Family Signposts to Increase Our Trust of Ourselves

In our Family, we Value our own Qualities and Skills

  • Take a moment to think of a quality or a skill you already see in your child. Notice when you see this quality or skill in their everyday actions and interactions. Think how you can reflect this back in a meaningful way. Perhaps in a text, in a post it note on their pillow, perhaps in a quiet, private moment.
  • From time to time, around the meal table, ask your children to notice one quality or skill they have seen in other family members. Encourage them to look for emerging qualities or skills they haven’t noticed before.
  • Demonstrate to your children how our qualities and skills are not fixed, but can be developed over time. For example: “I’ve been trying to be more organised recently; I think some of the strategies I tried have been making a difference. Have you noticed whether I have been more organised?”
  • Ask your children to think of a skill they can use to serve others at home. For example: baking a cake each week; coaching a younger sister in netball; updating apps on Dad’s phone.
  • Identify a skill or quality you would like to see each of your children develop over coming months. How could you give them opportunities to support this?

In our Family, we Trust our own Ideas and Opinions

  • When your children share their ideas and opinions with you,  acknowledge them even if you don’t always agree. Respond with phrases such as “That’s interesting, have you thought that for long? What led you to that opinion? How could you develop into a more rounded opinion? How could you take that idea further?”
  • Engage your children in lighthearted debate and discussion around the dinner table or on long car journeys.  Offer a perspective, then ask them to  offer a counter opinion. For example: “I think the school day should be lengthened by an hour. Who can argue against this!” Teach your children how to assert their opinion in a measured, but assertive way, backing it up with facts where possible.
  • Adolescents can be very sensitive to feeling ignored, side-lined or over ruled. Where age appropriate, engage them in family decisions rather than enforcing an idea upon them. For example: “What do you think is the appropriate time to go to bed on a school night?  Let me explain why view and you can explain yours, then we will make a decision.”

In our Family, we make our own Choices and Decisions

  • Adolescents  like to assert their own choices and decisions. Offering choices develops ownership and autonomy, and can scaffold our children’s wise decision making. Choices can also take the heat out of a contentious  situation. For example:  “Shall I pick you up and 5pm or 6pm?” is more likely to get a positive response than “I’ll pick you up at 6pm.”
  • Give your children choices rather than instructions when appropriate. For example: “It’s cold today, do you want to wear your coat?” gives your children more ownership and responsibility than “It’s cold today; put your coat on.” Respect their decision, whilst reminding them of the consequences of their choice.
  • Where your children have to make important choices such as subject courses or universities, use coaching questions such as “What are your options? What are the pros and cons of all those options? Is there an option you haven’t considered? Whose opinion matters to you, what would they say? Where can you find out more information to help you make this decision?”
  • Some decisions can be difficult and costly, and demand courage and resolve. Allow your children to see you struggling to make such decisions, making visible your own thinking processes. When watching films or TV, or reading books with your children, draw attention to situations where characters make hard and costly decisions, exploring together why they made the choice they did.
  • Invite your children to share in family decision making as much as possible. This might be around the colour of the family car, where to go on holiday, what to eat for lunch, and what cereal to buy.  Establish the idea that every opinion is valid, whilst also demonstrating that consensual decisions involve compromise and flexibility.

In our Family, we Notice and Value our Successes and Achievements

  • Think carefully about how you praise and affirm your children. Praise can be particularly powerful when descriptive and specific, rather than general and gratuitous. For example: “I noticed how patient you were when Tom kept dropping the ball; patience is a quality that many people will value.”
  • Some children may be acutely embarrassed by public affirmation. Think of ways to affirm your children privately. You might send them a text message, write them a post it, write it on their mirror in a wipe off pen, a message in their lunch box.
  • When reading your children’s school report, ask them to highlight in a green highlighter all the things they are most proud of before homing in on the things they need to improve.
  • Introduce the language of personal best in your home. Reflect back to your children their own personal bests, and take time to celebrate your own!
  • From time to time, spend time with each of your children to intentionally notice and verbalise their on-going successes and achievements. It might be something you do together, with both of you reflecting on your own successes and achievements, as well as what you notice in the other.
  • When acknowledging success, see it as process (the journey) as well as the outcome (achieving the goal). Reflective starters  to focus on process might include “One thing I have improved in…; one thing I have succeeded in…; one thing I can now do that I couldn’t last year…; one thing I have persevered with…; one thing I have contributed to…”

