A recent article in The Age, “Are you surviving or thriving?”, resonated with me this week. The author mentioned research from more than 10 years ago that suggested only around 17% of adults were thriving and the rest were merely surviving.
This article reminded me that when my son Charlie was born (he’s 19 months-old now), I definitely went into survival mode! It took some time to adjust to the reality of being a new mother. It was a huge change and no amount of reading or advice from other parents could have fully prepared me for the months that followed. I had to learn how to survive as a parent before I could even start thinking about how to thrive again…
Similarly, when parents first bring their children to see me for counselling, they are often in a crisis situation. Something has gone wrong and help is needed. I often start by asking them what is actually working well at the moment. The reason for this is that we first need to focus on their strengths so we can then use these positive qualities to help them resolve their current issues.
But my ultimate goal in counselling is not just to help kids learn to survive or get through a ‘rough patch’ … My aim is always to help kids learn how to thrive.
So how can you teach your child how to thrive?
Here are ten ways:
1. Model the behaviour you want
If you want your child to thrive you need to firstly model the desired behaviour. Which means you need to have a reasonable level of stability in your life. This doesn’t mean having ‘perfect’ relationships or always being happy, but it does mean making an effort to be a good role model for your child. Kids are like little sponges; they absorb everything from the adults in their environment – both good and bad.
2. Hone Thinking Skills
Teach your child how to think (but not what to think) in positive and constructive ways, and try to reframe negative thought patterns into more productive or ‘better’ thoughts.
3. Maintain Balance
Don’t over-schedule activities. I once came across a suggestion that parents could be over-scheduling their children’s lives in order to fill a void in their own lives. While I am not 100% convinced of this, I do believe that too many activities can make kids stressed.
4. Have Relaxation Time
Take time out to just relax and rejuvenate. In such a busy world it’s always tempting to stay connected and always “on.” We need to hit the pause button every now and then.
5. Enjoy the Little Things
By living in the moment, we can enjoy the simple things in life – like gazing at the moon or looking up at the stars. (My son loves to point up into the sky in the early evening when the moon and stars are just becoming visible and say “moooooon!” and “star!” over and over.)
6. Stay Active
Kids need to be physically active. Getting them out on their skateboard, scooter or bike is essential. it is also fun! Activities don’t need to be structured, but they do need to be active and enjoyable.
7. Practice Problem Solving and Making Changes
There will always be challenges to overcome. This is what makes life so colourful. The important part is how we go about solving problems and changing our thought patterns. Sometimes we need to change so we can grow. Other times, we simply need to approach a challenge from a different perspective. You can help your child become develop their problem solving skills by brainstorming possible solutions and discussing the options.
8. Foster Good Relationships
Teach your child to value and respect their friendships and family relationships. This establishes a good framework for later in life. Taking care of an (age-appropriate) pet teaches kids how to be nurturing and compassionate and how to cope with responsibility.
9. Have a Vision
Viktor Frankl wrote that, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Everyone needs to have meaning and purpose so that they can look toward the future with optimism. So help your child to set goals and talk about a shared vision for the future. For example, I like to to say to my son, “When you grow up you are going to have a wonderful life and achieve great things”, before he goes to bed. (He is a little too young to understand right now… but the positive seeds are being planted for the future!)
10. Show Gratitude
Arguably one of the most important ways you can help your child learn how to thrive is to model gratitude. Life is so precious and wonderful and there is so much to be thankful for. Take every opportunity to speak kindly and show gratitude to others.
So now you now you have ten different ways you can start helping your child learn how to thrive today. Why not take on the challenge today? Surviving should not even be an option!
Go on, what are you waiting for? 🙂
Here’s to YOUR child’s success.