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Kicking off the school year with a “strength based” lens…..

The recent bushfire emergency that filled the real and online landscapes during the school break was devastating. The impact on people, animals and communities will be felt for a very long time. In the aftermath, the generosity and kindness of people across the world has been inspiring. Individual actions and collaborative endeavours, have financed resources for recovery and rebuilding, including mental health services to support people who have experienced these traumatic events. This is a tremendous show of strength and resilience at a time of great challenge and adversity.

Hope. Love. Optimism. Courage. Perseverance.

How we see and manage change depends upon what we look for and how we approach it. Adopting a strength-based lens offers an optimistic & resilient perspective consistent with the mission of student wellbeing at Woodleigh. For everyone in our school community, there is a landscape of change to adjust to. For some, it is a change of school, for others a change of year level, classes, teachers, tutors, Homesteads, and on it goes.

How we align our values and behaviours to what we see depends upon what we’re looking for. Dr. Lea Waters, one of our favourite parent education series speakers, writes from a parent perspective;

“Each of us has many strengths. We all have specific talents (e.g., physical, mental, social, technical, or creative) as well as positive personality traits (e.g. capacity for courage, kindness, or fairness), some in stronger doses than others. A strength-based lens allows us to see our kids, in touch with their unique constellation of talents (which are performance based) and character (which is personality based).

“As the mother of two children (14 and 10) I know first-hand that parenting can feel overwhelming. We’re the CEOs of our children’s lives, responsible for all the different departments: cognitive, physical, social, emotional, moral, sexual, spiritual, cultural, and educational. The buck starts and stops with us. We’re bombarded by conflicting approaches to raising good, successful kids. It can lead to anxiety about whether we’re doing what’s best for our child. We may feel so pressured to help our children grow into the person society says they should be that we may not be allowing them to grow into the person they actually are.

“What’s the best approach to help our children develop in healthy and successful ways? Based on my psychological research on well-being; my work with schools, workplaces, and parents; and my own experience as a parent, I think the best approach is one that supports your child’s ability for self-development so that over time your child has the tools to take on the mantle of CEO.”

This approach is rooted in positive psychology and provides a child with two vital psychological tools:

1. Optimism: the force that motivates your child to create a positive future for herself
2. Resilience: your child’s capacity to bounce back when life throws a curveball

You may be thinking, that sounds great in theory coming from an expert, but how do I help my child acquire and use these tools?

Model gratitude – What Went Well?

Instead of asking your children questions such as, “How was school?” and, “What did you do today?”, teach them to reframe their day.
For example, around the dinner table each evening we ask everyone to respond to one or more of the following questions,

  • What went well for you today?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What did you do for others?
  • What are you looking forward tomorrow?

These conversations nurture optimism, teach gratitude, and recognise kindness. It doesn’t matter what may have happened at work or school, or how stressed any of us may have felt, when we sit down at the table and share our reflections of the day our lens shifts focus.

Further, I want to extend to all families & carers, an invitation to attend the first of our Parent Education Series Tuesday 25 February @ 7pm, with a very special speaker, Dr Helen Street. I am delighted that Helen has accepted our invitation to fly across from Perth to share her wisdom about “Helping Young People to Flourish at and beyond school” and “Contextual Wellbeing”.

On behalf of the Woodleigh Counselling Team we look forward to working with you in supporting and promoting positive student wellbeing, hope to see you on the night.

Acknowledgements & further reading:

https://www.leawaters.com/blog/standing-for-strength-based-parenting-in-a-world-obsessed-with-weakness
https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/simple-ways-to-support-people-dealing-with-traumatic-events
https://www.maggiedent.com/blog/surviving-first-week-high-school/

DONNA NAIRN
Director of Counselling