Family Signposts to Increase Our Seeking Change

In our Family, we accept new Opportunities, Ideas and Experiences

  • Encourage your children to identify particular skills they would like to have a go at developing. It might be trying a new instrument, joining a club, learning a skill from You Tube. Model learning new skills yourself. Learn an instrument, try a new style of cooking, have a go at a  new sport or learn to bake bread. Share your progress along the way!
  • Some children invest  time in what they are already good at, steering away from activities that may be a little threatening or challenging. Reflect back to them that anything new can be daunting, perhaps reminding that the activities they now feel confident in, were once threatening and challenging!
  • Encourage your children to develop a wide range of interests and hobbies, rather than focusing on just one or two interests. Explain how a wide range of interests and hobbies help us to find things to talk about, and make connections when we meet people.
  • Having tried a new challenge or experience, encourage your children to reflect on the experience. For example “How were you feeling about this beforehand? What helped you? Are you glad you took the risk? What good things came out of it? What advice would you give yourself next time you are in a similar situation?
  • Broaden your children’s experiences. Introduce them to a wide range of foods, encouraging them to try everything at least once. Plan family days out where you can try new activities together as a family. Introduce them to different social groups rather than people who are similar to them.
  • Recognise when your children courageously step out of their comfort zone. Don’t assume what is easy for you will be easy for them. Validate their courage to have a go, even if they didn’t get much further than that. For example: “You tried an anchovy! Who cares if you spat it out; you still tried it!”
  • Teach your children that nerves are a natural response to a new situation; comedians, actors, politicians, sportsmen all feel nervous leading up to an event. Normalise their nerves. For example “Of course you feel nervous going into Year Nine; it’s a big transition and most people would feel a mixture of excitement, nerves and worry.” Help them see adrenaline as a form of healthy stress that can energise and motivate us – to accept it as a physiological part of their preparation, and not be afraid of it.
  • Model having new ideas and sharing them with your children, however unrealistic, ridiculous or novel they might be! Help them to see that creativity and innovation is about risk and thinking out of the box. Play our fun scenarios. For example: “What would you invent? What problem would you like to solve? Imagine if ……hadn’t been invented, what would be different?”

In our Family, we Manage how we spend our Time and Effort

  • Some children may be particularly conscientious, putting too much time into a particular task. Teach them simple strategies to strategically allocate their limited time and effort. For example:  “You have three pieces of homework tonight and ten effort units; how are you going to allocate them to the different tasks?”
  • Teach your children simple time management strategies such as preparing revision schedules or using a diary app.
  • Take opportunities to model how to compromise and prioritise. There may be times when you are under pressure and need to prioritise what is possible. You may need to lower your standards, choose not to do one of the tasks, or extend a deadline. Make your thinking visible to your children; explain how and why you are making the choices you are making. Seeing their parents model mastery, competency and control at all times is not healthy for our children to observe.

In our Family, we set ourselves Challenges and Aspirant Goals

  • Think of ways you and your family can step out of your comfort zone to reach an aspirant family goal. It might be to go on a 30 miles cycle, to go camping, to raise a certain amount of money, to help at a Christmas day meal in a hostel. Take time to reflect on the experience afterwards. What was hard? When did you feel like giving up? What made you keep going?
  •  From time to time, encourage your children  to rate their effort in a particularly area using a rating scale – it might be a subject at school, their instrument, their sport.  For example: “On a scale of 0-10 where are you? What are you currently doing that puts you at  a 6? Where do you want to get to? What will you be able to do if you are at 8?  What do you need to do to get to 8?”
  • When our children achieve an award or accolade, they may feel pressure to maintain this position of rank. Encourage them to reflect on the qualities and skills they developed to achieve the award, rather than the award or outcome itself. For example: “I really admire the courage, commitment and discipline you showed to get to this point. They are qualities and skills which can never be lost, and will help reach your new challenge.”

In our Family, we are Flexible and Tolerant

  • Introduce the word compromise into your family interactions. Explain how compromises are made, with both sides setting out what they need and a discussion enabling both sides to give a little. You might use a Venn diagram visual approach: “This is what I think, this is what you think; what can we can both agree on?”
  • Your children may be disappointed or frustrated when plans change. Always acknowledge and validate their feelings, even if they are hidden by an angrier intial response. Explain why the situation has changed and how situations can be influenced by a range of factors beyond our control. Model tolerance, patience and flexibility yourself in these situations.
  • Notice and affirm your children when you see them being flexible and tolerant. Remember what we pay attention to is what we socially reinforce. For example: “I noticed you let your sister watch her programme, even though you wanted to watch something else; I really appreciate your flexibility and tolerance.”
  • Singleton and younger children may not develop flexibility, compromise and tolerance to the same degree because others concede to them. Purposefully look for opportunities to develop these qualities. For example: “I’d really like that cake too. Shall we share it?” rather than letting the younger child always have the last cake!

