Family Signposts to Lower Our Seeking Change

In our Family, we consider Ideas, Opportunities and Risks carefully

  • Remember, adolescence is a time of exploration. Your children may be curious to explore new experiences and opportunities, but we need also need to develop safe strategies for thinking ahead and assessing risk. Teach your children to use a self-checking movie camera routine to help anticipate the possible risks associated with their exploration. For example: PAUSE: stop. FAST FORWARD: think about the future consequence. REWIND: make your choice. PLAY: act on it. If your children  take an unwise risk, use the technique to help them revisit the choices they had.
  • When your children come to you with requests to have or do things we might consider as dangerous or risky, be wary of saying no straight away. Use it as an opportunity to scaffold their risk assessment. For example: “That’s an interesting idea. Are there any hidden risks or dangers we would need to think about before we make a decision? How likely is it that those things could happen? Is there anything you could do to lessen those risks? If those risks did happen how would you respond? Do you think on balance this is a wise thing to do?”
  • With your children, explore why adolescents take more risks when they are with their peers. Before an event where you think they may be more influenced to take peer related risks, use the following scaffold to prepare them. “What risks might you and friends take in this situation? If one of you does, what will you do? How might you guide them to be wiser? If they don’t listen, what will you do? Is there anything I can you help you with to prepare you? How will you get help if you need it?
  • When your children suggest ideas and plans that appear unformed, unrealistic or ridiculous – take it as an opportunity to guide them in thinking more strategically or coherently. For example: “That’s an interesting idea, tell me more about it. What do you want to achieve? Are there any obstacles that might stop it from working out? When are you going to do this?”

In our Family, we show Self-Restraint and Impulse Control

  • Adolescents can be particularly impulsive and react to an emotional trigger without stopping to think of the future consequences. This is particularly concerning when using social media, where a post, text or email is so easy to send, impossible to retrieve and can be so far reaching in its impact. Teach your children simple self-checking strategies. For example: writing the comment, but waiting till the next day to send it; asking someone to read it through beforehand and make comments; imagining how you would feel if a future employer or your head teacher saw it. Draw attention to examples in the media where a hot headed response has had unfortunate consequences.
  • Teach your children explicit questions to help discriminate between what is safe and what is not safe to share on social media. For example: “Who can see this? Who might this post be shared with? If someone saw this in years to come, how would I feel? If this relationship ended how would I feel about this post?“
  • Use a traffic light approach to help your children pause and frame a STRONG rather than aggressive response to a trigger situation. For example: Red: stop. Amber: get ready; stand up tall, hands by your side, take a calm breath. Flashing amber: use a calm and assertive I statement e.g. I don’t care what you think; I am walking away. Green: walk away.
  • The metaphor social footprint can help explain to our children the impact of our words and action on others. Like our real, digital and carbon footprint, we may not see the impact of our actions, but they remain, even when we have moved on. Our footprint is our responsibility; we need to tread thoughtfully. After an incident where your child has used their social footprint thoughtlessly, reflect on its impact. For example: “What impact did you footprint have at the dinner table tonight?”
  • Your children may be prone to borrowing something that belongs to someone else. Acknowledge how feelings such as excitement, curiosity and impatience might cause us to take or borrow things that belong to others. Establish family expectations such as:  asking for permission to take or borrow something; leaving  a post it note when someone is not there to ask; agreeing which things can and can’t be borrowed. Make sure you abide by the same expectations!
  • The most talkative members of our family can dominate family conversation. Consider giving them a cue to hold back, giving space for the less talkative to contribute. Perhaps a subtle visual signal they recognise or a humorous deflection onto someone else.
  • Teach your children to consider the impact of their banter on different people by thinking about WHO they are directing their banter towards. Introduce the metaphor of a banter ball game. In banter, both players know they are playing the same game, with banter rackets to bat the joke back. If one person isn’t enjoying the game, doesn’t feel they have a racket and are being hurt by the ball, it is not banter; it is hurtful.
  • After an incident,  teach your children to be self-reflective, rehearsing ways to show better impulse control and self-restraint in the future. For example: “What is your side of the story, what did you do? What choice did you make? What impact did your choices have on James or Sarah? How might Sarah be feeling now? How might James feel towards you now? Who else has been affected by your choices? What other choices could you have made? What do you need to put this right?”

In our Family, we recognise the Importance of Routines, Responsibilities and Rituals

  • Identify times where a routine would help the family  be better prepared, organised  and on time. For example, packing school bag the night before and putting by the front door. When your children don’t do follow these routines, don’t run up to school with what they have forgotten – allow them to face the subsequent consequences.  Model good organisational routines yourself. For example: putting your keys in the right place, and good diary management.
  • Explore routines to help your children settle down to their homework and avoid distraction. This might be different for each child. Strategies might be:  phone off, setting a time limit, having all equipment in one place before they start, working in a set place, planning an enjoyable activity afterwards. Once agreed, affirm your children when they abide by them, and reflect back the difference they are making.
  • Shared repeated rituals cultivate family unity, cohesion and belonging. Develop your own family rituals for special events such as birthdays, Christmas and other festivals. Introduce weekly or seasonal rituals such as a weekly pizza night, a monthly board games night, or a last day of summer party for friends.
  • Write a family charter. Think of a small number of shared expectations that you want to define your family interactions. For example:  “In our family, we listen to each other. “ You might have an interesting conversation about what that would mean for each of you. What would it mean for Dad to listen to Mum, for Mum to listen to Sam, for Sam to listen to Alex?

