Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Five vital skills for kids and tips for teaching them

(ARA) - It's no surprise that mothers want the best for their children, but are they setting the bar too high when it comes to their own expectations of themselves as parents? One in three mothers admit to setting expectations for themselves as parents that are "unrealistic," according to the Moms Straight Talk on Parenting survey conducted by the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish brand.

The poll of more than 1,000 mothers with children ages 6 to 12 also revealed that 70 percent of mothers surveyed feel pressure to be perfect and 60 percent of moms said that raising kids is much tougher today than when they were growing up. Three quarters of moms surveyed worry whether they can provide the skills their kids need to reach their potential.

"Most moms worry if they're doing all they can to help their children become happy, productive adults," says positive psychology expert and mother of four Dr. Karen Reivich, a teacher and researcher in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. "It's a surprise, however, to realize that many mothers apparently know they are placing unrealistic and probably stressful expectations on themselves, and that those expectations may hinder their ability to impart important life skills to their children."

Reivich is a top advisor and contributor to the Fishful Thinking program (www.FishfulThinking.com), a parenting resource that provides simple, everyday, fun strategies that parents can use to help raise children with a positive outlook on life and who can confidently handle the challenges that come their way. Fishful Thinking focuses on five key skills that all parents can teach to their children: optimism, resilience, goal setting/hope, empowerment and emotional awareness.

On FishfulThinking.com parents will find activities like the following to do with their children to help strengthen these important life skills:

Why it matters: Developing this skill helps children learn to focus on the positive, without denying the negative, and to channel their energy toward what they can control, rather than what is out of their control. Optimistic people work toward creating positive change.

Teaching activity: Host a "savoring party." Invite some kids and their parents to your house and ask each to bring something for the group to savor. It could be food, a piece of music, art, clay, a kaleidoscope - almost anything that brings satisfaction and enjoyment. Place the items to be savored on the floor and provide paper and crayons. Ask each parent/child team to pick an item to savor and write down in five minutes as many words as they can think of to describe what they are savoring. At the end, give each team the opportunity to share their list.

Emotional awareness
Why it matters: A building block for a healthy emotional life, emotional awareness is the ability to identify and express one's own feelings and to empathize with what others are feeling.

Teaching activity: Create a feeling collage. Choose a feeling with your child and then help him or her find pictures from magazines, family photos, drawings or words that illustrate that feeling. Paste them on a piece of paper and post the collage on a wall in your home.

Goal setting/hope
Why it matters: Hope leads to the drive to set and pursue goals, take prudent risks and initiate action. Children who are taught hope learn problem-solving skills and how to develop personal strengths and social resources.

Teaching activity: Create a "My Goal Road Map." Help your child choose a realistic, achievable goal. Print "My Goal Road Map" on a large sheet of paper and have your child write a specific sentence describing the goal beneath the title. Circle the sentence and decorate it so it is clear this is where your child wants to go. Write the word "start" in the bottom right-hand corner and draw a series of footprints between the word "start" and the goal in the upper left-hand corner. In each footprint, help your child write a short description of a step he or she can take toward reaching the goal.

Why it matters: Resilience is critical to a successful, happy life. It is the ability to bounce back from setbacks, learn from failure, find motivation in challenges and believe in your own abilities to deal with the stresses and difficulties of everyday life.

Teaching activity: Focus on praising not just your child's successes, but the process he or she followed to achieve success. For example, if they perform well on a test, instead of saying "You're so smart," try "You studied really hard for that test."

Why it matters: Children with the ability to believe in themselves know they are effective in the world. Having learned their own strengths and weaknesses, they rely on their strengths to handle life's challenges.

Teaching activity: Turn everyday activities into a mastering moment for your child. Choose activities like returning a library book or going to the market and give your child a job to do. For example, at the market have your child count all the yellow items in your basket. When cleaning up the play room, have your child pick up everything that is square or blue.

"Parents need and welcome resources that can help them be more confident in their parenting, and thus be more effective when empowering their children to be optimistic and resilient in realizing their own potential for success," Reivich says.

You'll find more parenting tips and tools at www.FishfulThinking.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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