programs to uplift youth, but the programs are frequently so bogged down with government rules and regulations, kids can get lost in the shuffle. Government can take leadership by implementing guidelines for emotional learning in schools and organizations that serve youth.

Schools can begin treating our youth as whole people, rather than simply a mind to be filled. Imagine what could happen if schools teach children how to manage emotions. In my research, I found that some schools have implemented social-emotional learning, but there are entrenched policies that preclude many schools from implementing this program. It’ll take a paradigm shift for educational leaders to see the importance of having tools for emotional resilience. I can imagine a world where there is no substance abuse, no self-harming, and no suicide. We can live in that world when children learn to process their emotions at a young age.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Interestingly, I was tested for leadership, and my leadership genius is in motivating people to perform their best. I have always been a people person. To me, inspiring people starts with trusting the employees to do what we hired them to do. My leadership style is to watch from behind, making course corrections if needed. I stay out of the nitty-gritty; I don’t try to control how the employees accomplish their tasks, as long as they are completed on time.

Years ago, in my position in government administration, I tried to introduce the concept of a “results only working environment.” The concept would allow employees to work from anywhere. The only measurement of their work is the results they achieved. I saw value in this concept as a working mother. Unfortunately, leadership was resistant to the concept; they couldn’t imagine how to control the employees if they worked from home or to keep data secure.

I am amused at how they were finally forced into allowing this kind of employee flexibility by the Covid-19 lockdown.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Five things I wish I knew about raising emotionally resilient kids before I became a parent . . .

  1. Allow your child to feel all their feelings from a space of neutrality. When you escape or repress a feeling, you deny a part of yourself. Children will learn to thrive when they learn to experience their feelings from a space of neutrality.
  2. Allow your child to express their creativity and individuality. Each child is an individual expression of love in this world, with unique gifts and challenges. Please see them in their wholeness, as the gift that they are to humanity.
  3. Accept your child for who they are and let go of who you want them to be. Unfortunately, some parents expect their children to follow in their footsteps, to become a “mini-me.” This kind of expectation ignores the gifts and the energetic signatures of the child. Instead, open your heart to the possibilities present for your child, and allow them to follow their dreams.
  4. Be open, vulnerable, and authentic with your child. Share stories of your childhood; tell them how you felt when confronted with the difficulties they are experiencing. This opens a line of communication between you and your children; they will see you as someone who understands how they are feeling.
  5. Let your children know they matter by giving them your undivided attention every single day. It can be hard to balance all the demands of work, life, and home. But when you are on your deathbed, what will matter? Certainly not getting the dishes done, answering that text, or the next episode of The Game of Thrones — what matters is relationships. So give your children the gift of your time.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I remember being in a self-development course offered by Preston Smiles and his lovely wife, Alexi. Preston spoke about comfort and described a “comfort couch.” He told of how we stay on the couch because it is what we know. We sit on the couch and build a fairytale castle across the room. We want the fairytale; we desire to be in that castle. Yet, the couch is what we know; getting off the couch could bring discomfort. Preston said that only ten percent of people would chase their dreams; would get off the couch. But there is the no-mans-land between the couch and the fairytale castle, a place where we might encounter pushback. Preston says that 90% of those who got off the couch will run back for its comfort and never reach their castle. He says only one percent will ever achieve their dreams.

This story resonates with me. I reflected on being my comfortable couch, building my fairytale (books, not a castle). I was comfortable writing; it was easy for me. Then I got off the couch, starting to publish and market my books. I encountered so many blocks in that no-mans-land, including running out of funds, having difficulty increasing my followers, and having people shut the door in my face. I couldn’t find a literary agent. I had to learn the hard way that there are different kinds of editors, and you may need more than one. Even today, I am still in the no-mans-land . . . I haven’t reached the castle yet. The last year has taught me I must be comfortable with being uncomfortable; I must embrace uncertainty. I feel that is the key to success, being willing to step into discomfort for the greater good.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many wonderful people in this world; I could make a list a mile long, starting with Oprah Winfrey, because of the love she shares so beautifully in this world. But who am I to meet Oprah? If I had to reach high but be realistic, the one person I would love to have lunch with is Marianne Williamson because of the love she brings to her interactions.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers who wish to know more about shifting perspectives, allowing their feelings, and finding more joy in their life can access my books, online course, or blog at angelalegh.com.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you for providing space for me to share my message. Very much appreciated.

About Author /

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Start typing and press Enter to search

Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter below and never miss the latest product or an exclusive offer.