In our Family, we enjoy the Times of Stillness

  • Stillness can support well being, especially in an adolescent world of flux and change. Think of ways your family you can enjoy times of stillness. For example: taking a moment of reflective silence before a meal, or ensuring phones out of bedroom at bedtime. In holidays, you may agree not to take devices but to enjoy time reading or thinking on your own.
  • Consider giving each of your children a journal or thought book. Encourage them to take time on their own to be quiet – to draw, doodle, moan, explore, and create.
  • Teach your children how to relax and focus on the here and now. Many schools are introducing mindfulness; ask your children to teach you what they are learning, or explore the strategies together.

In our Family, we show Gratitude for what we already have

  • Gratitude has been shown to improve sleep patterns, mental well being and physical health. Before going to bed at night, encourage the family to write down or recall things they appreciate or are grateful for.
  • Instil a family culture of valuing and looking after what we have. Be cautious about replacing things that have not been valued. Remember that we  value what we earned and worked for. Whilst you may have the financial means to be generous to your children, don’t waste opportunities to help them appreciate and value what they have. When we value things, we enjoy them so much more.
  • Model careful consumption of your family resources. Let your children to see how you make budget decisions, choosing where to spend your money.
  • Model mindful consumption of the world’s resources, whatever your financial means. Turn the tap off as you clean your teeth, turn off lights when you leave the room; turn the standby button off on the TV.
  • Model a culture of appreciation in your family. For example: thank your children for putting their clothes away, responding respectfully to a request or make their bed without being asked. Remember what we pay attention to is what we socially reinforce.
  • Encourage your children to notice and show their appreciation. Model thanking the person who has cooked dinner, or the person who done their laundry. Don’t be tempted to thank on their behalf. For example: expect them to write their own thank you letters to teachers.

In our Family, we set Realistic Expectations and Pace Ourselves

  • Some adolescents set themselves very high expectations, putting them under considerable pressure. Help them set realistic goals and expectations. For example: use a 0-10 rating scale. “On this 0-10 scale where are you now? Where do you want to be? What do you need to do go there? Could you break it down further into smaller steps? What is your time frame for this?”
  • Your children may struggle to organise their time effectively, perhaps organising too many activities or tasks. Introduce simple time management techniques such as planning revision timetables, managing activities using a calendar or using an app on their phone.
  • Set aside regular opportunities to notice, articulate and celebrate your children’s progress as well as their achievement. For example: “What can you now do that you couldn’t previously? What skills and qualities are you developing? What have you overcome to get to this point?”
  • Notice times when your children are tempted to put speed over quality. When they rush their homework, do a task carelessly, ask them to do it to an appropriate standard; don’t be tempted to let them off the hook.
  • Some children may be aspirant in a particular area, to the detriment of their well being. Help them see balance and pace as precursors to sustained performance and well being. Support them in writing balanced training schedules, realistic study programmes and identifying times of rest and relaxation.

In our Family, we show Commitment and Perseverance when we are tempted to Give Up and Move On

  • There may be times when your children are tempted to give up and walk away from something that is effortful or costly. Be wary of being a curling parent who tries to smooth the way ahead so our children can glide along without struggle. Acknowledge their frustration whilst also recognising the importance of working through struggle in order to develop resilience. For example: “I can see how frustrated you are, but through this struggle you are learning how to commit to something and persevere. These are important qualities, like muscles you are developing in the life gym.”
  • Teach your children strategies to break down effortful tasks into small and manageable parts. For example: breaking down a task into different parts, working for a period of time with a planned break afterwards, completing a particular questions, or writing a particular amount.
  • Your children might be influenced by a wider culture of entitlement, in which they assume they can be and do anything they want with minimum effort. Counter balance this with an emphasis on effort. Remind them that most people who achieve great things or have a significant impact on others put in lots of effort, which can be costly and demands commitment and perseverance at times. Notice examples of this, and make it a key message in your home.
  • Place value on effort and process, rather than reward and outcome when reflecting on your children’s achievements with them. For example: “What enabled you to achieve this goal? What skills have you now got?  How did you overcome the struggles? What can you take from this experience? What would you need to do to keep on improving?”

In our Family, we Sort Out Problems rather than Ignoring them

  • Teach your children strategies to work through problems, and model using them yourself. Try the STEP problem solving approach. S: say the problem. T: think of different solutions. E: explore the possible consequences of each. P: pick the best solution. Or encourage your children to refer back to times when they have faced a similar problem and overcome it. “Have you ever overcome a challenge like this before? What did you do? What helped? Who helped?”
  • Model honesty and openness in acknowledging mistakes and misdemeanours rather than deflecting from them or pretending they didn’t happen. Take opportunities to say sorry to your children when you get things wrong, accepting where fault was yours.
  • When your children apologise to you, accept it with grace. Respond in a reparative and restorative tone. For example: “We all make mistakes; acknowledging our mistakes is the first step to putting things right. How can you start to do that?”
  • Friendship or sibling conflict can be very hard for our children. Resource them with simple conflict resolution strategies to support these tough conversations. Here are two examples. “When you …. I felt…. because…. What I need from you is ….. “ 2.  STOP, CARRY ON, START scripts: Each person says one thing they are going to  stop/carry on/start doing to help the friendship, and one thing they would like the other person to stop/carry on/start doing to help the friendship. Try modelling these strategies during your own conflicts with your children.

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