Raising happy children: Workshop follow up for parents
Naomi Kelly, Former Head of Child Safeguarding, UWCSEA
15 November 2016
Following two successful parent workshops on 'Raising Happy Boys' and 'Raising Happy Girls' held on East Campus recently, we asked Naomi Kelly, Head of Counselling, to share some of the relevant insights and resources at UWCSEA.
Happiness is highly sought after. Positive Psychologist Dr Barbara Friedrickson defines happiness as “the fuel to thrive and to flourish, and to leave this world in better shape than you found it.” For many parents, Friedrickson’s message fits well with the dreams and aspirations that they have for their sons and daughters.
How then do we raise happy children? How do we nurture our boys and girls—and do we approach things differently because of their gender?
Gender differences in brain development
When considering gender differences, we need to first look at our own expectations and biases. Are males and females different and if so, why? Is it due to varying rates of brain development or is it a result of differing societal expectations and responses? Medina (2008) states that male and female brains are different, and that those differences are a result of complex interactions between nature and nurture. Considering our own expectations as well as knowing about the differences in brain development, can help to explain some of the practical differences between genders.
Your child is watching you
There is a network of nerve cells running alongside our motor nerves called mirror neurons. Their role in development is to imitate (or mirror) everything that we see. In simple terms, our children will become like the adults that they have grown up around.
No matter what their age, if we know that our children and young people are watching us, then we need to take a critical look at ourselves. Are we modeling what we would like them to be?
Do you laugh a lot? Do you swear a lot? Do you exercise? Do you really listen? Do you show empathy? Do you know how to make and keep good friends? Do you know how to relax? Do you know how to keep your promises? Do you know how to keep going when the road is hard and long?
How do you express your feelings? Are you happy?
Whether it is in relation to self-esteem, confidence or making friends, the better we know ourselves, our own anxieties, feelings and desires, the less likely we are to force our children into a rigid mould or transfer our biases and anxieties onto them.
Resource books for parents
Medina (2008) Brain Rules
Biddulph (2008: 2013) Raising Happy Boys, Raising Happy Girls
Kindlon and Thomson (2000) Raising Cain
Wiseman (2002) Queen Bees and Wannabees