Family Signposts to Increase Our Trust of Others

In our Family, we see each other as Supportive, Available and Reliable

  • Adolescents rarely say when they want to talk or need us. We need to give our children clear signals that  we have time for them and want to spend time with them Offer low level conversation openers, for example “Do you want a cup of tea?” or “How was your day?” Offer snippets which indicate you have time to talk with them; for example: “Do you know what happened to me today?” “I had an interesting conversation with someone earlier…”
  • Model asking for support. For example: ask your children to help you cook dinner when you are particularly tired, or ask them to explain something to you that you don’t understand. Demonstrate how asking for support can be an act of courage, honesty and motivation, rather than vulnerability or weakness.
  • Be as reliable as you can. Be careful not to make promises you cannot keep; turn up when you say you will, and apologise when late. Having modelled reliability, assert it as a family quality; look to develop it as a characteristic that is valued and affirmed, not taken for granted.
  • When your children face a challenge acknowledge their fears or anxieties, whilst also developing their resilience. For example: “These are normal feelings to have in this sort of situation. I know you can do this. What support do you need from me to help you get there?”
  • Notice the particular cues that suggest your children are struggling. Who gets moody? Who withdraws?  Who gets angry? Rather than respond to the observable behaviour, notice and acknowledge the feeling driving the behaviour. For example “Seems like it’s been a tough day today?” or “I can see you’re frustrated about something.”  Follow up with a supportive comment such as “I’m around if I can help at all” or “What you need from me right now?”
  • Model using a wide range of emotional vocabulary in your family to help your children recognise the normal emotions of adolescence. Adolescent may latch on to some feelings such as anger and boredom. When you see these feelings, acknowledge and validate the feeling that may be driving the observable emotion. For example: “I am not surprised you are angry, you must have felt very embarrassed when they laughed at your mistake.”
  • Notice the signs when your children are emotionally ‘full up’. Introduce the metaphor of a feeling balloon; a balloon where they hold all their uncomfortable feelings. Holding onto those feeling can be stressful – imagine trying to keep the air in a balloon by holding the bottom tightly. How might that feel? Sometimes we can’t do it anymore and we lose control. When you notice your children feeling strained, guide your children towards healthy releases such as going for a run, talking to someone, listening to music, mindful breathing or having a bath.

In our Family, we Value and Appreciate other People

  • How your children hear you speak about others is likely to inform how they speak about others. Notice and validate other people’s qualities, especially when they are different to your own. For example: “I admire Mr Smith’s careful approach; he really thinks things through.”
  • Notice your children’s qualities and model giving them affirmation. You can do this verbally, or perhaps in more  private, fun ways. For example: putting a post it note on their pillow, sending them a text, writing a message on their mirror in  dry wipe pen
  • When affirming your children, be descriptive and specific. General, gratuitous praise is easily discounted. For example: “Your footwork in the match was really deft today; I was so proud.” rather than “Fantastic game!”
  • Model a culture of gratitude and appreciation, thanking those around you for what they do. Encourage your children to express thanks when receiving a present, having a plate of food cooked for them or seeing laundered clothes on their bed.
  • Look for opportunities for your children to engage with a wide range of people, especially those whose experience is different to their own. For example: visiting a retirement home or helping in a homeless shelter. Afterwards reflect on the attributes or qualities that you notice, and the things your family can learn from them.
  • Older siblings can be diminishing in their interactions with their younger siblings. Teach your older children to recognise the impact of their ‘social footprint’ on younger siblings. Remind them that their footprint bears weight, especially on those whose ground is soft and impressionable. The impact of their footprint remains even when they have left, so they need to tread responsibly.