In our Family, we accept Times of Challenge and Pressure and are Resilient

  • Explain to your children that we develop resilience when we struggle. We don’t develop resilience when everything is easy. You can use lots of metaphors to explain this. For example:  “Developing resilience is a bit like going to the gym; as we struggle to lift heavier weights, our muscles develop and we find ourselves stronger. If we only lifted easier weights, our muscles would not develop. Struggle is how we become emotionally strong – this is resilience.”
  • When you see your children getting frustrated or struggling, see it is an opportunity to develop their resilience. Firstly acknowledge and validate their frustration; secondly, be confident in their ability to overcome it and then offer your support. For example: “I can see you are feeling frustrated, what you are trying to do is very challenging. I’m really proud of you for not giving up. You will get there. What can I do to support you?”
  • Recognise that transition and change can be destabilising for your children. Talk through forthcoming changes or transitions, acknowledging the fear, worries, losses that change might bring. Try to also focus on the opportunities that might be ahead. For example: “Changing school is hard, there will be friendships you have to leave behind. Although it may be difficult to imagine, there are people at your new schools who will become wonderful friends – you just haven’t met them yet. “
  • There will be times of great pressure for our children. Acknowledge that this is normal, help them anticipate the particular struggles they might have and how you can best support them. For example: “In the run up the exams, you may start to feel under some pressure. We all experience pressure in different ways. How might pressure affect you? What are the most helpful things we can do to help?”
  • When your children make mistakes, see it as an opportunity to learn from the experience. For example: “We all make mistakes; it is how we learn. If you could go back in time, what other choices did you have? What will you do next time you are in this situation?”

In our Family, we have Healthy Strategies in Times of Stress or Pressure

  • Some children cope with worry and anxiety by ruminating and fixating on things. They might over prepare, be too conscientious, or over think. Acknowledge their worry, then help them identify healthy activities which can act as distractions, such as having a bath, watching TV, playing sport or reading a book.
  • Some children may benefit from some boundaries which limit their worry time. For example “Let’s spend the next ten minutes talking about this, then we will stop and do something else. We can take another ten minutes another time.” 
  • Some children may cope with worry and anxiety by voicing them to other people, perhaps on social networks or in chat room. As our children move through adolescence, they may find it easier to talk to people other than their parents. It is healthy to acknowledge this shift, but remind your children that worries need to be shared with people we trust and have known for some time. Help them to identify the specific people they can talk to when feeling troubled.
  • Some children may feel overwhelmed by a particular problem which they cannot see a way through. The STEP problem solving approach can be helpful. S: Say the problem. T: talk about the choices you have. E: evaluate those choices. P: Pick the one choice you are going to make.
  • Some children may use avoidance or refusal as a coping mechanism under times of pressure. Behind their refusal or avoidance may be feelings of fear or anxiety. Be wary of backing them into a corner with ultimatums. Try validating their feelings, and then offer your support. This might break the deadlock. For example: “I wonder if you might be feeling …………..about this. What do you need from me right now?”
  • In times of pressure, some children may feel overwhelmed by the task before them. Help them to break the task down into small incremental steps. Doing this visually is particularly helpful. For example: “You’ve got a lot of homework tonight. Let’s write each task on a different post it; then put them in the order you are going to do them in; then we will rip up the post it note as you complete them.”
  • Be alert to changes in your children’s behaviour which may indicate strain and pressure. This could present as a change in sleep or eating patterns, being more controlling or volatile, or being more withdrawn. Acknowledge this change in an open and supportive way. For example: “I’ve noticed a change in how you’ve been sleeping; what could we do to help you sleep better?”
  • Under pressure some children seek control to feel more secure. Controlling behaviours might be restricting food in some way or holding on to routines which may not be helpful. Explore ways to help your child meet their need for control and agency in a healthier way. For example: having a responsibility in the home, sorting out a cupboard, organising a schedule, developing a weekly routine or setting small goals or targets.
  • Under pressure, some children might suffer from disrupted sleep patterns. Teach and model healthy night time routines. Discourage your children from using social media before bedtime; some posts may trigger anxiety. Make them aware of the impact of blue electronic light on their sleep patterns. Encourage them to read as they settle to sleep, use mindfulness techniques or put on a relaxation audio.

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