In our Family, we are Careful how much we Allow Others to Influence us

  • Some adolescents may be easily influenced by peer comments. Help your children develop healthy filters to know how much value to place on others’ comments. For example: “Who said it? How much do you value their opinion? Why might they have said it? What reaction were they hoping for? Do you want to accept their comment or reject it?”
  • Teach your children visual strategies to help them discount unhelpful comments or feedback. For example: a brick wall which words can’t get past; wearing headphones which block it out; taking the batteries out of a remote control in someone’s hand so it loses power; turning the volume down.
  • Sometimes your children may face comments that require a stronger and more assertive response. A traffic light visual can help to prepare their response to such a comment. Red – stop. Amber –Get ready; take a deep breath, shoulders back, hands by your side and stand tall. Green – I statement e.g. “I am not interested in your opinion” and walk away.
  • Be alert to situations when your children feel drawn to behave in a particular way in order to conform or belong. Acknowledge how hard it can be to stand apart at such times. Share your own experiences of being influenced by others and the strategies you find helpful.
  • Sometimes your children may feel upset by a comment or action that was intended as playful banter. Help them to discriminate between banter and bullying by introducing the metaphor of banter tennis. Banter tennis is when both people experience the actions or comments as a game, where the play is mutual; both people have a racket and hit the banter ball to one another. Help your children think how they can join in banter.  Can they imagine a racket in their hand? How can they hit the banter ball back?

In our Family, we have a Go, even if we Doubt Ourselves

  • Most adolescents have times when they doubt themselves and question what they are capable of. Rather than using words, demonstrate your trust in them. For example: ask their opinion; ask for their advice; give them ownership and responsibility, ask them for support.
  • Help your children see self doubt as a normal part of growing up.  We are starting to notice those around us,  and might compare ourselves to others. Reflect back on your own adolescent feelings of self-doubt. What would you say to your younger self?
  • Explain that we can feel self-doubt in some areas, while feeling self-confident in other areas. Share situations where you feel self-doubt; how do you overcome these feelings? What strategies do you find helpful?
  • Remind your children that new experiences can cause anxiety and self doubt. Self doubt prevents us from making rash or risky decisions, but it can also limit our opportunities.  Explore whether those risks and fears are justified, or whether they are worth overcoming.
  • As a family, look for collective challenges which push each of your out of your comfort zone. This might be helping at a homeless shelter, running a half marathon together, giving up TV for a period of time. Facing a collective challenge can be easier than an individual challenge. At these times, notice the unique contribution each child makes to the family challenge. For example: using humour to keep spirits up, or asking for help from someone.
  • There may be times when your children avoid situations or close down opportunities, not because they are being contrary, but because they fear failure or anticipate embarrassment. Rather than accepting their refusal or demanding compliance, explore the threat with them. For example: “This seems like a big challenge; can you see some risks or problems ahead that I am not noticing? Are there ways to overcome them? How can I support you in over coming them?”

In our Family, we are Resilient when we are Knocked Back

  • Remind your children that resilience is not the absence of struggle, but struggle itself. When we are resilient, we find ways to cope with a set back or a difficulty, and can use these strategies to cope with other set backs of difficulties. Reflect back where you see resilience in action – in members of your family, in the media or on TV, in books or newspaper articles.
  • Model resolve and perseverance by demonstrating how you deal with issues and frustrations. Emphasise  that setback and challenge are part of everyday life.
  • Some adolescents can be acutely sensitive to humiliation and embarrassment, leading to angry behavioural responses. When you do silly things or get things wrong show them how you let it roll off you, or bounce back.
  • When you see your children struggling, don’t step in too soon to  offer support. Give them time to find their own solutions, building resilience and resourcefulness. Acknowledge their struggle, then offer support without taking over. Use scaffolds such as “This is really challenging; I’m not surprised you are frustrated.” “What is the hardest part to deal with?” “Have you faced something similar before? How did you overcome that?” “Can we break this down into smaller parts and work through them?”
  • Some children are particularly vulnerable to set back, and question their ability or value. At these times, acknowledge how easy it is to self-doubt, then  look for evidence to counter their self-doubt. For example: “You may feel like you are rubbish at singing, but how can someone rubbish at singing have achieved reached Grade 4? Perhaps this is a particularly tricky Grade 5 piece.”

In our Family, we have Healthy Strategies when Under Pressure or Strain

  • Some children are particularly influenced by what is going on around them. They may notice tensions in the family; they may take on responsibilities that are inappropriate; they may feel burdened by what they are hearing or seeing around them. This can leave them feeling worried and overwhelmed. Encourage your children to write down their worries on sticky notes, then find ways to organise them in different groups; this can help them feel a degree of control and power. For example: worries that are mine and worries that aren’t; big worries and worries I can forget about; worries I can do something about and worries I can’t.
  • Children who self-doubt are more prone to feelings such as embarrassment, fear, anxiety, hopeless and shame. Help your children recognise and manage these feelings by reflecting back when you see them in their responses. For example: “It must have been really humiliating when she said that to you in front of everyone. Perhaps that is why she said it? If it happens again, can you think of a way to respond?”
  • Teach your children strategies to cope when they feel emotionally overwhelmed or full up. Introduce the metaphor of a feeling balloon. Our feeling balloon holds all our feelings. Sometimes uncomfortable feelings can build up in our feeling balloon, leaving us feeling full up. Holding onto those feelings is like trying to hold onto a balloon of air – itr tiring and stressful. Sometimes we might let go of those feelings and the balloon might explode or the feelings rush out uncontrollably. How can we find   healthy ways of letting those uncomfortable feelings out. For example: playing sport, listening to music, talking to a friend, having relaxing bath.

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