In our Family, we respect others’ Ideas and Opinions, even when they are Different to our own

  • Model how to respond to others’ opinions which are different to your own. Use open and collaborative responses such as “That’s an interesting opinion; what led you to that?” or “I have a different opinion; can I share it with you?”
  • Explore what tolerance is and why it is important. Discuss how it is possible to accept and value difference and diversity without losing our sense of individuality. Look for opportunities to model tolerance by watching or reading material which presents a different view point to the one we currently hold, then discussing it together.
  • In competitive events, model good sportsmanship by accepting the decision of the referee. Acknowledge feelings of frustration or injustice, but demonstrate submission to authority where appropriate.
  • Your children may at times disagree with the rules and expectations you have in your home. Asserting authority is a normal and healthy stage of adolescence, however we must also guide our children in respecting their parents if we are to maintain family harmony. Teach your children how to express their perspective respectfully.  For example: “Can I discuss (…the time you want me back home?) Can I explain my reasons for (..suggesting a later time tonight?)” Having heard their respectfully expressed opinion, consider their reasons and come back to them with your decision.
  • Your children may  disagree at times with a teacher’s perspective. Teach them to assert their opinion in a  respectful way, rather than dismiss their teacher’s opinion as unfair or irrelevant. For example “Sir, can I book a time to talk to you about your comment on my essay; I found it confusing and would like to understand it better.”

In our Family, we look for the Best in Others, rather than Anticipating the Worst

  •  When your child ends up on the wrong end of a decision or action, avoid temptation to blame the school, the poor parenting of their friends or peer influences. There may be another side to the story your child has not shared with you! Model reserving judgement until you know all the facts rather than dismissing or discounting.
  • When your children are in trouble, resist jumping to conclusions and assuming they are at fault. Model taking a step back and fact finding first. For example: “I can see something has happened that we will need to sort out. Are you ready to tell me your perspective, then I will hear other people’s perspective?”
  • Acknowledge times when your children take responsibility for their actions, rather than looking to offset the blame onto others. Affirm their honesty, integrity and courage whilst not diminishing the sanction or consequence. For example: “Sending that image was a very unwise thing to do, and there are consequences that you need to accept. However, I respect your honesty and courage in admitting that you did send it.”
  • To accept an apology, we have to trust that someone is sincere. Model this by accepting your children’s apology with grace. Accept when you need to say sorry to your children, do so with sincerity rather than looking for excuses to offset your responsibility. For example: “I over reacted earlier, I ought to have been more patient. I am sorry.”
  • When your children find themselves on the end of teasing or banter, they may read the intent as hurtful when it was not intended to be so. Use a tennis metaphor to help them discriminate between playful banter and  hurtful bullying . For example: “Banter is when both players know they are playing a game; they both have a racket to bat playful comments back with. Bullying is when one player has a racket to bat a comment with, but the other one doesn’t. The ball hits them and they are hurt. Do you think this comment was intended to hurt you, or was it a game? How could you have batted the ball back?”
  • There will be times when your children feel maligned in some way, perhaps not invited to a party, not included in a social network chat, not helped by a teacher when they asked for help in a lesson.  Help them to see alternative reasons for the action, rather than assuming malign intent. For example: “I wonder whether Tom could only invite a small number?” “I wonder whether the teacher saw your hand up?” 

In our Family, we enjoy working Collaboratively

  • Your children may engage in groups and activities where they are frustrated by others who they see as slower, annoying or not as good. Whilst drive, competitiveness and aspiration are really important qualities, they must be balanced with skills of collaboration and flexibility. Acknowledge their frustration, whilst recognising this as a learning opportunity. For example “I know it is frustrating when we have to wait for Tom to catch up; it’s an opportunity for you to develop patience and tolerance. How could you be more patient next time?”
  • Teach your children how to compromise. Use a Venn diagram visual to help structure their thinking. For example “This is what I think; this is what you think. What we can agree or compromise on?”
  • Engage your children in shared family decision making. For example: deciding where to go on holiday; what colour car to buy; what cereal to buy; what film to watch.  Model how to make consensual decisions where each voice is valued.
  • Set aside regular opportunities for the family to work as a team, rather than a group of individuals. For example: an ambitious family jigsaw; helping out at a homeless centre on Christmas; going camping. You might be surprised to see different qualities emerge in different family members.
  • Notice when your children exhibit qualities of patience, tolerance, flexibility and compromise. They are qualities that are often overlooked; remember what we notice and pay attention to is what we socially reinforce.

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